Marguerite Young’s reaction to The Diary of Anaïs Nin
Anaïs Nin had always favored writers who were outside of what was considered the norm of modern literature, beginning with D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and Djuna Barnes in the 1930s. In the 1960s, Marguerite Young, the author of the massive Miss MacIntosh My Darling, was championed by Nin as a writer extraordinaire of poetic prose. Both before and after the book was published, Nin mentioned Young in articles, a review, interviews and lectures whenever she had the chance. Young repaid Nin the favor by offering to write a “statement” about Nin’s forthcoming The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One, which debuted in 1966. I have recovered the handwritten draft of Young’s reaction to the diary and have rendered it below without editing. This is indeed a rare gem. Whether the statement was actually used (I find no trace of it anywhere) it certainly does capture the nature of Nin’s writing and how it came to be. The statement was given to Hiram Haydn, Nin’s editor at Harcourt Brace & World, as annotated on the first page of the draft (see the figure below).
The Diary of Anaïs Nin, covering the years 1931-1934, is a fascinating segment of that journal which she began as a Spanish-speaking child who came from a fabulous, sophisticated, and aristocratic European background to live the impoverished life of a displaced person in New York City.
When she stepped off the boat with her mother and two younger brothers who came here because of their abandonment by their father, a famed pianist, the darling of European musical circles—she clutched in her hand that notebook in which, like Henry James’ Maisie, she would tall all she knew of life’s displacements, discussions, and cruel tragedies which needed the illumination of her vision, her intelligence, her compassion, her transmuting imagination.
Like Henry James’ Maisie who triumphed over the childhood sorrows cause by the perversities of tempestuous and temperamental adulthood—in this case, the foibles and fantasies of the wandering father, for mother was a source of peace and strength—the little girl writing down first intuitions and perceptions lived to become that beautiful lady whose portrait we see in the diary—a literary lady who had grown up to fall in love with the beauties of English prose, who became herself a master of lyric style, the visual and the energetic, the luminous revelation of the psyche, ever the psyche dreaming at her glass, returned to Europe as one who is half American, half European. Say that hers is a transatlantic consciousness—she has made many journeys back and forth although probably the one journey which interests her most is a journey into the underworld of memory or a journey across a sea of dreams.
America is fortunate in having at least this quasi-citizen—though we may entertain the suspicion that in Europe she seems the European who never left the place of her beginnings, perhaps because she is a seeker always of origin. And yet by chance we may claim her as most distinctly our—one who gives a new dimension to the crude immediacy of American life, a tone of elegance, that art which is always the most formal thing and which has elicited, because of its insistence upon informative musical tone and precise hieroglyphic image, the admiration and even the imitation of thousands of America writers, particularly the poets and the young experimenters with prose, a prose which should be something more than dull, flat, neutral, uncommitted—a prose which should burn with that personal and impersonal intensity which they have found in her as in the firefly and the star.—Marguerite Young
Anaïs Nin’s long-lost erotica Auletris is now in print after a 66 year wait: click here for details.