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Arguably the world's most famous diarist, Anaïs Nin drew much of her acclaim from her shocking accounts of artistic and sexual self-exploration within the avant-garde worlds of Paris, New York, and Hollywood. But who was this woman whose peccadilloes led to relationships of bigamy and incest, who freely offered her body and her husband's money to some of the most brilliant Arguably the world's most famous diarist, Anaïs Nin drew much of her acclaim from her shocking accounts of artistic and sexual self-exploration within the avant-garde worlds of Paris, New York, and Hollywood. But who was this woman whose peccadilloes led to relationships of bigamy and incest, who freely offered her body and her husband's money to some of the most brilliant men of her era - including Henry Miller and Edmund Wilson and Otto Rank - whose desperate cravings for love, recognition, and approval from the intellectual elite remained unsatisfied until the end of her life? Deirdre Bair, who had exclusive access to Nin's complete, original diary and the full cooperation of her surviving husband, family, and friends, offers an enthralling portrait of a complex, perplexing writer whose most compelling subject was, unfailingly, herself.


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Arguably the world's most famous diarist, Anaïs Nin drew much of her acclaim from her shocking accounts of artistic and sexual self-exploration within the avant-garde worlds of Paris, New York, and Hollywood. But who was this woman whose peccadilloes led to relationships of bigamy and incest, who freely offered her body and her husband's money to some of the most brilliant Arguably the world's most famous diarist, Anaïs Nin drew much of her acclaim from her shocking accounts of artistic and sexual self-exploration within the avant-garde worlds of Paris, New York, and Hollywood. But who was this woman whose peccadilloes led to relationships of bigamy and incest, who freely offered her body and her husband's money to some of the most brilliant men of her era - including Henry Miller and Edmund Wilson and Otto Rank - whose desperate cravings for love, recognition, and approval from the intellectual elite remained unsatisfied until the end of her life? Deirdre Bair, who had exclusive access to Nin's complete, original diary and the full cooperation of her surviving husband, family, and friends, offers an enthralling portrait of a complex, perplexing writer whose most compelling subject was, unfailingly, herself.

