The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934 by Anaïs Nin, Gunther Stuhlmann (editor)

“We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.” – Anaïs Nin

“I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing… The romantic submits to life, the classicist dominates it.” – Anaïs Nin

5 stars – A reflective, poignant journal of Anaïs Nin’s internal surreal world

Reading The Diary of Anaïs Nin is like diving into an ocean of poetic feelings and nuanced perspectives written with artistry, eloquence and surrealism. It makes you want to swim in her sea of words and discover who she really is (beyond the essayist and writer). The Diary volume 1 is a interesting (but expurgated) account of Anaïs Nin’s life aged 28-31 years old. Anaïs is a complex woman; she is unafraid to explore her psyche and desperate need for love. She writes about all the roles that she must play in life for others – the artist, writer, patient, lover, daughter and friend.

Anaïs is an eloquent writer and a progressive thinker of her time. Her intimate diary accounts self-reflections on her relationships, art, being a woman, life, love, passion, writing, surrealism, seduction, feminism & femininity, psychoanalysis, compassion, honesty and her relationship with her father. I enjoyed reading her unique view of the world, which is truthful, perceptive and deeply poignant. She writes thoughtful and observant points about life and people. Near the end, I was shocked by her experiences and touched by her revelations. It’s no small thing to be able to describe feelings so accurately like she did. In my view, her diary is about self-discovery and individualism; it’s about her coming to terms with her own choices and her relationships. It’s also an intriguing read about her neurotic, artistic friends and lovers. Anaïs’ diary however does contain [spoiler alert] undertones of her incestuous relationship with her estranged father (you have been warned), this in no way detracts from her potent and expressive sophisticated writing. Recommended for readers that enjoy reading different perspectives on life and self-reflection, and readers who like eloquent, poetic writing and a provocative read. I will be getting the internationally acclaimed volume 2 soon!

– NJ

Other interesting quotes from the book:

“For my life is slowed up by thought and the need to understand what I am living.”

“He overlooked the deeper cravings of an artist, for whom deep love is the only possible form, no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.”

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvellous.”

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

“You cannot possess without loving.”

“As an ordinary woman I might have been serenely happy with such a miniature life, but I am not that woman.”

“I want the key, the key to the lies” [Henry] “Passion and violence never opened a human being.” [Anais] “What opens human beings?” “Compassion.”

“You have no gratitude because you have no love. To be grateful, one must first know how to love.”

“Proofs of love and friendship are what I give to others all the time. And everyone seems to need them.”

“I want to give him life and adventure, but I cannot convey to him that it is the mood, not the places, the relationships which can light up shabby hotel rooms, stained cafe tables, brimming  noisy streets, sour wine.”

“Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. Create. And then love will come to you.”

“I wondered whether he was right that it was the rituals we had lost, or whether it was that people had lost the power to feel, and that no ritual would give it to them.”

“For the absolute, one dies if one wants the absolute.” 

“The neurotic is the modern romantic who refuses to die because of his illusions and fantasies prevent him from living. He enters a combat to live. We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.”

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with. I was convinced of people’s need of illusion.”

“It is the woman who has to speak. And it is not only the woman Anais who has to speak, but I who have to speak for many women. As I discover myself, I feel I am merely one of many, a symbol. I begin to understand June, Jeanne, and many others…, women of yesterday and today. The mute ones of the past, the inarticulate, who took refuge behind wordless intuitions; and the women of today, all action, and copies of men. And I, in between… My life has been one long series of efforts, self-discipline, will. Here I can sketch, improvise, be free, and myself.”

“We love best those who are, or act for us, a self we do not wish to be or act out.”

“The struggle to live by my own truth is so difficult, so weary… I am like the adventurer who leaves all those he loves, and returns with his arms full of gold; and then they are happy and they forget how they tried to keep this adventurer from exploring, from his voyage and his search.”

“Poetic vision is not the outcome of blindness but of a force which can transcend the ugliest face of reality, swallow and dissolve it by its strength, not evasion.” 

Click here for the book blurb on Goodreads.

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