Anais Nin: Writer, Wildcat, Bigamist and Bon Vivant

 

She was an author, a philosopher, a makeshift psychoanalyst, a flamenco dancer, an actress and an international woman of mystery. Her love affairs were legendary, and her tell-all erotica is hailed by critics as the finest ever written.

Born To Be Wild

Anais Nin, birth name “Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell” (you can see why she shortened it!) was born on this day, February 21, 1903 in Nueilly, France. Her father, Joaquín Nin, was Cuban pianist of Spanish descent, and her mother Rosa Culmell, was a Cuban singer of French and Danish descent. Even at birth she seemed destined for an artistic life which would lead her across continents. 

Sadly, her parents separated when Anais was only two years old. Rosa then took Anais and her brothers to Barcelona and later New York City.  Anais began high school but dropped out at age sixteen. She then worked as an artists model.

In 1923, she found herself living in Havana, Cuba. It was there she met and married her first husband, Hugh Parker Guiler.

The couple moved to Paris. Hugh was a banker and sometime artist who dabbled in film making.  During this time Anais began to pursue her interest in writing. She kept volumes of scandalous diaries which would later be published as part of her erotic collections. Her first published work, however, was a critical evaluation of author D. H. Lawrence called D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study. 

She also studied Flamenco dancing.

The Psyche and The Pen

Anais became interested in psychoanalysis. With the onset of new research and practices, the human mind was now Freud’s territory, ripe for childhood trauma and sexual symbolism. Anais studied with prominent doctors René Allendy and Otto Rank. Both men eventually became her lovers.  It was a somewhat “sophisticated” kind of hanky panky, bordering on mentorship (at least according to Nin.)  She said of Otto rank:

“As he talked, I thought of my difficulties with writing, my struggles to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feeling, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless.”

Nin eventually found her voice, later publishing several novels, journals and short stories including Winter of Artifice, A Café in Space, The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Delta of Venus, Little Birds and Under a Glass Bell. 

“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.”
― Anais Nin

Bohemian Rhapsody

During her years in Paris, Anais led an unconventional lifestyle which was almost systematically removed from her husband Hugh. (Reportedly, Hugh requested that he never be mentioned in any of her published diaries.)

Anais slid into a literary circle which included Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Antonin Artaud, Gore Vidal, James Agee, and Lawrence Durrell. She had love affairs with some of them. Even steadfast homosexual Gore Vidal was known to write her romantic letters. Most famously, Nin was involved with Henry Miller. She also seems to have fallen in love with Henry’s wife June, an irresistible, cunning and beautiful femme fatale.  Their relationship is one of much speculation, and was examined in the 1990 film Henry and June. 

Anais was obsessed with June, often using her as an archetype in her fiction. In her diary Henry and June Anais wrote poetically and reverently of her infatuation, even stating, “I have become June.” Although Anais denied having an affair with June, she continuously gave her money, jewelry and clothing, even to the point of leaving her own self broke for June’s benefit.

In the summer of 1939, with the Nazis closing in and the threat of war, Anais and Hugh left Paris and relocated to New York City. There Anais continued her sexual escapades. She reunited with her old psychoanalyst, Otto Rank, and moved into his apartment.  (The relationship between Anais and Hugh is unclear at this point. Maybe he realized he simply could not control her, or maybe he no longer cared.)

While living with Otto,  Anais actually began to act as a psychoanalyst herself. She “counseled”  patients in the room next to Rank’s, and also had sex with them on the psychoanalytic couch!

After several months, even the voracious wildcat Anais could not keep up the pace.  She quit, stating: “I found that I wasn’t good because I wasn’t objective. I was haunted by my patients. I wanted to intercede.”

L.A. Woman

In 1947, while still living in America and still married to Hugh, Anais met the actor Rupert Pole.  After a chance encounter in a Manhattan elevator, the two ended up dating and traveled to California together.

Anais was sixteen years older than Pole.  On March 17, 1955,  even though she was still married to Hugh, Anais married  Pole in Quartzsite, Arizona! She then lived with him in Los Angeles.

What was Hugh doing all this time? Well, he either was clueless, or he pretended to be clueless. Biographer Deirdre Bair alleges that Hugh knew everything, but “chose not to know”. Anais referred to her simultaneous marriages as her “bicoastal trapeze”. She wove a wild web around it. 

According to Deidre Bair: “Anais would set up these elaborate façades in Los Angeles and in New York, but it became so complicated that she had to create something she called the ‘lie box’. She had this absolutely enormous purse and in the purse she had two sets of checkbooks. One said ‘Anais Guiler’ for New York and another said ‘Anais Pole’ for Los Angeles. She had prescription bottles from California doctors and New York doctors with the two different names. And she had a collection of file cards. And she said, ‘I tell so many lies I have to write them down and keep them in the lie box so I can keep them straight.'”

