The Diary of Anaïs Nin

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 19)

The sixth volume of the celebrated diary of Anaïs Nin, which covers the period 1955-1966, is an uncharted course of love, of discontent and frustration, of cosmological intuition, of survival. The diary is heavy with symbolism and dreams. One stands unsurely on the brink of the soul of Nin, as if drawn into a labyrinth. A psychic phenomenon, Nin lives in this diary as an artist, as a woman, as a child always looking in the window. Nin has responded in this volume to Jung’s exhortation: “Proceed from the dream outward....”

Predetermined by events in her early life to become a giver, Nin hungered for acceptance, and out of her compulsion to give and her need to receive came the diary. We see this compulsion, this need in her relationships with her parents and her brother. Nin’s schizophrenic father, Joaquin Nin, deserted his family. Nin clung physically to his coattail and had to be removed. She repeated this action emotionally, over and over throughout her life, fearful that she would lose whomever she loved. Nin believed her father’s desertion related solely to her, not to her mother or her brother, and this belief incited guilt and produced a sense of deficiency.

In her imagination and dreams, Nin replaced her mother, Rosa, in her father’s affections (or nonaffections). Irrational and totally unable to manage money, the mother created financial problems. To improve their economic situation, Nin worked as a model. The family took in boarders. Nin felt the shameful burden of being poor and developed a detestation of the commercial aspects of everyday life. The possibility that her mother might read the diary haunted her. Guilt over her rejection of her mother grew so strong that after her death, at which Nin was not present, she symptomatically developed the heart disease which took her mother’s life, and for years thought she would die as her mother had; doctors actually diagnosed this condition. It was only when the realization came that she was negatively clinging to her mother by clinging to her mother’s illness that Nin was able to rid herself of the condition—but not the guilt. Citing Proust’s thoughts on possession by the dead, she notes, ironically, that he says nothing of dispossession.

Nin records discussions with her brother, also named Joaquin, about Nin’s portrayal of their father in the diary. Nin enhanced his image with legends and rumors, eschewing confirmation. Joaquin reminded her that certain actions were “neither proved nor disproved.” A clue to the relationship between Nin and her brother is revealed in an anecdote about Nin’s slipping behind Joaquin, who was sitting in a chair, and quietly, unobservedly kissing his shadow. Her greatest pleasure, she tells us, was receiving wholehearted praise of Solar Barque (which later became Seduction of the Minotaur) from Joaquin, possibly in lieu of praise from her father. Nin and Joaquin, a composer, shared a love of music, and while he related people to music, she related them to dancing, for she had been a dancer.

Nin wandered in and out of psychoanalysis through most of her adult life, with Dr. René Allendy and Dr. Otto Rank, both of whom are major personages in earlier volumes of the diary. From 1955, she was under the care of Dr. Inge Bogner and returned to her whenever there was a crisis. Nin fluctuates through this volume from being able to “handle” the pressures in her life to sinking into despair, apprehension, and immobility. She did not live well with tension, unable to perceive its positive effect upon the will. Nin’s writing of Solar Barque is a barometer of the degrees of mental pressure she endured.

At the beginning of these eleven years, in the fall of 1955, Nin describes her only personal experience with LSD, motivated by a desire to prove to herself that it opened the same doors of the mind as dreams, writing, and self-induced fantasies. It was a frightening ordeal that cast her afterwards into a lingering somnambulistic state. Drained of energy, unable to concentrate or write, she pictures her condition in the metaphor of near-electrocution, a short-circuiting of physical and mental being. The extreme change from being charged with metaphysical energy to returning to daily life was too great a shock to body and mind. She equates her fatigue with Antonin Artaud’s complaint, “Un fatigue de fin du monde” (“A weariness like the end of the world”). She wrote of the experience from notes, from remembrance, and with the help of friends who had been with her.

Over the years, Nin changed her thinking from discrediting the use of LSD (or any drug), to approving its use under controlled circumstances. The root of Nin’s research was the belief that Americans had never learned to expand the mind, and that in opening their unconscious, the drug might teach them the way to open their minds consciously. Nin hoped this conscious expansion would enable American readers to understand her work. Nin was deeply disturbed when Bebe Barron, who had previously criticized her work, commented, while under the influence of LSD, that she saw meaning in Nin’s “Seal” story that she had not seen before. Did this mean that only readers under the influence of drugs could understand her stories? She deplored the fad use of LSD, the ease with which it could be obtained, and use of the drug by those incapable of coping. “Every experience has a negative and a positive side and if the subconscious is to be free one must understand its meaning and control its destructive aspect.” She was accused of writing House of Incest under the influence of drugs, but declares she never resorted to the use of drugs again.

The one absolute that Nin professes again and again is her unreliance on any artificial means of...

(The entire section is 2383 words.)