Anaïs Nin was born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edlmira in Neuilly, France on February 21, 1903. She was born to Cuban parents, Joaquin & Rosa Nin, or Spanish, French, and Danish decent.
Nin’s early life was spent moving around a lot due to her father’s musical career. In 1913 Anaïs fell ill and following doctor’s orders the family moved to the warmer climate of Arcachon, a small town located on the French Atlantic coast. During the family’s stay, Anaïs’ father pursued a younger woman, leaving the family. He advised his wife to move the family to Barcelona, to live with his parents for financial reasons. Eventually, Anaïs, her mother, and brother left for New York on July 25, 1914. When thinking about Nin as a translingual author, her identity is what then? It is interesting to see that her early life was not spent grounded to one place or tongue in particular as French, Spanish, and English revolved around her.
Diaries & Education;
Most famously known for her diaries, Nin began keeping one on the journey to New York in 1914 at the age of eleven in French. Nin’s diary keeping began as a record for her father, a letter to him, but the diary for Anaïs became “an island in which she stated she could find refuge in an alien land, write in French, think her thoughts, hold on to her soul, to herself.” Nin attended school while in New York and began to pick up the English language. At the age of sixteen she left formal education and took up modeling. In 1920 she ten began to write her diary in English.
Anaïs returned to Europe to live in Paris after marrying Hugh Parker Guiler. While in Paris, during 1932, Nin wrote D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study, which would launch her literary career. Nin wrote numerous diaries beginning in 1914 up until 1977. Her diaries dealt with her love affair with fellow writer Henry Miller and her relationship with her father while unconsciously lapsing into the language of her heart, French.
Anaïs & English;
Nin criticized the American style of writing saying it “is commonplace, prosaic, pedestrian, homely, as French never is.” But she expressed deep ties with the English language stating, “I think you’ve got to appreciate each language for it’s unique qualities, it’s particular resonance. I though the word ‘you’ was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.” As a foreigner to the English tongue Anaïs Nin expressed her fondness for the new language and the discovery of new words. Nin once used the word ‘rutilant’- glowing or glittering with red or golden light- and was criticized for her us of such a fancy word. They questioned, why not just say gold? But Anaïs meant rutilant, red and gold mixed. She said, “you see, you discover a word and that gives you a new perception too.”
Anaïs Nin’s Writing;
In an interview with William McBrien, Nin was asked if she saw herself in a particular tradition or line of writers. Nin responded that up until then she had said she was an international writer but at the same time identified strongly with the changes that took place in America, expressing “And it was in America also that I grew up. I don’t know if it was always there and hidden. There’s now a whole new consciousness. And that, in a way, has made me an American because here is where change is taking place.” Nin’s writing ultimately possessed an erotically distinct quality often described as English written in French style. She wrote that Spanish was the language of her ancestors. French the language of her heart and English the language of her intellect.
In appreciation of her contributions to English literature, Nin was awarded with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Philadelphia College of Art. Anaïs Nin died on January 14, 1977 in Los Angeles after battling cancer for three years.
By Andrea Ari Castañeda
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