Anaïs Nin and I
I love reading books written by female writers. There are a few male writers I adore too, but for some reason, all my favourite writers tend to be females. Perhaps I prefer storytelling from a more feminine aspect, the more feeling, intuitive-based rather than the fact-based, the logical and rational arguments. I prefer the more internal, introverted and emotional, with less logic and rationality. That is not to say female writers' work cannot be masculine, logical and rational and male writers' work cannot be feminine. Often, the divine masculine energy is interwoven with divine feminine, even in literature. However, I do tend to notice a subtle (sometimes apparent) difference in energy between the works done by a female writer as opposed to her male counterpart. I do tend to feel that female writers are more prone to reveal their true feelings, more willing to be vulnerable, emotional. Women are made of water.
There are many female writers I admire and adore, such as Elizabeth Gilbert, whose Eat Pray Love had genuinely influenced me around my mid-twenties, compelled me to go to India and stayed at an ashram (which I did). Also, the Turkish novelist Elif Shakfak, who writes in both English and Turkish, reading her novels inspire me to write novels, and also to write in both English and Chinese. There are others, such as Virginia Woolf, J.K. Rowling… however, no one female writer has had such a tremendous impact on me than Anais Nin, not only her style of writing but also her remarkably marvellous life stories, her astute insights and awareness towards human psychology, emotions and feelings. Her openness, adventurous and explorative attitude towards sexuality, life, and everything in-between.
Anais Nin is my Goddess, my femme fatale. To me, Anais Nin is a woman who has truly, deeply lived, a woman who has obtained self-realisation not by living in a monastery and renounce the world, but by living boldly, daringly, exploratively in the world.
I first heard of Anais Nin only a few months ago, when one day I was having lunch at Lentil-as-anything, a restaurant that is frequented by artists, creatives, hippies, bohemians, immigrants and homeless in Melbourne. I love everything about Lentil-as-anything, the bohemian vibes, the lively environment, the diverse and interesting mix of people, the jaw-dropping vegan food and the daring pay-as-you-wish pricing model.
(Actually, in hindsight, I remembered I had encountered Anais Nin much earlier. When I was reading Elif Shakfak’s novel Black Milk where she drew inspirations from other female writers and there she talked about how Anais Nin was sick of the traditional publishing world and decided to take up publishing her own work, typesetting her own work.)
I was in a cheerful mood that day, after having done yoga on the beach in the morning, I felt like coming out of my own world, socialising, talking to strangers, finding out about people's stories. There are days I don’t feel like talking to anybody, I shun from the world, cocooning in my imaginative world and immersing in my own creation. There are days I feel like talking, socialising and drawing inspirations from others’ stories. Life is all about balance and that day was my 'talk day'.
I sat in a table of three, among one old man, one middle-aged man and a young man. They introduced themselves and asked my name, also what I did. I introduced myself as a poet, writer and a lover of life, I said my job was to enjoy life. They laughed. The old man looked at me interestingly and asked, ‘Do you know Anais Nin? You reminded me of her.’
The name sounds familiar, but I did not think I had actually read her works. I replied ‘No’.
‘You should read Anais Nin, you will love her.’ He said with a grin, he was wearing a cute beret, with a plait shirt, like a French gentleman. He talked very slowly, wisdom shone through his eyes, I can’t imagine how handsome and charming he must have been in his early days, still incredibly charming now. I trusted him.
So that night when I came home, I googled Anais Nin and downloaded a few of her books. I was instantly hooked, intrigued by her life stories. She was a diarist, essayist, novelist and writer of short stories and erotica. She was born to Cuban Spanish parents in France, spent her childhood in Spain and Cuba, but lived most of her life in America. She was the lover of the well-known author Henry Miller, psychoanalyst Otto Rank and other writers and artists. She had two marriages, one to a film director Ian Hugo, another to an actor Rupert Pole, who was sixteen juniors of her age (she was 44 when she met Pole). While still married to Hugo, she married Pole!(talking about unconventional and daring!!) Her second marriage was annulled, due to legal issues arising both husbands trying to claim her as a dependent on their federal tax returns.
She is recognised as one of the finest female writers of erotica. I bought a few of her books, including her erotica the Delta of Venus and her diaries. I admired any female writers who are open about their sexuality and can actually write about sexuality, creating fictions in them. I remembered I was reading the Delta of Venus for three days staight, then as if there was a direct transmission by Anais Nin, I also started writing erotica myself. In one day, I wrote over 8000 words, stream-of-consciousness. I think one day I will publish a novel on erotica too, perhaps tantric erotica.
However, it was her diaries that fascinate me the most. Nin wrote her diaries prolifically for six decades and even up until her death. Her diaries, many of which were published during her lifetime, detail her private thoughts and personal relationships, as well as her sexually abusive and incestuous relationship with her father. When I opened her diaries, I felt I was instantly transported to her avant-garde artistic world and her inner world, her psyche, her deepest personal thoughts, her relationship with Henry Miller, her infatuation with June, Henry Miller's second wife, the much written about femme fatale by both Anais and Henry. Also her relationship with psychotherapist Allendy and Otto and how she became a psychotherapist herself, her relationship with her father and other artists. I felt I became one of them, as in I was a witness among them, travelling from Paris, to New York, from Henry Miller to Otto Rank.
I became utterly obsessed. What I loved most about her diary is how she is tremendously skilful in digging deep into the human psyche and revealing the intricate web of the human mind, navigating the complexities, the conflicts, the paradoxes of human thoughts, emotions and behaviours. The conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind. And she is sharp at identifying the real from the unreal, revealing the truth. I also adore her style of writing immensely. How she could throw all the pertinent adjectives at ease, she has a prose style of writing which makes things more poetic, flowing, effortlessly graceful.
She is a psychotherapist, an expert in human psychology, a metaphysician, a goddess of literature, wisdom, knowledge, sensuality. An embodiment of the Divine Feminine. Ah, how I wish I could be Anais Nin, how I wish I could write like Anais Nin, perhaps one day.
I have been so deeply inspired by Anais Nin and now everywhere I go I also started to carry a diary with me, jotting down all my thoughts whenever I can, practising stream of consciousness writing and my handwriting. I have been so used to typing on a laptop that I have lost my handwiring ability. I think my handwriting has deteriorated substantially over the past years to the point of ugliness. I have decided to revive, restore and rescue my handwriting. I also found that writing a diary is tremendously therapeutic. My diary is almost like my therapist, I could confide all my doubts, my fears, my confusions to my diary freely, without worrying about anybody's judgments, and as I keep writing, I seem to have solved many inner conflicts, the answers and solutions seem to reveal themselves clearly in my writing. I believe writing a diary will enhance my personal growth, also it will no doubt make me a better writer. Practice makes perfect.
I would love to share some of my favourite quotes about Anais Nin, hope you will find them inspring too:
“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
“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.”
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
“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.”
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.”
“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.”
“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.”
“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
“I hate men who are afraid of women's strength.”
“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”
“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.”
“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.”
“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.”
“People living deeply have no fear of death.”
“Do not seek the because - in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”
“You don't find love, it finds you. It's got a little bit to do with destiny, fate, and what's written in the stars.”