Writer Garners Personal Praise

February 11, 2008

Museum celebrates Anais Nin with words of those who knew and were inspired by her

During her lifetime, erotic writer Anais Nin’s eccentricities were criticized and ridiculed. But like many artists of the past, she is now being honored for her achievements.

A program at the UCLA Hammer Museum today will pay tribute to the life and work of Nin, a French-Cuban author who became famous for her journals as well as her erotic and sensual style.

The program will feature reflections by various people who knew her and by young writers who were inspired by her life and work: electronic music pioneer Bebe Barron, writer Deena Metzger, architect Eric Lloyd Wright and founder of the Center for Autobiographic Studies, Tristine Rainer.

“Nin’s writings, especially her diaries, had a great appeal to younger readers. Nin was incredibly encouraging of other artists, especially emerging artists or those struggling to find their voice,” said Steven Reigns, a fellow writer and Nin scholar who organized the event.

“Nin bonded and formed very deep friendships with women and men decades younger than her. Some of them are still living in Los Angeles and I thought it’d be wonderful to have them share their experiences with (Nin),” Reigns said.

And though finding people who wanted to speak about her work was quite simple, Reigns wanted people who knew Nin on a personal level.

“It would be extremely easy to find speakers who have been moved by Nin’s writings or personal letters – such a program could be endless,” Reigns said. “I was interested in capturing and documenting the stories of those who knew her well – those who had frequent interactions and a daily friendship.”

Although Nin’s complex personality and written work seem to have suffered their share of criticism and disapproval, the event at the Hammer Museum will pay tribute to her.

“Both of the biographies on Anais Nin were written by women who never knew her and give a pretty harsh picture of Anais, who was, admittedly, eccentric,” said Rainer, one of the event’s speakers.

“Moreover, when she was alive, Anais received more than her share of insults as a writer and as a person. Others of us who were close to her have a very different perspective on Anais. She was a woman who seemed to arouse love or antipathy,” Rainer said.

Reigns had his own reservations on speaking about Nin, who had greatly influenced his career as a writer.

“I’ve written and presented at major universities on other writers but never about Nin. Her writings and life have always seemed too complex for me to distill or fully comprehend,” he said.

During the event, speakers will reflect on their relationships with Nin and her influence on them.

They will also share some of their favorite passages from her work, which includes a number of novels and, most well-known, the diary she recorded from the age of 11.

“Anais Nin was the most famous diarist who ever lived, along with Pepys and Anne Frank,” Rainer said. “Anais’ diaries are entirely different from theirs. Hers are highly intimate and erotic. She edited her original diaries for publication in 1966 and became an icon of the 1960s love generation.

The event will coincide with what would have been Nin’s 105th birthday, though she died in 1977.

Rainer, who considers Nin to be her mentor, certainly wishes that Nin could still be here today to continue her positive impact on the world.

“How I wish she were here today because the world could use her wisdom. Her message would be one of peace – of trying to attain understanding of others by first understanding ourselves,” Rainer said