Anaïs Nin (Magill's Literary Annual 1996)
This work by Deirdre Bair is the second, and probably not the last, of the full-dress biographies of Anaïs Nin. The first, Noël Riley Fitch’s Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin (1993), was widely and deservedly praised for unveiling the complexities of Nin’s fragmented, duplicitous life. Reading between the lines of Nin’s own writings and gathering insights from dozens of people who had known Nin well, Fitch developed a thesis about the childhood origins of Nin’s erratic behavior and about the functions served by Nin’s diaries and fictions in maintaining her marginal stability. Nothing that Fitch hypothesized is contradicted by Bair’s investigation, though now Nin’s life and its connection to her art are more minutely revealed.
Bair has worked with an advantage unavailable to Fitch and perhaps not likely to be available on the same scale to future biographers (except for Evelyn Hinz, who for two decades has had something like proprietary rights as Nin’s “official” biographer). This advantage is access to Nin’s original manuscript diaries as well as their several layers of revision and excision. A shrewd and patient detective, Bair has detailed the ways in which Nin manipulated the diary materials to suit her changing sense of self and of their importance as literary documents.
Yet that is not all. Bair has given readers an astoundingly rich context within which to view Nin’s complex relationships. First,...
(The entire section is 1999 words.)
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Anaïs Nin (Magill Book Reviews)
Bair has worked with an advantage unavailable to previous biographers. This advantage is access to Nin’s original manuscript diaries as well as their several layers of revision and excision. A shrewd and patient detective, Bair has detailed the ways in which Nin manipulated the diary materials to suit her changing sense of self and of their importance as literary documents.
Bair has also provided an astoundingly rich context within which to view Nin’s complex relationships. having gained the confidence of living descendants of the Nin Culmell families, she has amassed more material on Nin’s family background than has previously seen print. To view the young Anais in the light of her mother’s sisters, for example, enriches readers’ sense of Nin forming herself against a curious spectrum of female exemplars. Readers learn more about the break-up of Nin’s parents’ marriage, more about the places of Nin’s youth, and more—at every stage of her life— about her important friendships with women. There is more information about her brothers, Joaquin and Thorvald, and more about cousin Eduardo Sanchez, her soulmate. Bair reveals more, too, about the specific role of analysis in her life and of the contributions of different analysts to Nin’s fevered search for security, wholeness, inner strength, and the always elusive decisiveness.
Nin’s simultaneous affairs with Henry Miller, Otto Rank, and her own father are recorded with...
(The entire section is 347 words.)