30 review for Anaïs Nin: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I think nearly 300 pages of Anais Nin is enough. I couldn’t take anymore. She done used me up and wore me out, like she did with her 3,764 husbands, lovers and one night stands. She was born in 1903 in France of Cuban parents and was just another Cuban-French princess (they were rich) until ten years after she was married. Then she met that well-known ladies man Henry Miller and went straight to hell. HENRY MILLER’S SURE-FIRE TECHNIQUE TO AVOID WORKING FOR A LIVING He was never too embarrassed to I think nearly 300 pages of Anais Nin is enough. I couldn’t take anymore. She done used me up and wore me out, like she did with her 3,764 husbands, lovers and one night stands. She was born in 1903 in France of Cuban parents and was just another Cuban-French princess (they were rich) until ten years after she was married. Then she met that well-known ladies man Henry Miller and went straight to hell. HENRY MILLER’S SURE-FIRE TECHNIQUE TO AVOID WORKING FOR A LIVING He was never too embarrassed to send out mimeographed letters to vast numbers of people describing his poverty and hapless plight in maudlin detail. They frequently say that Anais Nin bankrolled Henry for 10 years while he was writing his Tropics and other allegedly brilliant novels. But she herself had no money. She just doled out half of her housekeeping allowance to Henry. Husband Hugo paid for everything, whether knowingly or not knowingly. He seems to have strained every nerve to not know what his wife was doing. DADDY ISSUES You may have heard the well-known piece of advice Try everything once except incest and morris dancing. As far as I know, Anais Nin never tried morris dancing. That would be only because she never heard of it. So her handsome concert pianist father abandoned the family when she was around 12 years old and she didn’t see him again at all until she was 29 (and he was 53). When they did finally meet, there was a lot of mutual attraction. You may think a little too much. Deirdre says : If Anais Nin the diarist is to be believed, for the next two weeks, father Joaquin and daughter Anais indulged in nonstop orgiastic frenzy, all of it written in what one reviewer of her diary described astutely as similar to the “portentous, heavy-breathing prose of a cheap romance novel”. Anais Nin summed up all the incest in these words : We have never reconciled ourselves to our own treacheries, to the flow of our nature, to our ascension and evolutions, which make us humanly unreliable. If anyone has any idea of what she means by that, please let me know. Alas, every quote from Anais Nin’s writings in this biography convinced me that Anais Nin is the opposite of what I want to read. But back to Daddy : She remembered how delighted she was when her father said he believed the sole purpose of other people’s lives was to give pleasure and purpose to his. As did, we might say, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Fred West. But there’s a twist : She shared but refined this view, because she thought woman’s primary role was handmaiden and supplicant to a great man. Conflict arose because she considered herself an artist, too, and therefore entitled to the same treatment and behavior as a man. Hmm, that’s a tough one. Actually, AN’s whole character is paradoxical. She lives her life as though a woman’s place is to make a nice hot meal every evening for her man, but she reserves the right to choose which man each evening. TYPICAL REMARKS FROM THIS BIOGRAPHY As she resumed her daily juggling of her five men (Hugo, Henry, Allendy, Artaud, and now “HIM”) (The five are : her husband, Henry Miller, her analyst Dr Rene Allendy, Antonin Artaud, and HIM = her father). And a few pages later The marriage was unorthodox, to say the least, but Anais was in fact a partner in not one but three marriages. (i.e. her own husband and Henry Miler remained, but Allendy, Artaud and Daddy have now been given the elbow & replaced by Gonzalo More. You have to keep up!) Deirdre says : She was true in her fashion, for she was unfaithful to them all, but only with the others. ANAIS FANS THOUGHT THIS BIOGRAPHY WAS A HATCHET JOB Even though it was the “official” biography! Yes. Sady Doyle in a Guardian article said : Every mistake, flaw and dirty secret of Nin’s life was laid bare at once, by an author who seemed so dedicated to humiliating her subject that she took the trouble of reproducing Nin’s typos. Could be that this is a case of a biographer beginning to dislike their subject the more they get to know about them. This has happened a few times before, with horrible results. ANAIS NIN ON ABORTION She got pregnant, no surprise, and didn’t know if it was Hugo’s or Henry’s or Daddy’s. So she had an abortion, not easy in the 1930s, but not impossible. For love of man, for my life as woman, I killed the child. A couple of hundred pages later, Anais has another abortion, and this time retains her sense of humour : As she lay there waiting, the woman next to her whimpered through the examining room curtain that her husband did not know what she was doing. Anais thought how surprised the unknown woman would be to know that Hugo knew about the abortion, and had accompanied her to the doctor’s office, but that her problem was to keep it secret from her lover Gonzalo, because he believed she had not had relations with her husband in years. ANAIS NIN ON PSYCHOANALYSIS She had an original take on Freudian analysis. What she did was she had sex with her first two analysts then set up as an analyst herself without any credentials! You know, why not? It seems obvious in retrospect that that’s the way to go but I believe this is now frowned on in the analysis business. By the way, she told Henry Miller that he should do the same, and he did! Set up as an analyst, that is. So that scam lasted a while. PLEASE NO MORE I BEG YOU For me there was way way too much detail, this 500 page biography should have been readers digestively condensed for someone like me who is interested in Anais Nin but not so interested that I need to know every bonkfest, every failed attempt to write a novel, every dinner party, every awkward robbing Peter to pay Paul monetary transaction, every jaunt to New York, Paris, London, every sigh and every contradiction and every minor illness and every disappointment and every scribble in every diary. Oh the diaries, the diaries! 250,000 pages – all in exquisite handwriting with almost no crossings out! And almost no mention of any of the world shaking events she lived through! Because being Anais was bigger than World War Two! OOPS, I NEARLY FORGOT She was married to two guys at the same time for about ten years.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Danielle DeTiberus

