Anais Nin: “Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvellous.”
Cosmic Quotes: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin #1
In my childhood diary I wrote: “I have decided that it is better not to love anyone, because when you love people, then you have to be separated from them, and that hurts too much.”
Henry’s recollections of the past, in contrast to Proust, are done while in movement. He may remember his first wife while making love to a whore, or he may remember his very first love while walking the streets, traveling to see a friend; and life does not stop while he remembers. Analysis in movement. No static vivisection. Henry’s daily and continuous flow of life, his sexual activity, his talks with everyone, his cafe life, his conversations with people in the street, which I once considered an interruption to writing, I now believe to be a quality which distinguishes him from other writers. He never writes in cold blood: he is always writing in white heat.
It is what I do with the journal, carrying it everywhere, writing on cafe tables while waiting for a friend, on the train, on the bus, in waiting rooms at the station, while my hair is washed, at the Sorbonne when the lectures get tedious, on journeys, trips, almost while people are talking.
It is while cooking, gardening, walking, or love-making that I remember my childhood, and not while reading Freud’s ‘Preface to a Little Girl’s Journal.
I have always been tormented by the image of multiplicity of selves. Some days I call it richness, and other days I see it as a disease, a proliferation as dangerous as cancer. My first concept about people around me was that all of them were coordinated into a WHOLE, whereas I was made up of a multitude of selves, of fragments.
I never lose sight of the whole. An impeccable dress is made to be lived in, to be torn, wet, stained, crumpled.
I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic — in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.
I can elect something I love and absorb myself in it.
A big enough artist, I say, can eat anything, must eat everything and then alchemize it. Only the feeble writer is afraid of expansion.
I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits.
You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.
Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.
There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.
What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.
The origin of illness may be in the past, but the virulent crisis must be dynamically tackled. I believe in attacking the core of the illness, through its present symptoms, quickly, directly. The past is a labyrinth. One does not have to step into it and move step by step through every turn and twist. The past reveals itself instantly, in today’s fever or abscess of the soul.
I have no brakes on…analysis is for those who are paralyzed by life.
I only feel close to people who arouse my energy, who make enormous demands of me, who are capable of enriching me with experience, pain, people who do not doubt my courage, or my toughness. People who do not believe me naive or innocent, but who challenge my keenest wisdom, who have the courage to treat me like a woman in spite of the fact that they are aware of my vulnerability.
Man is always trying to create a woman who will fill his needs, and that makes her untrue to herself.
Men can be in love with literary figures, with poetic and mythological figures, but let them meet with Artemis, with Venus, with any of the goddesses of love, and then they start hurling moral judgments.
Man can never know the loneliness a woman knows. Man lies in the woman’s womb only to gather strength, he nourishes himself from this fusion, and then he rises and goes into the world, into his work, into battle, into art. He is not lonely. He is busy. The memory of the swim in amniotic fluid gives him energy, completion. Woman may be busy too, but she feels empty. Sensuality for her is not only a wave of pleasure in which she is bathed, and a charge of electric joy at contact with another. When man lies in her womb, she is fulfilled, each act of love a taking of man within her, an act of birth and rebirth, of child rearing and man bearing. Man lies in her womb and is reborn each time anew with a desire to act, to be. But for woman, the climax is not in the birth, but in the moment man rests inside of her.
I am losing my great, dissolving, disintegrating pity for others, in which I saw deflected the compassion I wanted for myself. I no longer give compassion, which means I no longer need to receive it.
I palliate the sufferings of others. yes I see myself as softening the blows, dissolving acids, neutralizing poisons, every moment of the day. I try to fulfill the wishes of others, to perform miracles. I exert myself performing miracles.
I always run away from the simplest phrases because they never contain all of the truth. To me the truth is something which cannot be told in a few words, and those who simplify the universe only reduce the expansion of its meaning.
We are dancing on our irony as upon the top of glowing sparks.
