Anais Nin was an American, twentieth century author, born in Neuilly-sur-France in 1903. Both her parents were artists. Her father was a Cuban pianist and composer. Her mother was a classically trained Cuban singer of French and Danish descent. Nin is most well known for her journals and erotic literature. Nin was a product of the Surrealism Movement in art and literature which was “... a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in an absolute reality, a surreality.”
Nin began writing at the age of 11-years-old as a way to share with her father the experience of moving to and living in America. Although the diaries where never read by him, she keep them for many years afterwards. Of her diaries, Nin said “... they are a long study of the psychological obstacles that have prevented women from her fullest evolution and flowering.” The explosion of the feminist movement in the 1960s gave feminist perspectives on Nin’s writings of the past 20 years.
Considered an icon of the Women’s Feminist Movement, Nin disassociated herself from the political activism of the movement. She felt “there was far to much imitation of man in the women's movement... and that it was merely a displacement of power.”
“The nature of my contribution to the Women’s Liberation Movement is not political, but psychological,” she said.
Her early literary career was far from acclaimed and she spent a good deal of it struggling to get her writings published. In her essay "The Story of My Printing Press," she wrote about the rejection of her books Winter of Artifice and Under a Glass Bell by American publishers. Having a printing press allowed her to self-publish, and even though Nin found self-publishing overwhelming, “she regretted giving up the printing press and losing commercial control of both content and book designs.”
Oddly enough Nin launched her own literary career with her publication of DH Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study (1932). The book led to a lifelong friendship with the American author Henry Miller and his wife June. DH Lawrence was her literary hero and she wrote about him at a time when many critics were turning their backs on Lawrence and womanly praise of his writings was unheard of at the time.
Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women to explore fully the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent woman in the modern west known to write erotica. Nin’s journals and diaries are her most critically acclaimed writings because they spanned several decades and provided intimate details into her personal life and relationships. Nin was a friend and in some cases, lover of many leading literary figures such Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Gore Vidal, and James Agee.
In comparing Nin to other authors, she compares in that she also had a social criticism of the times in which she lived. The way she wrote, no one had ever done that before—writing about women in an erotic sense. For her time, her writings were shocking. She was very passionate about what she believed in “that women should be the captain of their own destinies.” She strongly felt as women “.. if we take the responsibility for our situation, we can feel less helpless than when we put the blame on society or man.” Nin believed, if women would modify their emotional beliefs and attitudes, it would enable them to act more effectively.
“Nin’s literary contributions was a subject of controversy in her lifetime and remained so after her death. “Many critics admired her unique expression of femininity, her lyrical style, and her psychological insight.” Her most famous writings Delta of Venus/Little Birds were published posthumously in 1977.
Her most famous literary quote: “We write to taste life twice: in the moment and in retrospect.”