    It's 2003. I'm out of work, driving around the mountains of Asheville, NC, listening to NPR. An interview with Deidre Bair plays as she discusses a Jung biography (which is on the list to read for sure), and she mentions her research process (as well as some pretty shocking discoveries) for an older biography about Anais Nin. I literally stop what I am doing and drive to the library. To follow came many days of reading my troubles away. My should-have-been-looking-for-a-job paled in comparison t It's 2003. I'm out of work, driving around the mountains of Asheville, NC, listening to NPR. An interview with Deidre Bair plays as she discusses a Jung biography (which is on the list to read for sure), and she mentions her research process (as well as some pretty shocking discoveries) for an older biography about Anais Nin. I literally stop what I am doing and drive to the library. To follow came many days of reading my troubles away. My should-have-been-looking-for-a-job paled in comparison to the stuff this chick got down with. People really are different from one another. And oh how I love to be the voyeur.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Coventry

    I find Bair's take on Anais Nin's life to be oddly judgmental. A curious scolding condescension colors this biography. Yes, Nin may have been a narcissist, but Bair portrays her as a spoiled brat, emotionally immature, sexually manipulative, and without ethics. Even worse, Bair writes about Nin's work without any sympathy or sense of Nin's quite unique contribution to literary modernism. More intellectual curiosity might be directed towards Nin's relentless and fantastical quest to understand an I find Bair's take on Anais Nin's life to be oddly judgmental. A curious scolding condescension colors this biography. Yes, Nin may have been a narcissist, but Bair portrays her as a spoiled brat, emotionally immature, sexually manipulative, and without ethics. Even worse, Bair writes about Nin's work without any sympathy or sense of Nin's quite unique contribution to literary modernism. More intellectual curiosity might be directed towards Nin's relentless and fantastical quest to understand and express herself: the great effort of the diaries, whether they are factual or not, whether history has found Nin to be a "minor" writer or not.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Sciolino-Moore

    I stumbled upon Anaïs Nin in college while killing time at a Borders before a date. Her diaries were sitting in the "literature" section and I couldn't quite understand why. I pulled Volume I off the shelf, and thinking to myself: "Why would I want to read the diaries of someone??", I opted instead, for Ladders To Fire. I was instantly smitten. In the next week, I'd inhaled House of Incest, A Spy In The House Of Love and Little Birds. It was Anaïs, through Henry and June that introduced me to He I stumbled upon Anaïs Nin in college while killing time at a Borders before a date. Her diaries were sitting in the "literature" section and I couldn't quite understand why. I pulled Volume I off the shelf, and thinking to myself: "Why would I want to read the diaries of someone??", I opted instead, for Ladders To Fire. I was instantly smitten. In the next week, I'd inhaled House of Incest, A Spy In The House Of Love and Little Birds. It was Anaïs, through Henry and June that introduced me to Henry Miller, and the Tropics books, two of my all-time favorites INTHEWHOLEWORLDFOREVERANDEVERAMEN. For as much as I loved her writing, I never knew very much about her at all. A couple of years back, I stumbled upon what is commonly known as the definitive biography on her life in a Half Price Books in Seattle. I snatched up Bair's work for a song, and placed it on my shelf to get around to at a later date. That later date was a couple of weeks ago, as I sat proctoring standardized tests. I was amazed at the woman I'd known nothing about. She was a completely different person than what I'd envisioned, and not necessarily in the best of ways. I felt rather a fool for having idolized her for so long without an inkling of the type of troubled inner life that birthed such personal writing. Anaïs Nin was a narcissist and lived in a fantasy world created by her constant revisions of facts and occurrences. As I read the biography, I found myself a bit sickened and almost aghast at the life she lived and the way she treated those in it. Bair shed a light where previously I'd been blissfully ignorant, laying out the facts for Anaïs' fantasies and dispelling many of the stories told in the diaries. I know now why those diaries were found in the literature section; they were a meticulous retelling…the edited and polished attempt of a woman to lay out "the perfect life" before her readers. Bair tells a balanced story, getting as many points of view as possible wherever there are conflicting stories. Some have indicated that her telling seems to be biased. I'm not sure how to answer that. She certainly did not favor Nin by sugar-coating the truths she found, but she seemed fair to me in her attempts to ferret out all sides of each story. I was pleased with the way this life was told. Never cumbersome, the bio read easily and understandably. It's a definite must for anyone who loves Nin's work as much as I have, or even for those who wish to be astounded by an unorthodox and fanciful woman trying to find her way in a world that didn't really want her.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mortalform

