The Diary of Anaïs Nin Critical Context - Essay

Anaïs Nin

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Nin’s diary has more affinities with Continental than with English or American literature. In significant ways, her diary’s antecedent is Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927; Remembrance of Things Past, 1922-1931, 1981). Nin claimed to have reread this monumental cycle of novels once a year, and her diary contains dozens of references to Proust and his landmark work of autobiographical fiction. From Proust Nin learned how to use her own life as the basis of her art. She also emulated his style, a lyrical, flowing one in which inner time is more important than clock time. As a diarist (and as a fiction writer), Nin was concerned with reproducing the flow of inner experience, and thus she sought structures that grew out of feeling—organic structures rather than intellectual, imposed ones. This, too, she found in Proust’s work.

Nin’s most important English model was D. H. Lawrence. She admired Lawrence’s ability to find images to suggest feelings, and she sought to master in her own work the attention to rhythm that Lawrence employed in his poetic prose. In her opinion, Lawrence’s work represented a breakthrough in representing the feminine psyche, an area she was to make her special province. Her first book, D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study (1932), pays homage to one of her masters, while a later one, The Novel of the Future (1968), testifies to other influences— including James Joyce, Djuna Barnes, and Andre Breton. In that...

(The entire section is 620 words.)