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384 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1966
I have always believed in Andre Breton’s freedom, to write as one thinks, in the order and disorder in which one feels and thinks, to follow sensations and absurd correlations of events and images, to trust to the new realms they lead one into.
Enter this laboratory of the soul where incidents are refracted into a diary, dissected to prove that everyone of us carries a deforming mirror where he sees himself too small or too large, too fat or too thin…
Curse my image, the image of me which faces me every day with the same over-fineness, over-delicacy, the pride, the vulnerability which makes people want to preserve me, treat me with care. Curse my eyes which are sad, and deep, and my hands which are delicate, and my walk which is a glide, my voice which is a whisper, all that can be used for a poem…
Women, said Rank, when cured of neurosis, enter life. Man enters art. Woman is too close to life, too human. The feminine quality is necessary to the male artist, but Rank questioned whether masculinity is equally necessary to the woman artist.Overall, this was way more interesting than a diary should ever be. There's something seductive about the serpentine intuitive pathways of her mind. Also, she's just a damn good writer. I would read more of her, but maybe one of her novels next. I think I need a little break from this, as good as it was.
“What is this powerful magic we create together and indulge in? How can Henry be excluded from it when he has genius? What do June and I seek together that Henry does not believe in? Wonder wonder wonder.”
“Perhaps we have built a false concept of wholeness and, under the pressure of an artificial unity, people like June explode and fly in all directions.” (reminiscent of Golden Notebook)
“This love of cruelty must bind them indissolubly. Would they take pleasure in destroying me? For jaded people, the only pleasure left is to demolish others.”
“Writers do not live one life, they live two. There is the living and then there is the writing. There is the second tasting, the delayed reaction.”
“I have no brakes on," I said. "Analysis is for those who are paralyzed by life.”
“I feel like a well-appointed laboratory of the soul—myself, my home, my life—in which none of the vitally fecund or destructive, explosive experiments has yet begun. I like the shape of the bottles, the colors of the chemicals. I collect bottles, and the more they look like alchemist bottles the more I like them for their eloquent forms.”
“Enter this laboratory of the soul where every feeling will be X-rayed by Dr. Allendy to expose the blocks, the twists, the deformations, the scars which interfere with the flow of life. Enter this laboratory of the soul where incidents are refracted into a diary, dissected to prove that everyone of us carries a deforming mirror where he sees himself too small or too large, too fat or too thin, even Henry, who believes himself so free, blithe, and unscarred. Enter here where one discovers that destiny can be directed, that one does not need to remain in bondage to the first wax imprint made on childhood sensibilities. One need not be branded by the first pattern. Once the deforming mirror is smashed, there is a possibility of wholeness; there is a possibility of joy.”
“If we could only write simultaneously all the levels on which we live, all at once. The whole truth! Henry is closer to it. I have a vice for embellishing.”
“If unity is impossible to the writer, who is a sea of spiritual protoplasm, capable of flowing in all directions, of engulfing every object in its path, of trickling in every crevice, of filling every hole, at least truth is possible in the confession of our insincerities.”
“How the aim of analysis resembles the old Chinese definition of wisdom: wisdom being the destruction of idealism. The basis of insincerity is the idealized image we hold of ourselves and wish to impose on others—an admirable image. When this is broken down by the analyst's discoveries, it is a relief because this image is always a great strain to live up to. Some consider the loss of it a cause for suicide.”
“Henry has asked the impossible of me. I have to nourish his conception of June and feed his book. As each page of it reaches me, in which he does more and more justice to
her, I feel it is my vision he has borrowed. Certainly no woman was ever asked so much. I am a human being, not a goddess. Because I am a woman who understands, I am asked to understand everything, to accept everything.”
“I laugh at my old fear of analysis. The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.
I have no fear of clarity.”
“I have a feeling that the masochism of woman is different from that of man. Hers comes from her maternal instinct. A mother ... suffers, gives, feeds. A woman is taught not to think of herself, to be selfless, to serve, help. This masochism is almost natural to woman.”
“I told [Henry Miller] my theory of skipping meaningless details, as the dream skips them, which produces not only intensity but power. He begins, "Wednesday morning I stood at the corner..." I say, drop "Wednesday"; drop the extra weight to achieve speed, the essential ... a literature of "cuts.”
“To the poets, insanity seems closer to divinity than sanity. The madman arrives at death not by human progression, the disintegration of cells, but by a series of holocausts.”
“He said, "I always thought that one had to deserve love, I worked so hard to merit it."
This phrase was so much like what I often wrote in my diary. The idea of deserving love. And then watching love being given to people who did nothing to deserve it.”
“There is a great continuity in my relations and devotions to people. For example, I remember what Allendy and I talked about the last time, and if a thread remained loose I pick it up and set about untangling it and placing it where it belongs. It is a work of minute cellular construction which all life constantly strives to destroy. The entire mechanism of practical life obstructs such a construction. The telephone rings; the patients are waiting; the conference has to be written, prescriptions, and my own mass of cares, duties, the house, the friends, the garden, the needs of others. All this brutally submerges the pattern, the web of profound correlations. I fight hasty, casual, careless contacts. Just a patient, subterranean, delicate effort to destroy the solitude of human beings, to build bridges. To achieve this in relationship and in writing takes much time. Proust had to retire from life to do it in writing.
