ANAIS by Noel Riley Fitch


The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin
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 Fitch (Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation, 1983) draws on Anaãs Nin's voluminous self-revelations (150 volumes of diaries, correspondence, and fiction) to produce what the publisher says is the first biography of the French writer--and what turns out to be a wary and defensive work, the very antithesis of Nin's free spirit. Abandoned and deprived in childhood, Nin enjoyed an enduring marriage (for over 50 years) to Hugo Guiler--as well as a series of affairs with Henry Miller, Otto Rank, Gore Vidal, Edmund Wilson, even her own father (who had seduced her in childhood): with men and women of all kinds, culminating in a bigamous marriage to Rupert Cole that had her commuting between New York and California for at least 25 years. Nin dissected her own protean personality in endless psychoanalysis--to her both a religion and a hobby--and delighted in the deceptions, incarnations, and masquerades that she revealed in her diaries in a fascinating display of a personality constantly reinventing itself. In her lifetime, she inspired parodies, films, scholarly newsletters, dissertations, even a perfume, and served as a catalyst between Hollywood, academia, and the feminists, who competed for her attention even though she reviled much of what they represented, choosing to spend most of her life as a sex object. Here, in a work that focuses on her sex life, Nin comes off--perhaps unintentionally--as trivial and culturally insignificant. Fitch overinterprets at the beginning of her text and is excessively factual toward the end, seeming to have either abandoned her method or simply lost interest in her subject. In spite of her use of the present tense and some vulgar familiarities (``Every spring her sap begins to rise''; ``Desire makes her body ache''), the author seems uncomfortable with Nin. No substitute for Nin on herself. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1993
ISBN: 0-316-28428-9
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993


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