    It was frightening to see so much of myself in young Nin, mostly the undesirable parts. "The idea of relativity makes many people fearful- the idea that you are one person with me today and another person with someon else later." Anaïs Nin said this in an 1971 interview. xv Anaïs said a lifetime of diary writing had been, from the first moment she wrote about herself, a concession "that life would be more bearable if I looked at it as an adventure and a tale. I was telling myself the story of a l It was frightening to see so much of myself in young Nin, mostly the undesirable parts. "The idea of relativity makes many people fearful- the idea that you are one person with me today and another person with someon else later." Anaïs Nin said this in an 1971 interview. xv Anaïs said a lifetime of diary writing had been, from the first moment she wrote about herself, a concession "that life would be more bearable if I looked at it as an adventure and a tale. I was telling myself the story of a life, and this transmutes into an adventure the things which can shatter you." 31

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I grabbed this out of my sister-in-law’s bookshelf while I was visiting her this summer. It is so well researched and written that I was quickly engaged and charged through the first third. The rest was a struggle to get through – not because of the quality of the writing, but because of the quality of the person. I knew very little about Anaïs Nin before I picked up this biography other than the fact that she was associated with Henry Miller and wrote erotica. After reading it, my main takeaway I grabbed this out of my sister-in-law’s bookshelf while I was visiting her this summer. It is so well researched and written that I was quickly engaged and charged through the first third. The rest was a struggle to get through – not because of the quality of the writing, but because of the quality of the person. I knew very little about Anaïs Nin before I picked up this biography other than the fact that she was associated with Henry Miller and wrote erotica. After reading it, my main takeaway was…yikes. Was Nin really a literary genius? That I can’t answer as I have never read any of her work and even if I had, I wouldn’t feel qualified to make such a judgement. Was she a feminist? Based on what I’ve read, I’m not sure I buy in to that portrayal of her. It takes more than just being a woman writing about yourself to be a feminist. She certainly seemed to need the attention of men to feel validated, and only seemed to see other women as rivals for that attention. The fact that she had a lot of sex with multiple different partners and then wrote about it in detail does not convince me of her feminist status either – it does, however make me wonder if she had narcissistic or histrionic personality disorder and was struggling all of her adult life to “make right” the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and abandonment that she suffered at the hands of her narcissistic father. That sorry fact of her life does make me pity her, but does not give her a free pass for her own twisted, manipulative, and selfish behavior. If you (like me) know little to nothing of Nin’s writings, you might enjoy this book as a study of how life experiences can form a person. If you are a fan of Anaïs Nin, you might find this book well worth your time, and perhaps discover that it challenges some of your opinions about her.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Schizophelia

    The thing I like about Anais Nin above all else is that she formed powerful connections to people and used them as catalysts. People, for Nin, seemed to be transformative elements through which she floated and morphed, giving her what she liked the most: a reason to write about herself. When I read this book, my first reaction was distaste. Having handed over most of The Tropic of Cancer to Henry Miller and asking for none of the glory, I saw her as a weak-minded, needy woman who had no courage. The thing I like about Anais Nin above all else is that she formed powerful connections to people and used them as catalysts. People, for Nin, seemed to be transformative elements through which she floated and morphed, giving her what she liked the most: a reason to write about herself. When I read this book, my first reaction was distaste. Having handed over most of The Tropic of Cancer to Henry Miller and asking for none of the glory, I saw her as a weak-minded, needy woman who had no courage. However, the more I began to read about her and about her diaries, I realized that all Nin ever wanted was a contrast, something that could give her psyche a canvas. She wanted to paint herself everyday, all of the time. It is rare to get a glimpse into an extremely overdeveloped feminine ego. This book is that chance.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Deirdre Bair is a genius. I read this in the stairwells of my high school when I was 14 during lunch. I fell very much in love w/ the graceful complications of this woman. The index card box she had to keep track of her complicated lies was so fascinating. She's so buckled-up & yet she oozes these sensuous stories out onto the page. Deirdre Bair, if anyone should be trusted w/ the sacred documents amounting to someone's entire existence, it is you. Deirdre Bair is a genius. I read this in the stairwells of my high school when I was 14 during lunch. I fell very much in love w/ the graceful complications of this woman. The index card box she had to keep track of her complicated lies was so fascinating. She's so buckled-up & yet she oozes these sensuous stories out onto the page. Deirdre Bair, if anyone should be trusted w/ the sacred documents amounting to someone's entire existence, it is you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Beverly Diehl