I give to this creation a care I give to none other. When we are interrupted, it is characteristic of me that my thread remains unbroken. I stand in the room possessed by the theme, and I do not let go.”
“When I came home I sat by the fire and, staring at it so long, I became hallucinated. I thought I was standing inside a glass bell such as I have as a paperweight, a ball of glass which I shake and then the flurries of snow dance inside of it and cover a diminutive castle.” (reminiscent of The Bell Jar)
“I can only tell you that my surroundings are me. Everything is me, because I have rejected all conventions, the opinion of the world, all its laws. I am not obliged, as you and Jeanne are, to play a social role.”
On Artaud giving a lecture: “Is he trying to remind us that it was during the Plague that so many marvelous works of art and theatre came to be, because, whipped by the fear of death, man seeks immortality, or to escape, or to surpass himself? But then, imperceptibly almost, he let go of the thread we were following and began to act out dying by plague. No one quite knew when it began. To illustrate his conference, he was acting out an agony.”
Artaud: “They always want to hear about; they want to hear an objective conference on 'The Theatre and the Plague,' and I want to give them the experience itself, the plague itself, so they will be terrified, and awaken. I want to awaken them. They do not realize they are dead. Their death is total, like deafness, blindness. This is agony I portrayed. Mine, yes, and everyone who is alive.”
Rank: “'The precondition, then, of the creative personality is not only acceptance, but its actual glorification of itself.'
Cannot or will not accept himself. How can I accept a limited definable self when I feel, in me, all possibilities?”
“We are punctual, a stressed, marked characteristic. We need order around us, in the house, in the life, although we live by irresistible impulses, as if the order in the closets, in our papers, in our books, in our photographs, in our souvenirs, in our clothes could preserve us from chaos in our feelings, loves, in our work.”
“There are two of us. The fragments of our life which do not fit into a desired image, we discard. But I cull them in the diary, and I cannot forget them. My father forgets them.”
“The immense pride in my father. True, he did not love us humanly, for ourselves, just this reflection of himself in three human beings reproducing him, continuing his attitudes. He loved us as his creations.”
“[My father] tells me the story of the humble and rather homely little governess no one paid attention to. "Without me she would never have known love. I used to cover her homely little face to be able to make love to her. It transformed her. She became almost beautiful.”
“In front of me there is a deep abyss, and if I continue to fall into it, deeper and deeper, how long will it take me to reach the bottom? I imagine that life is such an abyss, and that the day I strike bottom will be the day I cease to suffer. One of these days I will say to my journal: "Dear Diary, I have touched bottom.”
“We talk about the dream—return to my original statement that most dreamwriting is false and intellectually composed, that the real dream has an authenticity and can be recognized. The intellectually composed or fabricated dream does not arouse the dream sensation in others (like Cocteau's film, for instance).”
“Immediately I catch the elements I do not like, which leave me cold. Logic, order, construction, classicism, equilibrium, control. I wanted to shout: I admire imperfections, Dostoevsky, Lawrence, and Henry. There is a power there.”
“Wasn't it D. H. Lawrence who wrote of how women took their pattern from man, and proceeded to be what man invented? Few writers have had a direct vision into woman. Few women had vision into themselves! And when they did, they were revolted at what they saw, just as people were revolted by what Freud exposed.”
“Romanticism was truly a parallel to neurosis. It demanded of reality an illusory world, love, an absolute which it could never obtain, and thus destroyed itself by the dream (in other centuries by tuberculosis and all the other romantic illnesses).”
“The happiness described by Rank, then, is the one of positive, creative assertion of the will through the consciousness of creation; and that, by this highest of efforts, I can arrive at a self-abnegation or forgetting of myself to a greater whole. An artistic enthusiasm for a variety of manifestations is the basis of creative exuberance.”
“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with. I was convinced of people's need of illusion.”
“George Sand, Georgette Leblanc, Eleonora Duse, women of yesterday and today. The mute ones of the past, the inarticulate, who took refuge behind wordless intuitions; and the women of today, all action, and copies of men. And I, in between. Here lies the personal overflow, the personal and feminine overfulness. Feelings that are not for books, not for fiction, not for art. All that I want to enjoy, not transform. My life has been one long series of efforts, self-discipline, will. Here I can sketch, improvise, be free, and myself.”
“[Dr. Rank] knew, perhaps, that the woman would soon fade because there was no role for her; that the woman's role to live for a man, for one man, was denied to me by my neurosis; and that to live fragmented was a negation of the wholeness of woman. And he knew that I would be driven back to art.”
