Anaïs Nin’s Childhood Writings: New Year’s Eve 1919

By December 1919, Anaïs Nin and her family had been in New York for more than five years. As 1920 approached, sixteen year old Anaïs recorded the following into her diary (Linotte: The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1914-1920 400-402):

December 31, 1919

It is 11. Maman is in bed; so are Thorvald and Joaquinito. I am writing—the two of us are waiting for the New Year!

How many things there are that no one can write, no one understand! Tonight I am troubled by many different feelings, for as I realize a New Year is about to begin, I have been going over the old one… Many people generally spend the few hours before midnight making resolutions and promises. I promise nothing; I have such a weak character that I can’t promise to be better, but God knows how much I want to be, with what enthusiasm and will power. I want what is best in me to live. But I know that I have very few things to ask for just now, compared to the infinite number of things for which I should give thanks. What do we lack?

Anaïs Nin, December 1919

Anaïs Nin, December 1919

It’s about my gratitude that I can’t write; it’s too lofty, too strange, too vague. My feelings are too sincere to be expressed in mere words!

 

I can confide my wishes to you—you know that I want to become better and better, you know that Maman’s happiness is above all else for me, you know that my little brothers’ happiness is as important to me as my own, you know my love for the perfection of our home, my search for the most beautiful books, everything from my tiniest whim, my ambitions, up to the tiniest, simplest prayer, and my regrets—you know all that…and more!

The pettiest and most childish thing in other people’s opinion, but the thing I consider a real treasure, is the little bit of my heart and the sweep of my imagination which await the stranger… Will it be this year that I find the sweet light that people call—I am almost ashamed to name it, it’s my only secret—I am thinking about love…

If I didn’t dream so much, I would never have thought of that, but everything beautiful appears in my dreams, and love is so beautiful!

I haven’t told you anything about the dance… I met a boy there whose name I don’t know… I learned the last name of my little neighbor, Raymond McCormick, because he lends me books…

But here I am, waiting for the New Year and talking about little boys, about children! I who am always to serious—no, not serious, I mean calm and indifferent about gentlemen.

…It will soon be midnight. My little “Love” has been weeping at the door for a long time without being able to come in, and I look at the picture for a long time with a smile. If he doesn’t come in this year, I won’t be able to bear the sorrow and I’ll give the picture to someone else…

What a quiet way to await the beginning of another year! There must be many other things to think about that are more important than the passage of time, since so many other things stir our enthusiasm and drive us to act. That proves that Time doesn’t rule through the power of the Inevitable, and that the Inevitable isn’t Life.

There are the bells, the whistles. Happy New Year! Happy New Year!

Anaïs Nin’s Childhood Writings: First Christmas in New York

After Anaïs Nin’s father, Joaquín Nin, abandoned his family in Arachon, France in 1913, her mother took her daughter and two sons, Thorvald and Joaquinito, to New York to begin a new life. Ensconced in a house in Kew Gardens, outside of New York City, Anaïs marked her first Christmas outside of Europe, which was at the time embroiled in World War I. It was a bittersweet day, a mixture of joyous celebration with her extended family, and a mournful longing for the return of her father. The following comes from p. 37 of Linotte: The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1914-1920:

December 25, 1914

“Merry Christmas!” That was the shout when we woke up. What a surprise, hanging near the bed…a stocking for each of the three of us. What a lovely Christmas. There was a top for Thorvald, caramels for Joaquinito, oranges, holly, snow (imitation), how beautiful! And that’s not all. Coquito led the way downstairs. New joy, new shouts. A beautiful Christmas tree, all lighted, and toys, it was wonderful. I was in the group of children too. Finally Uncle Gilbert calmed us down and it was with happy hearts and smiling faces that we sang “Adeste Fideles” all together. Then the blond heads and dark heads bent down to read the names and see a beautiful gun, skates, a box of chocolates for Coquito, a little car, a doll for Nuna, shiny proud soldiers for Thorvald, a little boat for Joaquinito, for Anaïs, a beautiful white bed from Aunt Edelmira, a book and a box of writing paper from Maman. Oh, I really don’t deserve it. The cries of joy ended and we had breakfast. The house is full of holly. Holly wreaths hang at the windows. The dining room lamp is ornamented with a beautiful white bell tied round with red ribbon, a charming effect. Afterward Uncle Gilbert, Thorvald and I went to take Communion. How sweet it is to be able to say, I belong to Jesus. The rest of the day was calm and happy. In spite of that, in spite of my happiness, I did not forget Papa. If he had been there, I could have shouted, I am in paradise. I have thought a lot about God’s goodness. I am here with my family, warm, needing nothing. How many children over there are dying of cold and hunger. Here I have Maman, I am happy and can feel her tender kiss. How many children over there weep for their mothers or weep for the father who will never return. I can console myself knowing that I have Papa, who is far away, it’s true, but he is there and I have the hope of receiving his kiss that I long for so much.