    Anais Nin is one of my favorite authors, but after 500 pages, even I was a little sick of her. I got the impression that so was the author, at times - which is okay, because Anais herself was not always a nice or kind person. She was often self-centered, jealous, petty, and devious. Anais was also incredibly talented, when she wasn't getting in her own way, and generous with her lovers (even if it was her husband's money she was sharing) and her work. A very complicated woman, who did track her li Anais Nin is one of my favorite authors, but after 500 pages, even I was a little sick of her. I got the impression that so was the author, at times - which is okay, because Anais herself was not always a nice or kind person. She was often self-centered, jealous, petty, and devious. Anais was also incredibly talented, when she wasn't getting in her own way, and generous with her lovers (even if it was her husband's money she was sharing) and her work. A very complicated woman, who did track her life - via her famous diaries - but frequently rewrote them for various purposes. (Some went to far as to dub them "liaries.") Anais was the ultimate unreliable narrator, and each person in her life heard different stories from her, often a mixture of truth and lies. Trying to untangle it and put together a reasonable narrative of what Anais was doing, saying, and why, is really an incredible work. As mentioned, it is quite long - but it needed to be, to cover the lifespan of a woman who lived over 70 years and juggled husbands, lovers, and a writing and speaking career.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erelin

    Incredibly well written biography of an incredibly messed up, narcissistic, untruthful, nymphomaniacal writer :) No, don't get me wrong, I fell in love with Nin by reading this biography. She was so crazy that you'd either have to love her or hate her. I could never hate anyone who was so alive and so wildly creative, even if she chanelled this creativity more into her superbly complex life and therefore less into her art. Still, even though she was not the greatest writer, she will always be re Incredibly well written biography of an incredibly messed up, narcissistic, untruthful, nymphomaniacal writer :) No, don't get me wrong, I fell in love with Nin by reading this biography. She was so crazy that you'd either have to love her or hate her. I could never hate anyone who was so alive and so wildly creative, even if she chanelled this creativity more into her superbly complex life and therefore less into her art. Still, even though she was not the greatest writer, she will always be rememebered as a "great minor writer". And Bair is a great biographer.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Some Anais Nin fans may see this as a hit piece on their favorite author, but it hasn't diminished my enjoyment of Anais Nin's work in the least. It made me aware of issues in her life she left out of her published diaries and gave me a fuller understanding of her life. She tended to exaggerate details for dramatic effect. I wouldn't want her love life but she must've been an interesting and intelligent conversation partner. I liked it, but people who prefer unqualified praise of their literary Some Anais Nin fans may see this as a hit piece on their favorite author, but it hasn't diminished my enjoyment of Anais Nin's work in the least. It made me aware of issues in her life she left out of her published diaries and gave me a fuller understanding of her life. She tended to exaggerate details for dramatic effect. I wouldn't want her love life but she must've been an interesting and intelligent conversation partner. I liked it, but people who prefer unqualified praise of their literary heroes may be better off avoiding this.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is an excellent biography. I would read any by this author. And what a complicated woman Nin was...full of art, artifice & deception. Did you know she had 2 husbands, one on each coast? One knew about the other, but the other did not...fascinating. I once wrote a long response to this book, which also covered my relat. to Nin (I devoured her as a high schooler); unfortunately it was handwritten in a favorite notebook which I lost on a Mexico City subway... This is an excellent biography. I would read any by this author. And what a complicated woman Nin was...full of art, artifice & deception. Did you know she had 2 husbands, one on each coast? One knew about the other, but the other did not...fascinating. I once wrote a long response to this book, which also covered my relat. to Nin (I devoured her as a high schooler); unfortunately it was handwritten in a favorite notebook which I lost on a Mexico City subway...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Bair honestly and sympathetically sorts through what Nin writes in her journals and reconciles it with Nin's life. Although Nin's journals have been referred to as the "Liaries" since she revised them often and withheld information to protect her husband from her bigamy, Bair presents a vulnerable, understandable woman who is trying to find a culture to which she belongs. Intriguing and dark, this book is worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Liked the writing, very thorough...but Nin was like a beautiful train wreck, you can't believe what you're reading and want to look away so badly but just can't seem to do it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Noura Khalil

