January 31, 2019
Anais Nin (1903-1977) was a French-American writer, dancer, actor and therapist. She wrote novels, short stories, criticism, essays and erotica. Starting at age 11 and until her death, she kept diaries, and these became her best-known books. Surrealism and psychoanalysis greatly influenced her writing. She also brought a strongly feminine viewpoint to her work. In the 1920’s Nin trained as a flamenco dancer in Paris with Francisco Miralles Arnau. Her films included Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome; Ritual in Transfigured Time; and Bells of Atlantis. In the 1930’s she studied under psychoanalysts René Allendy and Otto Rank. She was a friend or lover of many famous people, including Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Antonin Artaud, Gore Vidal, Lawrence Durrell and Carlos Castaneda. In 1974 she was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Nin wrote three books of erotica: Delta of Venus; Little Birds; and Auletris. A wealthy man paid her to produce the works. None were meant to be published, though the first two were released in her lifetime and the last posthumously. Because of her feminine viewpoint, a focus on the senses, feelings and relationships was prominent. Her style was elegant and without obscenities. Topics explored were sometimes extreme, however: prostitution, incest, threesomes, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, sadomasochism, etc., etc. Incest, the third volume of her diaries, details the sexual abuse she suffered from her father. Other diaries recounted her extra-marital affairs and bigamous marriages.
I have always enjoyed Nin’s erotica. It is beautifully-written. And the way it communicates a woman’s viewpoint about sexuality is a breakthrough in erotica. On the other hand, I have been put off by some of the subjects she covered, as referenced above.
“I had a feeling that Pandora’s Box contained the mysteries of woman’s sensuality, so different from a man’s and for which man’s language was so inadequate. The language of sex had yet to be invented. The language of the senses was yet to be explored.”
“Only the united beat of sex and the heart can create ecstasy.