In 1966, Nin had her marriage with Pole annulled, due to the legal issues arising from both Guiler and Pole trying to claim her as a dependent on their federal tax returns. (Yep. The IRS will get you ever time! 🙂 )

However, Anais continued to live with Pole until her death in 1977.

Believe it or not, love was not lost between Anais and Hugh. Prior to her death, Anais wrote to Hugh asking for his forgiveness. He wrote back that his life had been “more meaningful” because of her.  

A Jill of All Trades

In addition to her writing, Anais’ artistic endeavors also included work as an actress. In 1946 she appeared in the Maya Deren film Ritual in Transfigured Time. In 1952  she starred in Bells of Atlantis, a film directed by her husband Hugh under the name “Ian Hugo”.  In 1954 she had a role in the Kenneth Anger film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. 

When the Feminist Movement exploded in the 1960’s, Nin’s writing was examined under a new lens. She became something of a feminist icon. She was a popular lecturer and spoke at various universities. Anais herself, however, refused to be politically active and disassociated herself from Feminism. In 1973 she  received an honorary doctorate from the Philadelphia College of Art. She was  elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974, and in 1976 was presented with a Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year award.

She even had a perfume named after her, Anais Anais by Cacherel!

Sadly, Anais was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1974.  She died  at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 14, 1977.

Her body was cremated, and her ashes were scattered over Santa Monica Bay in Mermaid Cove.  This brings me to my favorite Nin quote:

 

Happy Birthday Anais! You were one of a kind.

 

 

 

 

47 comments on “Anais Nin: Writer, Wildcat, Bigamist and Bon Vivant

  1. Wonderful article on Nin! May I reblog it on House of Heart?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. An amazing person! I love the mermaid quote 🙂 She made so many great quotes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. great article and what a quote!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wonderfully informative about the life of Anais Nin.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on silverapplequeen and commented:
    Anais Nin is probably the greatest influence on my life, both as a writer & as a woman. Which say a lot, since the most exciting places I have ever lived are cities like Buffalo, NY, Cleveland, OH and Lowell, MA. But I have found lovers, stories, poetry in all these places. And my diary continues to this day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lovely reflection upon a very important writer – and an inspirational woman. One of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lisa Coleman says:

    She certainly took “research” to a whole new level for writing. By today’s standards, she would have been locked up for sexual harassment while counseling those patients, bigamy and tax fraud. I love her quotes and ideology though. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, well yes that is true! She certainly was a rule breaker and lawbreaker! I am curious as to what the actual situation was with her “counseling” these patients, as she had no qualifications to do so. I suspect the patients were quite enthusiastic… Glad you liked the post and thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Adele Marie says:

    Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
    A wonderful post about Anais Nin.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Clanmother says:

    What I found amazing about Anais Nin, was her ability to embrace life, and write boldly about her emotions, events, desires, and fears. She believed her ideas needed to be written, a call to action for all of us. If she lived today, I can imagine how many people would be following her posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Keith says:

    Thanks for sharing this. What an interesting and thought-provoking person! The quotes you selected to illustrate her voice are impactful, especially the last one, which defines today. The truth does not matter, just find a story that someone can live with. If they accepted the truth, they would then have to do something about it.Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Fascinating and beautifully presented! She certainly lived life to the max – and who with a desire to write well could fail to identify with this quotation?

    “As he talked, I thought of my difficulties with writing, my struggles to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feeling, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Vicky V says:

    A great tribute to an extraordinary woman!
    I love the quotes you chose. The one about crying and sining in writing really resonated with me as did the last one – people say “tell me the truth” but really don’t won’t to hear it.
    I wonder what she would have thought of the world we now live in?

    Liked by 1 person

    • People were contemplating, what if Anais NIn were on social media today? She’d have an enormous following! But yet I wonder if she would have been the type to embrace our world today?

      I totally agree about those quotes. It is hard to find anyone who actually wants to hear “the truth” contrary to what they ask for. I always think of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

      Glad you liked my tribute to the great Anais! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vicky V says:

        The social media question is a fascinating one. Would she have “put herself out there” or shunned it?

        Haha! Always loved that Jack Nicholson line! And delivered so brilliantly by Jack. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Fabulously entertaining and inspiring woman. Thank you for such a brilliant tribute 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. misterkaki says:

    Reblogged this on misterkaki and commented:
    Anais Nin, what a life!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. gypsypritzeh says:

    Many years ago, someone gave me a copy of Little BIrds. I recall reading it and from the perspective of most of the stories, assumed Anais was a man. Never knew otherwise until I read this post. Learn something new every day… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. So interesting!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s