    We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. https://soundcloud.com/brainpicker/an... We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. https://soundcloud.com/brainpicker/an...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jana Karenina

    You'll feel like you KNOW Anais. And she'll be your person for LIFE.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pariskarol

    If you’re interested in what is between the lines of what Nin chose to publish of her own life story, this book does contain those details. But it also contains a fatal flaw. The author, who has some credibility as a biographer, conducts a smear campaign with this book. It is in such stark contrast to, for example, Rupert Pole’s introduction to the early diaries, published after Anais Nin’s death. What is evident throughout the text of Bair’s biography is her distaste for Nin and her lack of lit If you’re interested in what is between the lines of what Nin chose to publish of her own life story, this book does contain those details. But it also contains a fatal flaw. The author, who has some credibility as a biographer, conducts a smear campaign with this book. It is in such stark contrast to, for example, Rupert Pole’s introduction to the early diaries, published after Anais Nin’s death. What is evident throughout the text of Bair’s biography is her distaste for Nin and her lack of literary understanding. Yes, this book does contain the dirt on a controversial woman who didn’t follow the rules. Women, tragically, are always the first to condemn each other for that. Bair, with every word dripping condemnation, falls into that small-minded trap. Reading this is like watching village women stoning an adulteress.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This woman's life beggars belief. Never have I encountered anyone so spoiled, self-absorbed, or so addicted to having sex with every male and some of the females she met daily for many years. She was certainly fortunate to have found Hugo and Rupert, who stuck with her through everything. History seems to be recording her mainly as Henry Miller's mistress, which is not only a sexist word but so inaccurate, since she supported him throughout the relationship, and with her husband's money, no less This woman's life beggars belief. Never have I encountered anyone so spoiled, self-absorbed, or so addicted to having sex with every male and some of the females she met daily for many years. She was certainly fortunate to have found Hugo and Rupert, who stuck with her through everything. History seems to be recording her mainly as Henry Miller's mistress, which is not only a sexist word but so inaccurate, since she supported him throughout the relationship, and with her husband's money, no less. All of that, plus incest, bigamy, and more. Yikes! At times I actually had to take a few days' break from Anais. I haven't read any of her fiction, and probably won't, but I am glad that I read this biography. I find that I can't rate it with the star system, though. It almost requires a whole new category!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Hoffmann

    I found Anais Nin through Henry Miller years ago and I often wondered why Anais's fiction never really grabbed me. I kept trying to read her work but only her letters to Henry were of any interest to me. After realizing I was fascinated by the idea of who I thought Anais was, I found this book and decided to educate myself. Anais was a much more complicated and complex person than I ever suspected. Deirdre Bair does an extraordinary job of truthfully showing the life path of this some what tortur I found Anais Nin through Henry Miller years ago and I often wondered why Anais's fiction never really grabbed me. I kept trying to read her work but only her letters to Henry were of any interest to me. After realizing I was fascinated by the idea of who I thought Anais was, I found this book and decided to educate myself. Anais was a much more complicated and complex person than I ever suspected. Deirdre Bair does an extraordinary job of truthfully showing the life path of this some what tortured artist born into struggle and privilege with many lovers and adventures. I am a different appreciator of Anais since finishing her biography.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Martin