I am a woman first of all. At the core of my work was a journal written for the father I lost, loved and wanted to keep. I am personal. I am essentially human, not intellectual. I do not understand abstract act. Only art born of love, passion, pain.
He made me understand something very important. Whether because I am a Latin, or because I am a neurotic, I have a need of gestures. I am myself expressive, demonstrative; every feeling I have takes on expression: words, gestures, signs, letters, articulateness or action. I need this in others.
When I first met him, he did not care if a friend did not fit into his world, because at that time his world had not been born yet.
“I would like to have your sureness. I am waiting for love, the core of a woman’s life.”
“Don’t wait for it,” I said. “Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. And then love will come to you, then it comes to you. It was only when I wrote my first book that the world I wanted to live in opened to me.”
As June walked toward me from the darkness of the garden into the light of the door, I saw for the first time the most beautiful woman on earth. Astartling white face, burning dark eyes, a face so alive I felt it would consume itself before my eyes. Years ago I tried to imagine a true beauty; I created in my mind an image of just such a woman. I had never seen her until last night. Yet I knew long ago the phosphorescent color of her skin, her huntress profile, the evenness of her teeth. She is bizarre, fantastic, nervous, like someone in a high fever. Her beauty drowned me…
By the end of the evening I had extricated myself from her power. She killed my admiration by her talk. Her talk. The enormous ego, false, weak, posturing. She lacks the courage of her personality, which is sensual, heavy with experience. Her role alone preoccupies her. She invents drama in which she always stars. I am sure she creates genuine dramas, genuine chaos and whirlpools of feelings, but I feel that her share in it is a pose. That night, in spite of my response to her, she sought to be whatever she felt I wanted her to be. She is an actress every moment. I cannot grasp the core of June.
Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.
I must know, he thinks. It must be clear to me. There is a world which is closed to him, a world of shadings, gradations, nuances, and subtleties. He is a genius and yet he is too explicit. June slips between his fingers. You cannot posses without loving.
To think of him in the middle of the day lifts me out of ordinary living.
I am aware of being in a beautiful prison, from which I can only escape by writing.
When life becomes too difficult, I turn to my work. I swim into a new region.
The writer is the duelist who never fights at the stated hour, who gathers up an insult, like another curious object, a collector’s item, spreads it out on his desk later, and then engages in a duel with it verbally. Some people call it weakness. I call it postponement. What is weakness in the man becomes a quality in the writer. For he preserves, collects what will explode later in his work. That is why the writer is the loneliest man in the world; because he lives, fights, dies, is reborn always alone; all his roles are played behind a curtain. In life he is an incongruous figure.
June, you have killed my sincerity too. I will never again know who I am, what I am, what I love, what I want. Your beauty has drowned me, the core of me. You carry away with you a part of me reflected in you. When your beauty struck me, it dissolved me. Deep down, I am not different from you. I dreamed you, I wished for your existence. You are the woman I want to be. I see in you that part of me which is you. I feel compassion for your childish pride, for your trembling unsureness, your dramatization of events, your enhancing of the loves given to you. I surrender my sincerity because if I love you it means we share the same fantasies, the same madness.
At first I protested and rebelled against poetry. I was about to deny my poetic worlds. I was doing violence to my illusions with analysis, science, and learning Henry’s language, entering Henry’s world. I wanted to destroy by violence and animalism my tenuous fantasies and illusions and my hypersensitivity. A kind of suicide. The ignominy awakened me. Then June came and answered the cravings of my imagination and saved me. Or perhaps she killed me, for now I am started on a course of madness.
What you call your lies are fiction and myths. The art of creating a disguise can be as beautiful as the creation of a painting… I created a woman for my artist life, bold, gay, courageous, generous, fearless; and another to please my father, a clear-sighted woman with a love of beauty, harmony, and self-discipline, critical and selective; and still another who lives in chaos, embraces the weak and the stumbling and the confused.
How can I accept a limited definable self when I feel, in me, all possibilities?… I never feel the four walls around the substance of the self, the core. I feel only space. Illimitable space.
All images © Joanne Nam