Anais Nin would have been 111 today. Anytime I’m asked about writers that have influenced me, I name her. The reasons why are complicated.
It’s not just her writing, (although her writing is excellent. Bare, full of lush imagery and description, and cutting in it’s analysis. ) It’s her choice of subjects. It’s her relentless exploration and fascination with herself. In the introduction to her seminal biography, Deidre Blair describes that introspection as Anais’s downfall. The reason why she is remembered not a major voice of the 20th century, like her lover Henry Miler. Because she could never leave her own world, she remained, in Blair’s words, “one of the major minor writers of the 20th century”
But I love her for that. I love her for all her flaws; her dimensions. She was deceitful, seductive, brilliant and restless. She had an unparalleled sense of romance. She understood, I believe, this universal truth: that if you study a grain of sand long enough, you will understand the whole universe. Anais knew that by relentlessly describing and exploring herself, she was reflecting the human condition.
When I was 19 I bought a journal and started writing in it everyday. Coincidentally, I picked up my first Anais Nin diary (Henry and June: The unexpurgated diaries of the 1930s) and moved to Berkley the same summer, where I fell in love with the wrong boy and ended up breaking both of our hearts. It was my small, American version of her big adventure.
I have always related to Anais. As more than just an author. I think of her more as my patron saint. I love her. She was brave and flawed and brilliant. I love her still.