(Written January 7, 2010)
"Nin is seen as a representative of women's psychological and sexual freedom. The response to her depends on the reader's degree of liberation. For women who seek freedom-artistically and socially-she is the pioneer, validating our quest. For women who fear freedom, she becomes the target, evoking furious responses that may be only anger at one's self for being unfree." -Erica Jong
As if one blog would be enough to pay tribute to one of my favourite writers of all time! But I will use this feeble space to celebrate the one being who articulates my experience not only as a writer and a woman, but as a possessed creature intent on dissecting the world, a fascinated observer of the unseen, and a force unable to make peace with the insatiable hunger that drives its wild and unexplained passions. Allow me to introduce you to the one and only Anais Nin (1903-1997).
Nin was considered the first prominent female writer of eroticism, a gifted and celebrated one at that, and when I was first introduced to her work in my early 20's, I sincerely felt I had met a yet to be developed version of myself. Anais was what I most aspired to be: free; in every sense of the word.
I suppose I could list all of her works here (her journals, her erotic literature) but Wikipedia does a much better job of it, and gives you even more take off points to explore all that she is. For the purposes of this blog though, I will keep it personal and share how Anais affected and inspired me, followed by some (okay many) of my favourite passages from her various works.
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When I began to read Nin's published journals however many years ago, I was in awe. I felt at home. I felt a kindred connection to her spirit because I too had recorded my inner world as a way to navigate life, understand myself and find shelter from a confusing, sick and detached world that I had been forced to be a part of.
Writing had always been my refuge. Always.
As a child I would cut out the famous quotes from mom's National Enquirer and glue them into my diaries. I collected words instead of dolls. And now as an adult I hoard words like others hoard money. Words are my only addiction; one I have no desire to give up. It's the fire in my belly that makes life worth living. Without words...I can't even imagine it.
Apparently Anais felt the same way. "I only regret that everybody wants to deprive me of the journal, which is the only steadfast friend I have, the only one which makes my life bearable, because my happiness with human beings is so precarious, my confiding moods rare, and the least sign of non-interest is enough to silence me. In the journal I am at ease." She speaks my truth completely.
In romance, I fall in love with the expressions instead of the man, and I fall prey to a captivating line in much the same way a man grows weak in the presence of the woman he adores. While making love I write lines in my head, and while laying beside my lover it's often the case that what I most crave, even more than his touch, is my journal...my mistress.
And similar to another gifted writer, Erica Jong, I feel an experience is never complete until I've recorded it, made sense of it, dissected it, finalized it in print or in pen. I am struck by the insatiable desire to house whole experiences within the confines of a book...and often have. My literary love affair with Keveen (in the Poet & The Butterfly) is one example, but certainly not the only one. I've created 4 'books' since then, as compilations of my journey as a woman through my relations with men...never to be published, but necessary to my well-being.
Naturally then, I relate to Nin's work. She recorded everything. All her affairs (they were plentiful), her reflections on the men, the experiences, her growth and her inner contradictions.
When I read Anais' words, I fall in love. With myself because her acute self-awareness mirrors my own, with her because she embodies all that I deem sacred and beautiful, and with the unparalleled beauty of expression because nothing touches me more deeply than lines that resonate with my true nature.
So, in honour of the goddess that has inspired countless women on their journey of self-discovery, their quest for freedom, passion, truth and beauty, here is a collection of her lines; all of which strike a chord in me (yes, many have to do with writing). What did you expect? :)
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In Anais' words...
We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.
We see others not as they are, but as WE are.
I do not want to be the leader. I refuse to be the leader. I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness. I want a man lying over me, always over me. His will, his pleasure, his desire, his life, his work, his sexuality the touchstone, the command, my pivot. I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don’t mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding.
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 disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. to enter ordinary relationships, I want ecstacy. I am a neurotic- in the sense that i live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.
The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.
Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. And then love will come to you, then it comes to you. It was only when I wrote my first book that the world I wanted to live in opened to me.
A big enough artist, I say, can eat anything, must eat everything and then alchemize it. Only the feeble writer is afraid of expansion.
I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.
And then the day came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Don't say anything, because I see that you understand me, and I am afraid of your understanding. I have such a fear of finding another like myself, and such a desire to find one! I am so utterly lonely, but I also have such a fear that my isolation be broken through, and I no longer be the head and ruler of my universe. I am in great terror of your understanding by which you penetrate into my world; and then I stand revealed and I have to share my kingdom with you.
This diary is my kief, hashish and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice.
There were silences in my head. I could abandon myself completely to the pleasure of multiple relationships, to the beauty of the day, to the joys of the day. It was as if a cancer in me had ceased gnawing me. The cancer of introspection.
I want to make my own discoveries...penetrate the evil which attracts me.
There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.
I am only responsible for my own heart, you offered yours up for the smashing my darling. Only a fool would give out such a vital organ.
I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.
Physical experiences, lacking the joys of love, depend on twists and perversions of pleasure. Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.
I really believe that if I were not a writer, not a creator, not an experimenter, I might have been a very faithful wife. I think highly of faithfulness. But my temperament belongs to the writer, not to the woman.
To think of him in the middle of the day lifts me out of ordinary living.
I can elect something I love and absorb myself in it.
I will not be just a tourist in the world of images, just watching images passing by which I cannot live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy.
Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.
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Ahhh...thank you, thank you, thank you. I am indeed full! :)