A controversial author of her times whose work was largely ignored at the time of publication, Anais Nin gained wide spread acceptance and acclaim in the 1960s when she garnered acceptance as one of the most prolific female writers who had dared to dabble in the elusive genre of female eroticism. Nin’s work primarily included her diaries that bespeak of a woman’s journey of self discovery through the various stages of her life.
She penned down her experiences of over 30 years, from 1931 to 1974 in her memoirs which today serve as an inspiration for women across the world who are trying to break out of stereotypical gender roles and biases.
Nin’s artistic parental background and her eventual bohemian lifestyle gave her the conviction to touch upon a side of feminine sensuality which was often considered off limits and even taboo. Through her works, she has explored various issues that women deal with in their lives including incest. Her literary journey began with the publication of ‘D H Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study”, which she remarkably wrote in just 16 days. The book was not officially published in the US and as a result she sent copies of it to Gotham Book Mart to be sold for a dollar a piece; thus began her journey to literary stardom.
While Nin has several journals and books to her credit her most widely acclaimed and well received books to date include:
D.H Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study
This was Nin’s first published work which probably whet her appetite for the controversial books that she found fame in. The book was her tribute to her literary hero DH Lawrence. It was a study of some of the author’s popular work. By the time the book went into publication; most critics had shunned Lawrence’s work. Not only was it unusual for Nin to choose his work for her book but also the fact that she was a woman who appreciated DH Lawrence’s writing which was often laced with sexual content was equally surprising
This was Nin’s last published novel which was notable in its shift from her regular style. This novel had none of the familiar characters that Nin’s fans were expecting. Also, as the name suggests, the book had almost two dozen important characters and there was quite a bit of geographical movement which was absent in her other work.
Winter of Artifice
This was Nin’s second published novels. It originally went into publication in Paris and gives a candid review of Nin’s incestuous relationship with her father.
Under a Glass Bell
Claimed to be one of the finest works from the author; the book was the first of several to be printed in Nin’s own press. A collection of short stories that touched upon several facets of life from writing journals to late abortions etc; many critics regard it as her finest work. Under a glass bell finally got Nin the recognition that she deserved.
House of Incest
This was Nin’s first fictional book. Although most readers expected to read a graphical description of Nin’s liaisons with her lovers, this book revolved around the central character trying to escape from a dream state that she finds herself trapped in.
Delta of Venus
A book with a strong incline towards the exploration of sexuality and eroticism, it contains several short stories with some of the characters finding their way into more than one story. The book was written for a person identified simply as the “collector” for his private consumption.
Although the book was written in 1940 when she was commissioned by the ‘Collector” along with other writers, this work from Nin was published two years after her death. The book includes 13 short stories that explore various sexual themes from lesbianism to pedophilia.
Cities of the Interior
This was a collection of 5 novels from Anais Nin; Ladders of Fire, the Four Chambered Heart, Children of the Albatross, Seduction of the Minotaur and Spy in the House of Love. Of the 5 books in this series, the Four Chambered Heart was autobiographical in nature while the Spy in the House of Love revolved around the journey of Sabina who is considered to be an alter ego of the author.
The Diary of Anais Nin
This is a published version of Nin’s private diary; the entries in the manuscript started when Nin was just 11 and she continued writing in it till her death. The diaries are available in seven volumes while the expurgated versions of the diaries contain more sexually graphic material than the original published manuscript.
Henry and June: From A Journal of Love: the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin (1931-1932)
This is a book which was published in 1986 which is based upon her unpublished diaries. It has a few similarities to her published diaries but also quite a few differences. It focuses on her very passionate affair with Henry Miller and his wife June Miller.
Anais Nin was an interesting character. The above works highlight some interesting works by a great writer.