Anaïs Nin Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

What is the function of music in Anaïs Nin’s A Spy in the House of Love?

To what extent is Nin’s fiction accessible to male readers?

Nin’s “literary mentors” are Marcel Proust and D. H. Lawrence. What does she owe to each?

What literary techniques usually classed as “poetic” serve Nin’s prose?

Nin’s diary has had to be edited to protect persons named in it. Can a diary be candid, sensitive to the privacy of others still alive, and be publishable?

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Anaïs Nin’s published works include fiction, autobiography, literary criticism, essays, speeches, and interviews. She is best known for her monumental diary, which, in edited versions, comes to eleven volumes. Seven volumes form the first series of the diary, which is entitled The Diary of Anaïs Nin. The other four volumes constitute the second series, entitled The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin. Of Nin’s nine novelettes and novels, the major work is the “continuous novel,” Cities of the Interior (1959), which comprises five interrelated works: Ladders to Fire (1946), Children of the Albatross (1947), The Four-Chambered Heart (1950), A Spy in the House of Love (1954), and Solar Barque (1958).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Anaïs Nin holds a unique place as a twentieth century writer. Widely admired and criticized all of her life, she began her literary career at the age of eleven when she jotted down observations in her diary, a practice she would continue all of her life. In point of fact, although she had written a number of fictional works to a small, discerning public, it would be the publication of her diaries spread over many volumes that would finally earn Nin the wide recognition she always sought. Ironically, Nin was initially opposed to their publication despite entreaties from her closest friends to have them published. Nin’s greatest literary achievement was the multifaceted self-portrait to be found explicitly in her diaries and to a lesser degree in her experimental fiction. Nin’s most liberating influences were the therapy she underwent with Sigmund Freud’s disciple Otto Rank and her acquaintance and subsequent love affair with Henry Miller. Nin’s involvement with Miller and his wife were the subject of a controversial motion picture, Henry and June (1990), based on her unexpurgated memoirs. Honors came to Nin late in life. In 1971, she was awarded France’s Prix Sevigne and two years later she received an honorary doctorate in art from the Philadelphia College of Art. One year before her death in 1977 at age seventy-three, she was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and Dartmouth College saluted her with an honorary doctorate.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anaïs Nin (nihn) published numerous volumes of perceptive literary criticism. Her highly acclaimed first book of nonfiction, D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study, appeared in 1932. In 1968, near the end of her career, she wrote The Novel of the Future, partly as an attempt to explain the literary philosophy that inspired her innovative fiction. In 1976, she published a collection of her essays, In Favor of the Sensitive Man, and Other Essays. During the last decade of her life, Nin was extremely active as a public speaker. A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars, and Interviews of Anaïs Nin, edited by Evelyn J. Hinz, was published in 1975.

Nin’s published short stories, like her criticism, span her career. The most distinguished collection is Under a Glass Bell, and Other Stories (1944). Her apprentice writing is available in another collection, Waste of Timelessness, and Other Early Stories (1977), while two volumes of erotica were published after Nin’s death: Delta of Venus: Erotica (1977) and Little Birds: Erotica (1979).

In addition to her works of fiction and criticism, Nin’s extensive diary was published. Edited from a vast manuscript, this autobiographical work appeared in two series. The first series, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, comprises seven volumes, with the first volume appearing in 1966. The second series, The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin, contains four volumes and was published between 1978 and 1985.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anaïs Nin’s achievement in literature is of two distinct kinds: artistic and sociological. Strongly influenced by Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Proust, and D. H. Lawrence, Nin conceived of and developed a uniquely personal approach to style and structure that places her within the modernist tradition as it evolved in the French literature of the early decades of the twentieth century. Nin persisted in articulating, refining, and extending an avowedly “feminine” ideal of the novel; this resulted in lyrical novels in which the imagistic manner of the poet is fused with the psychological penetration of the novelist. In her treatment of character, time, and space, Nin belongs with such writers as Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Anna Kavan.

Nin’s sociological importance is related to her intention to create a specifically “feminine” novel in which the emphasis is on the evocation of feeling, and to portray as deeply and as honestly as possible an authentically female emotional experience. In this respect, her achievement may be compared with that of Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Marguerite Duras, and a number of French writers, including Annie LeClerc,Hélène Cixous, Monique Wittig, and Julia Kristeva.

The audience for Nin’s novels is smaller than for either her diary or her collections of erotica. As the diary increased Nin’s audience, it also brought her fiction to the attention of well-qualified critics and scholars, many of whom have interpreted it in ways that make it more accessible to a general readership accustomed to the conventions of realism. Considering the climate of growing respect for and interest in Nin’s novels, it seems that her reputation as a literary artist is now securely established.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bair, Deirdre. Anaïs Nin: A Biography. New York: Putnam, 1995. A massive biography by a scholar steeped in the literature of the period and author of biographies of Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir. Supplements but does not supersede Fitch’s shorter but also livelier biography.

Evans, Oliver. Anaïs Nin. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968. A solid and widely admired first study of Nin’s work. The only major weakness is the limited examination of the diaries, most of which were not yet published.

Fitch, Noel Riley. Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993. As the subtitle suggests, Fitch is concerned with tracing Nin’s erotic relationships and close friendships with male and female writers. A biographer of Sylvia Beach and an expert on Paris, Fitch writes with verve and expertise.

Franklin, Benjamin V., and Duane Schneider. Anaïs Nin: An Introduction. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1979. A well-balanced study of Nin’s work, better than most, that carefully and separately examines her fiction, six volumes of diaries, and her critical and nonfiction work. This study attempts to redress critical neglect of the author and gives her due recognition for her literary achievements.

Hinz, Evelyn J., ed. A Woman Speaks: The Lectures,...

(The entire section is 606 words.)