“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.” – Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin
What a diary! It’s definitely nothing like any diary I’ve ever read or written. Anais Nin is truly engaging. Each diary entry is so candid and shows her deeply introspective and artistic nature.
For the most part I’d say nothing truly remarkable happens in the diary; yet Nin is the kind of person who could turn a normal, everyday event into something magical and profound. This is a woman who really lived, who really experienced life, who aimed to fully understand human relationships, both edifying and destructive ones. This is a flawed woman who recognizes her imperfections but does not apologize for them.
In Nin’s world we enter the world of the Bohemian artist in Paris, where everyone and everything can be a subject. We enter the circles she moved about in, including lots of famous literary people and doctors.It was also interesting to find out how D.H. Lawrence inspired her.
Nin’s writing style, as always, is very elegant, lyrical and articulate. Her adeptness at describing relationships and personality is wonderful. Reading her diary definitely caused me to be reflective.
The most interesting part of the book for me was Nin’s fascinatingly-weird relationship with Henry and June Miller. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the intensity of this unconventional relationship.
A couple of parts were not very pleasant to read but I do respect her frankness and willingness to share all parts of her life, pleasant or not.
To end with one of my favourite quotes from this volume:
“Introspection does not need to be a still life. It can be an active alchemy.”