It’s not right to be sad on such a happy day, and to avoid that I am going to bed and dream about Papa’s homecoming. One word more. Today I couldn’t help thinking of Christmas 1912, which I spent in Brussels in a sickbed, with an operation in prospect. I couldn’t help telling God, O Jesus, your kindness is infinite. Thanks to your mercy, I have been allowed to have a merry Christmas here in New York with my family. I shall stop. I feel like crying with I remember my dear Brussels.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #12

Myth #12: Anaïs Nin is author of the following quote: “Good things happen to those who hustle.”

Fact: Not only did Anaïs Nin not write this quote, those who know her writing well realize the word “hustle” was not normally in her vocabulary. The author is Chuck Noll, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1991. He made a play on “Good things happen to those who wait.”

So, how did Nin come to be credited with Noll’s quotation? It seems to have first appeared under her name on a web-based quote site not long ago, and a viable theory is that the compiler got Nin and Noll mixed up because of their alphabetic proximity. While Nin may have believed in the spirit of the quotation, and even exemplified it with her life, she did not coin it.

Rose Kaufman recalls the making of Henry and June

Rose Kaufman, wife of Philip Kaufman, the director of Henry and June (1990), and co-writer of the screenplay for the film, died December 7, 2009 at her home in San Francisco at the age of 70. For Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (Sky Blue Press, 1996), she and her husband submitted a series of responses to interview questions, the compilation of which appears in the article “On Henry and June: The Making of the Movie,” pp 264-268. These are excepts from her commentary:

Henry and June sort of fell off the shelf over on Fillmore Street, at Browser Books, and I happened to have the time that night to read it, and I stayed up and finished it and got to bed about two or three in the morning. I was pretty wildly excited by it. And I felt, “Maybe there’s a film here.” It was the revelation of these two people that we had known, had met, and had been inspired by. And then we were inspired all over again by their wild passion, particularly since there was this June element. The wild card, the pivot, was June.

[Anaïs Nin’s] sense of the personal is just extraordinary; it comes out of her intuition. That’s the thing she really sought to preserve among women during a time of liberation, that we not become clones of men or less than men—like the newscasters who try to be tougher than men. She wanted us to preserve the virtues that women have, and at the same time to have the confidence and the intellect and the strength to believe in ourselves.

We responded to the fact that Henry [Miller] could respond to this delicate sort of hothouse person—that he honestly was moved and inspired by her, by her passion and her givingness and all of it, and at the same time that she could receive the strength of his own rough character, with his terrifying sincerity, his pain, his struggle. That she could perceive the strength of this guy and he could perceive the uniqueness of this woman—really, it was astonishing to me, because usually men and women go after the same. In a sense, we go after ourselves, but they didn’t. And they could help each other. She could make him more tender, more reflective—more feminine, if you will. And he could see the brilliance in her, and at the same time go half-mad trying to deal with the problems that she had with the way she expressed herself. He adored the diaries, but I think he wanted to strengthen the fiction.

[Nin] wasn’t s wealthy as most think. Miller and June were so terribly poor that Anaïs seemed wealthy next to them. In fact, her husband, Hugo, was the low man at the bank, and they didn’t have that much money. But you could live outside Paris, like Anaïs and Hugo, and have a maid for very little.

On [the set of] Henry and June it was very fluent, very open. I happened to get into the Picasso Museum, actually, and he has this series of engravings of women watching each other sleep. And it inspired the scene of women watching each other. In Paris, we would constantly improvise on things we saw… Phil’s very inventive that way. He worked out the routines with the out-of-work magicians and clowns that hung out with Henry. The performers who played them were geniuses!

The French accept it all. That’s why it was so great to shoot in Paris because the French do accept sex. It’s the course after dessert—a liqueur or whatever. They really have accepted pleasure in all its forms.

[Shooting in Paris] inspired me to think about sexuality, my own and everybody else’s, and the way sexuality is treated in our society. We still have, I think, a Playboy mentality. I hate to see that phrase because it seems so passé. But in view of the MPAA controversy [Henry and June was the first film rated NC-17] I think we have the mentality that sexuality isn’t something we feel, it isn’t part of us. So many people can’t accept that sexuality doesn’t have to be prurient or prudish.

So many people are ashamed of sex and want to get rid of it after a certain point in their lives, because they haven’t worked it out in a loving way. And then the best thing to do is to brush it away and scrape it away and say that we don’t need to think about it, read about it, see films about it, any of it.

Some people want to have sex just for the purpose of having children, and then get on with their household chores and their jobs and have an asexual existence. And some people prefer sex to be underworld, prefer the women in the boudoir so they can just have their perverse dream they want with this person, and have no relationship—they prefer sex to be separated from love.

That way they didn’t have to make the commitment that they have never made with anyone in their lives, on any level. In the Playboy brand of sex, sex with the Barbie doll, there’s no intimacy. It may contain the most flagrant insertions and everything, but there is no intimacy between two beings. It’s sort of masturbatory. And that’s part of the problem that we have in this country, this lack of flow, of caring, of the personal, the thing Anaïs wanted—to know that intimacy.

Source material is originally from Image (November 11, 1990) and American Film (September 1990).