Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reading Anais continued

I keep a diary because journaling is supposed to have therapeutic effects. It's supposed to help with depression and various mental illnesses. Recording one's life and being able to look back on it and think about what has happened and why ... this process is supposed to filter out the crazy in one's life. It's introspection and meditation and all those healthy things. One should be able to spot complications in life (falling in love with a married man, starting an affair with one's psychoanalyst, etc) before they take root. Journaling should temper one's more feral instincts, stabilize emotional swings and contribute to living a simple, uncomplicated life.

But secretly, I suspect, journaling only has that effect on people who are by nature temperate and not inclined to do crazy things.

As I'm reading Anais Nin's diary, I get the feeling that she's not being entirely candid. When I started reading, I was awed by how candid her depiction of June Miller is. It's so personal and she admits to being fascinated by June. I was inspired by the idea of this journal, in which someone can shed all of her inhibitions to tell the truth and honestly record all that she thinks, and thus free herself of hidden demons lurking at the back of her mind, that would usually be suppressed. As I read on however, I became more and more aware that this diary was always meant to be read. I can also see that she's not entirely honest with the diary.

In reading her episode with Dr. Allendy, I was hit with the realization that, when she questioned whether or not she was attracted to him, she already knew the answer, which she did not share with her diary. After this realization and casting Anais Nin in the role of an unreliable narrator (like Ishmael), I'm left questioning a lot of things. What does she feel about Henry Miller? Her relationship with him seems to hover between romantic and platonic. Even such a candid, beautifully-written diary suffers from omission and elision.

Diary-writing does not prevent life from being complicated; all the reflection and introspection leads to discovering one's problems, but not to fixing them. In fact, a diary is just a place to think and justify one's actions that might appear to the world as wrong - whereupon, one can live out questionable situations all the more systematically.

Note to self: must find more time to read ... and write in my diary.


  1. During the time Anais Nin was writing the passages that became 'Henry and June,' she realized the worth of her diary, but also faced the impossibility of publishing it (for fear of hurting those she loved--or fear of being found out, or both). So it's unclear whether at that point in her life she was writing with the ultimate purpose of being read by others. 'Henry and June' was heavily edited by Harcourt editor John Ferrone, whose goal it was to make the book readable, to have a plot and flow, and all the things that give a novel, let's say, its qualities, and the result speaks for itself, I think. Phrases were cut, pieced together, and the end result is a book that is culled from a diary but is not a "diary" in of itself. That could be why you question some of the writing, and it's understandable. That's one of the biggest problems with Nin's diaries--they are not the day-to-day recordings they were originally, except the early diaries 1 through 4, which are pretty much verbatim.

    To see John Ferrone's account on how he edited 'Henry and June,' and Rupert Pole's opposition to what he considered Ferrone's heavy-handed editing, consult 'A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal' Vol. 6 ( It was a colossal battle between the two!

  2. Thanks for your comment! It's very informative. The book that I'm reading is not "Henry and June", it's "Diary of Anais Nin: 1931 to 1934", but I see your point about editing. I guess what I'm reading is, indeed, one of the "expurgated" diaries.

    However, I still think she always meant her diaries to be read. In the book, she writes about showing her diary to Henry and Henry's reactions after reading this or that volume of her diary. She writes about the secretary-like woman that she employs to type up her manuscripts, including diaries, for her. Perhaps she didn't have publication in mind at the time, but nevertheless, she wanted to share the diary with other people, although it be a select few.

    I followed your link to the Anais Nin Blog; it's very interesting!