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Incest: From 'A Journal of Love.' The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin 1932-1934.

Incest is not all of Nin's diary from these years, only the parts that baldly pertain to love or sex. Volume one of The Diary of Anais Nin covers the same Lime period without mentioning her husband or the carnal nature of other relationships. Edited under Nin's direction, that version portrays a woman with a conscious, passionate allegiance to art and life. While there is some overlap, Incest leaves out most "background" and barrages us with Nin's love affairs and intoxications.

How wonderful it all seems at first: great French ouffits, a maid, a bankrolling husband, Henry Miller ensconced in nearby love shack. "Love is the axis and breath of my life," Nin claims. But what is this love? Nin struggles with the idea of being a woman and an artist. She enthusiastically quotes D. H. Lawrence: "Only an unsatisfied woman needs luxuries. A satisfied woman can sleep on the floor." (Satisfied sexually or intellectually? Is sexual satisfaction the be-all for women specifically, or should satisfied men also sleep on the floor?) After days spent making love and attending to Miller's literary needs, Nin writes, "Of course, I have not worked. I have been swimming in my contentment as a woman. Danger, danger, I suppose." The friction between creation and ill-conceived devotion to men is evident in Nin's concern that her father (and, unfortunately, sex partner) is jealous of her journal, and Nin's acceptance of her psychoanalyst and soon-to-be lover Otto Rank's dubious challenge: "When the neurotic woman gets cured, she becomes a woman. When the neurotic man gets cured, he becomes an artist. Let us see whether the woman or the artist will win out." Yet who is "winning out" when, months into a pregnancy with Miller's child, Miller and Rank are still after Nin's body, and she gives it to them, ignoring her own condition? Who's winning when Nin ends her pregnancy because Henry doesn't want a child? Before the operation, she speaks to her unborn baby: "You ought to die because you are fatherless." This sentiment runs strong in Nin herself. The reader seeks distance from Nin's self-destruction, would especially like to remove herself from the romanticization of pain (the abortion later called a "superb adventure"; her father called "resplendent"). There is finally a despair in Nin's stories of pinning love notes to her husband's pillow while she is with another man.

In The Novel of the Future, Nin writes: "The solution to the dangers of truth lies in making a portrait so full and rich that all sides are heard, all aspects considered." On its own, this "unexpurgated" diary exposes Nin's obsessions without the ballast of the whole. Nin was a great poeticizer and spinner of tales compare scenes in Incest with the original diary and you will see that she was the first artificer of her life (though not the last). Read both diaries to get something akin to a full picture. While you're at it, read a novel or other works of Nin's, even ones without titles promising lurid sex.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Sheehan, Aurelie Jane
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Words:506
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