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ANAIS NIN by Deirdre Bair

ANAIS NIN

A Biography

By Deirdre Bair

Pub Date: March 8th, 1995
ISBN: 0-399-13988-5
Publisher: Putnam

 Though Bair can at times seem like a referee deciding which version of Nin's life is most accurate, this exhaustive account of the former feminist icon is impressive. The challenge of writing about Nin is the wealth of often disparate sources. Nin's published diaries, her fiction, and her ``unexpurgated'' diaries combine to give conflicting accounts of this bigamous woman whose most famous love affair was with Henry Miller. Bair (Simone de Beauvoir, 1990, etc.) gained access to the originals of the diaries (the unexpurgated versions were, in fact, heavily edited), Nin's voluminous correspondence, and many intimate friends, lovers, and spouses. The resulting biography is a fine one that traces Nin from her beginnings in Cuba, through her move to New York as a teenager; her life in Paris; her shuttling between New York, Mexico, and California; her literary career, which did little but sputter until the publication of her edited diaries in the 1970s, to her death from cancer in 1977. The engine that drove Nin and drives this story are her affairs, which began with her tumultuous relationship with Henry and June Miller. Bair describes the endless line of lovers, including Gore Vidal (they never consummated the relationship), other women, and her own father. Throughout, Hugh Parker Guiler, the husband she married while still young, remains with her, staying out of the way of her extramarital life to the extent that she was able to have a second husband on an opposite coast for over a decade. Along with the steady stream of peccadilloes, Bair offers just enough small details, such as the movies Nin went to see, to personalize the narrative. The only fault of the book is that Bair at times goes on too long in presenting all sides of debates over which version of various events is most true. Bair's Nin emerges as the complex woman she was, a woman who inspired both wrath and passion in those whose paths crossed hers.