    I read this book many years ago. 2003, I was 18 and pregnant with my daughter. I stayed up reading it almost every night that summer. It was a lot to unpack and wow the scandal. Superbly researched and, dare I say, a bit shady? Definitely read if you are fan of Anaïs Nin and would like to delve deeper into one of the most complex epic figure’s of women in literature. Thinking about picking this back up again to see how I’ve changed and what resonates differently this time around.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Grant Hindin

    Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell were amazing people. You can't help but admire their commitment to live alternative lives. They lived in dramatic times - the Depression, the Second World War; they were artists; they struggled to live authentic lives outside of the norm. Deirdre Bair has written an engaging, if unflattering, biography of Anais Nin - but what an extraordinary individual she was.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    2 stars for the extensive research that went into writing this - but i've never read a more biased, judgemental biographer as Deirdre Bair! Unfortunate. Nin deserves better.

  23. 5 out of 5

    jojo

    Nin is an interesting writer who in some ways is more relevant now than in her era. She was essentially amoral, with an interest in psychology and the glittering surface of things, portraying no one true answer, a sense of disconnection and an intense desire to connect. She is sensual but also oddly hollow in her erotica; a sort of compulsive collector of beautiful fragments. Her work is carefully written and is deceptively flowing at first sight. It feels both lush and cold. She could not be cl Nin is an interesting writer who in some ways is more relevant now than in her era. She was essentially amoral, with an interest in psychology and the glittering surface of things, portraying no one true answer, a sense of disconnection and an intense desire to connect. She is sensual but also oddly hollow in her erotica; a sort of compulsive collector of beautiful fragments. Her work is carefully written and is deceptively flowing at first sight. It feels both lush and cold. She could not be classed as an independent woman, a second-wave feminist Beauvoir (who Bair has also studied) but was an innovator with some interesting ideas about the female experience. Many women have found her inspiring in her own way. An interesting subject, but it's very depressing reading a book by a biographer who seems to hate her subject. Even Nin's abortion is unreasonably written off as monstrous. Nin did not have maternal impulses towards children, preferring to nurture creativity than producing more humans, and prioritised her creative life over motherhood. This seems to me a pragmatic use of her strengths; Bair accuses her of selfishness while mocking her devotion to artists she believed in. So she is labelled as simultaneously self-centred and pathetically servile. True, she was exploited financially by Henry Miller and had a mirror-like air about her. Frankly a lot of Nin's life decisions and narcissism was quite cringe-inducing, and can read more as a defense mechanism for psychological disturbance, but she was also brave, unorthodox and seems to have used her writing to protect herself emotionally and better link her inner and outer world, and to make her experiences real and more valuable. I never really get the impression she is writing as she first sees. She was certainly a fantasist and narcissist, but these are not bad qualities in a writer. It would be difficult to write convincingly about reality without any imagination. To an extent her work feels like she is trapped in her narcissism, but she produced some very beautiful work from her situation. The interpretation in Bair's book is a very simplistic and unforgiving tracing of a complex woman. The aftertaste of bitterness does not come so much from Nin's sometimes monstrous behaviour, but from the contempt of the author, which pervades every page. I don't feel that moralistic and judgemental biographies usually work well- they don't really bring you into the spirit of the subject or respect their internal reality. I'd have liked to have read something that acknowledged her extraordinary points as well as the bad. Biography is a hard art, naturally even the best biographer is human and has a difficult and tiring task when confronted with a subject they dislike. To be fair Nin is polarising; this book is a balance to the numerous rhapsodising accounts of her contemporaries and perhaps suits her better than a single definitive account.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fantods

