Anais Nin: A Biography

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Deirdre Bair, renowned for her biographies of Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, has now written the definitive biography of the complex and controversial Anais Nin. With exclusive and unprecedented access to all of Nin's unpublished archives, including more than 250,000 handwritten diary pages, Bair paints a startlingly different portrait of Nin, hitherto best known for her sexual peccadilloes and especially her affair with Henry Miller. Bair reveals Nin's lifelong struggle to become a respected writer, to ...
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1995 Mass-market paperback New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 654 p. Audience: General/trade.

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New Book. A Biography. A FINE HARDCOVER VOLUME in dust jacket as issued. 654 pages with index.

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1995 Hard cover NEW, Hardcover edition. ISBN 0399139885 New in new dust jacket. NEW, Hardcover edition. ISBN 0399139885 Sewn binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 654 p. ... Audience: General/trade. NEW, Hardcover edition. ISBN 0399139885 Read more Show Less

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Overview

Deirdre Bair, renowned for her biographies of Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, has now written the definitive biography of the complex and controversial Anais Nin. With exclusive and unprecedented access to all of Nin's unpublished archives, including more than 250,000 handwritten diary pages, Bair paints a startlingly different portrait of Nin, hitherto best known for her sexual peccadilloes and especially her affair with Henry Miller. Bair reveals Nin's lifelong struggle to become a respected writer, to position herself at the right hand of the intellectual elite, and to construct a way of life so complicated that it verged at times on incomprehensibility, even to herself. "To live life as a dream" was Nin's motto, and she did so. She was a bigamist for more than thirty years, creating a "Lie Box" to help her keep her stories straight. And always she kept her diary, which eventually became one of the most astonishing renderings of a contemporary woman's life, noted as much for what she left out as for what she included. Bair's biography fills in the blanks and shows how Nin reflected the major themes that have come to characterize the latter half of the twentieth century: the quest for the self, the uses of psychoanalysis, and the determination of women to control their own sexuality.

The National Book Award winner presents a stunning new life of one of this century's most elusive and alluring women writers. Best known for her sexual peccadillos, and especially her affair with Henry Miller, Nin emerges in this work as a deeply complex and gifted writer whose major themes reflected the public life of our age.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Nin (1903-1977) is largely regarded as a sometimes risibly affected writer of erotic fiction (The House of Incest) and of a voluminous and sexually frank diary. National Book Award winner Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography) maintains that Nin is "a major minor writer" ready for critical rehabilitation. That claim is neglected as the author herself focuses on the stormy, lurid erotic history of an undeniably self-absorbed woman. Nin befriended James Merrill, Gore Vidal and Henry Miller, had affairs with Miller and her analyst, Otto Rank, and was a bigamist for half her life. The first biographer with access to Nin's complete diary, Bair uncovers extensive documentation of an incestuous relationship between Nin and her father, as well as suggestions of a sexual liaison with her brother Thorvald. The evidence for the latter exists only in the diaries, which Nin rewrote so heavily that their validity is suspect; one critic calls them "liaries." The basis for Nin's fiction, the diaries were themselves intended for publication. Vidal assailed Nin for her "thundering solipsism"-a charge Bair tacitly endorses without any complementary argument about the aesthetic stature of a woman whose career rested on "the fascination of herself as a subject."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nin (1903-1977) is largely regarded as a sometimes risibly affected writer of erotic fiction (The House of Incest) and of a voluminous and sexually frank diary. National Book Award winner Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography) maintains that Nin is ``a major minor writer'' ready for critical rehabilitation. That claim is neglected as the author herself focuses on the stormy, lurid erotic history of an undeniably self-absorbed woman. Nin befriended James Merrill, Gore Vidal and Henry Miller, had affairs with Miller and her analyst, Otto Rank, and was a bigamist for half her life. The first biographer with access to Nin's complete diary, Bair uncovers extensive documentation of an incestuous relationship between Nin and her father, as well as suggestions of a sexual liaison with her brother Thorvald. The evidence for the latter exists only in the diaries, which Nin rewrote so heavily that their validity is suspect; one critic calls them ``liaries.'' The basis for Nin's fiction, the diaries were themselves intended for publication. Vidal assailed Nin for her ``thundering solipsism''-a charge Bair tacitly endorses without any complementary argument about the aesthetic stature of a woman whose career rested on ``the fascination of herself as a subject.'' (Mar.)
Library Journal
In her Samuel Beckett (LJ 6/15/78) and Simone de Beauvoir (LJ 3/1/90), Bair was overtly judgmental by a forthright middle-class ethic. Still, readers could appreciate that her fastidious grounding of verifiable facts made possible an exact correlation of literature and life. Classifying Nin as a "major minor writer" does not encourage readers to overlook moral lapses in the name of art. Bair clearly finds Nin distasteful, a self-victimizing nymphomaniac who victimized in turn. She was a narcissist, bigamist, and compulsive liar whose obsessive diary-keeping was both her personal art form and her personal undoing. In fiction, her surrealistic representation of eroticism made it seem like fantasy and hence more poetic than pathological. Called a decadent St. Theresa by a publisher's reader, she bore her final illness bravely. Bair has had access to 250,000 pages of Nin's unedited diaries and interviewed a staggering number of "witnesses." The result is compelling reading for literature and biography collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/94.]-Marilyn Gaddis Rose, Binghamton Univ., N.Y.
Booknews
Bair's definitive biography of Anais Nin (1903-1977) is the first written with full access to the writer's unpublished diaries and archives and the cooperation of Nin's remaining husband, Rupert Pole. Bair captures her subject's immense complexity with a measured, insightful perspective which sometimes borders on unsympathetic. Contains numerous previously unpublished b&w photographs and extensive scholarly notes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Donna Seaman
Anaiis Nin was a woman obsessed with self and sex, a weaver of elaborate lies and multiple identities, and one of the world's most famous diarists. She filled 69 volumes with her exploits, observations, and interpretations, labored painfully over her fiction, and finally, in the last decade of her unusual and flamboyant life, was granted the recognition she always craved. Although the diaries that made her reputation were heavily edited and reworked, her surviving husband, Rupert Pole, is currently releasing "unexpurgated" volumes, including the disquieting "Incest: From a "Journal of Love"" (1992). Literary scholar and author Noel Riley Fitch took a stab at an authoritative biography of Nin in "Anais: The Erotic Life of Anais Nin" (1993) and did capture the essence of her contradictory and determined personality, but Bair, distinguished and best-selling biographer of Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett, has been able to bring the ever-elusive Nin into sharper focus. Bair is the first scholar to be granted access to Nin's original diaries and to have the full cooperation of Pole and Nin's family and friends. Accordingly, Bair takes pains to treat Nin with the objectivity and critical analysis a writer, even a "major minor" one like Nin, deserves. This sterling biography clears up confusion on several fronts and offers the best portrait not only of Nin but of her husband Hugo Guiler, the man who "paid" for Nin's extravagant and, in some ways, pioneering life.
From Barnes & Noble
With unprecedented access to all of Nin's unpublished archives, Bair reveals an intimate portrait of the complex & controversial woman whose femme fatale image, sexual peccadilloes, & bigamous marriages overshadowed her lifelong struggle to become a respected writer.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399139888
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/8/1995
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 0.10 (w) x 0.10 (h) x 0.10 (d)

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  • Posted July 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Anais Nin is one of my favorite authors, but after 500 pages, ev

    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.

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