“One might say that it is natural that a mechanical feeling should arise in the analyst who is confronted, say, a hundred times a year with a drama of incest; but if he had not hastened to the conclusion that all dramas of incest resemble each other, he would not have lost the vital interest in how or why the incest drama developed. It is very much like demanding a sincere participation on the part of the analyst; and no such participation would be possible if we did not refer back to the feelings of an artist when he is about to paint, for the thousandth time, the portrait of the Virgin and Child. The real artist is never concerned with the fact that the story has been told, but in the experience of reliving it; and he cannot do this if he is not convinced of the opportunity for individual expression which it permits.” (reminiscent of TMwoQ / Musil)
“The scientific attitude skeletonizes the personality and produces a contraction, a reduction to phenomena. Otto Rank emphasizes the difference between individualities and produces the expansion of it. The stressing of differences enlarges his universe. Rank seeks and delineates the individual mold into which each one is helped to enter, his own mold, as against the general mold imposed by scientific analysis.” (systems vs. the individual, again reminiscent of Musil for me)
“The act of self-creation which the neurotic must make with the analyst is only possible if he is convinced that the invention of his illness is a symptom of the power to create, and not a symptom of impotence.”
“The cause of discord in the personality is usually the tragic disparity between the ideal goal of the individual, the image he creates of himself, and his actual self. It is this which he projects on the world, on his relationships with others. Most analysts immediately seek to reconcile the individual to the world without realizing the deeper, inner discord, or considering what world it is the individual should be adapted to.”
“Americans are never interested in abstract thought, never attracted by the idea of exercising the intelligence and the imagination for the pleasure of discovery, of the process itself, as they exercise their bodies for a physical pleasure. No. It must be a practical knowledge, applied immediately, immediately useful. Pure ideas, pure speculation, pure exploration without conclusions do not interest them.” (ha!)
"What a lovely way you have of putting things."There's often a little bit of filth, a little bit of horseshit, when it comes to older European works. One often comes across tiny crystallizations of beautifully absolute resonance only after wading through swamps of nonsensically presumptuous categorization: women, queerness, black people, the entire country of China subsumed under the definition of Never Never Creative land by a lone troubled white boy and his coterie of groupies. The question, then,is not to ignore such, but to evaluate whether the rest of the work merits trudging through the filth, whether the moments of humanizing brilliance will be enough for the majority of the world's population. It's not objective work at all, but a popularity contest, so my support of Nin now due to solidarity and a fascination with a few remarks, a scatter of experiences, and a modicum of overall style of prose doesn't mean I've fully comitted to reading the next five parts of this diary of hers and searching up the penultimate seventh once I've run out of the portion that I own. It simply means that, for now, she entertains, and I find enough actual value in her entertainment to merit further reading. Once she overbalances, though, I'm out.
"Perhaps it is another way of avoiding facts."
"No, perhaps you see more."
He has been neither realistic enough, nor fantastic enough.To be perfectly honest, what made the beginning of this worth going through was Nin's obvious infatuation with the wife of an author she was acting as patron for, as it makes for an interesting picture when combined with the colder facts that weren't included in this expurgated version of Nin's diaries. Anaïs Nin was married at the time, and her affair with the aforementioned author is what drove the author's wife to both leave the two and divorce her husband. You wouldn't get this at all between the psychoanalysis and the miscarriage and father and the art, but Nin's writing and namedropping of famous figures amidst her sometimes keen observations is enough for me to not particularly care that I'm not getting the full, unabridged experience. Maybe this is because there are seven books already (eleven if you count the earlier diaries), or maybe because I doubt Nin's conscientiously apolitical pretensions, expurgated or no, is going to be worth my while for very long, or maybe it's because all people lie, and in certain cases, so long as I'm entertained, I don't particularly care. So long as Nin has a way with words when it when conversing with the creators of the Tropic of Cancer and the Theatre of Cruelty, I don't actually care whom she admits to sleeping with. Barring the last harrowing pages of giving birth to a dead child (and the status quo wonders why death rates in labor are still obscenely high or why doulas are reclaiming life from death), it was hard to emotionally invest myself in Nin's richlit wanderings beyond the level of a salacious detail or a cool turn of phrase. The book was worth my time, and I'm looking forward to the next installments, but the consequence of lazy metaphors is an audience left in relative indifference and superficial engagement.
Men can be in love with literary figures, with poetic and mythological figures, but let them meet with Artemis, with Venus, with any of the goddesses of love, and then they start hurling moral judgments.
There is no objectivity. There is only instinct.The first two paragraphs of this may sound largely unimpressed, but I really am a fan of Nin's writing style, and some of what she has to say, especially regarding women in relation to men, is spot on. Again, I can't say I'll make it through six more books of this, but considering all the status quo crap I've shoved myself through so as to never have to read it again, I'm likely to keep going, and even enjoy myself at times. There are a number of elongated self portraits out there, but few are as well placed chronologically/geographically/socially/sexually as Anaïs Nin's, and even fewer who are as relevant to my interests. Besides, I can use all the bisexual ramblings I can get, and Nin herself wasn't bad to look at.
A woman says: "I am jealous." A man covers it up with a system of philosophy, a book of literary criticism, a study of psychology.
The fear that truth should prove uninteresting is known only to weak-stomached artists. Respect the mysteries, they say. Do not open Pandora's box. poetic vision is not the outcome of blindness but of a force which can transcend the ugliest face of reality, swallow and dissolve it by its strength, not evasion.