    Author most certainly put blood, sweat and tears into the research. Multiple single paragraphs per chapter must have taken a week or more digging through the sources to back up. The prose is as well crafted as the research supporting it; if Bair's prose lacks lyricism, the book does not suffer for the lack. Perhaps it's the poeticism of Nin herself creating an unfair juxtaposition of their voices. Bair's thorough exploration of Nin's life is engaging and propulsive. One thing that did off put me Author most certainly put blood, sweat and tears into the research. Multiple single paragraphs per chapter must have taken a week or more digging through the sources to back up. The prose is as well crafted as the research supporting it; if Bair's prose lacks lyricism, the book does not suffer for the lack. Perhaps it's the poeticism of Nin herself creating an unfair juxtaposition of their voices. Bair's thorough exploration of Nin's life is engaging and propulsive. One thing that did off put me were the rare instances where the author's tone took on exasperation or disgust. I can't blame her--Anaïs is an exasperating person, and some parts of her life are difficult not to be disgusted by. In the much larger portion of the book, Bair maintains a tone of respect and professionalism.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maritza Campos

    Tremendously interesting. Yeah, Nin was coockoo land. I was also surprised that this is not the Nin as she's always portrayed: someone who just lived in the periphery of many (more famous) writers. Instead, she's this devastating hurricane... not talented enough, not cultured enough, and with her head too much in the clouds to be as effective a writer as she could be. But she's definitely the stuff of legends. I also love that Deirdre Bair refrained from glamorizing the so-called "bohemian life" Tremendously interesting. Yeah, Nin was coockoo land. I was also surprised that this is not the Nin as she's always portrayed: someone who just lived in the periphery of many (more famous) writers. Instead, she's this devastating hurricane... not talented enough, not cultured enough, and with her head too much in the clouds to be as effective a writer as she could be. But she's definitely the stuff of legends. I also love that Deirdre Bair refrained from glamorizing the so-called "bohemian life" or even the intellectual navel-gazing that comes along with it. This book is merciless, but by the end of it you'll find some sort of understanding compassion for Nin.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Hmmmm. I LOVED Anais Nin's writing in my 20's, and read everything I could about her and by her: her novels, the diaries, whatever. This is a detailed, well-written biography with extensive research and documentation. I devoured it. But! Spoiler alert: I also think I read this biography before, but this was the first time I paid attention to her lies, her extreme self-absorption, her desperate need to conquer men sexually, and her "revisions" to the diaries (more lies and half-truths). I loved her Hmmmm. I LOVED Anais Nin's writing in my 20's, and read everything I could about her and by her: her novels, the diaries, whatever. This is a detailed, well-written biography with extensive research and documentation. I devoured it. But! Spoiler alert: I also think I read this biography before, but this was the first time I paid attention to her lies, her extreme self-absorption, her desperate need to conquer men sexually, and her "revisions" to the diaries (more lies and half-truths). I loved her philosophy of 'living the dream outward' and now I realize it was all just a fake.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sara Kay

    A frank, sometimes brutal biography of Anais Nin. Dierdre Bair is not sympathetic in any way, but shows you everything, warts and all...not hesitating to make clear her approval or disapproval of certain events and decisions in Anais's life. Still, this is a captivating read, and should be the first choice outside of Anais's own (unexpurgated) diaries and books for you to seek out if you want to know more about her. Highly recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stacy Rose

    Anais Nin led a strange life! Stranger than I had imagined when watching the movie, Henry & June, so many years ago. Her fiction was too exasperating for me to read. I always got the feeling she had just downed some absinthe and could not figure out what she was trying to say. The biography was more intersting. Anais Nin led a strange life! Stranger than I had imagined when watching the movie, Henry & June, so many years ago. Her fiction was too exasperating for me to read. I always got the feeling she had just downed some absinthe and could not figure out what she was trying to say. The biography was more intersting.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    So here's the thing: Do I rate this book according to how well it was written, or how absolutely disgusted I was to learn about the even more sordid details of Nin's life & character? I'll go with the latter. Reading this book, for me, was like discovering your favorite superhero can't fly. I was so upset I couldn't even finish it. So here's the thing: Do I rate this book according to how well it was written, or how absolutely disgusted I was to learn about the even more sordid details of Nin's life & character? I'll go with the latter. Reading this book, for me, was like discovering your favorite superhero can't fly. I was so upset I couldn't even finish it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Monique

    The biography is well written. The author did a great job. That being said... I found Nin very narcissistic and because of it a "one" dimensional diminishing being. I could not help but feel pity for the Femme Fatale.

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