The Diary Of Anaïs Nin Essay

1886 words - 8 pages

Sex and desire. Few words evoke such complexity of meaning. For some, it is a sexual act. Whereas one might describe it as the sensual pleasure of two bodies fused into one being, another may define it as the fulfillment of animalistic desire, an unleashing of the beast. But, beyond an act charged with various meaning, it can also serve as an identity–heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual. Whether act or identity, societal dictates define the norm and the deviant. Because of this, the artist who departs from the "acceptable" and embraces the "aberrant," arouses the consciousness of self and society. In doing so, sex and desire become a vehicle, a means of communication between artist and audience, and an object that demands our attention. Whether it is the subtle and sensual language of Anaïs Nin in The Diary of Anaïs Nin (1966), the coarse and explicit vocabulary of Henry Miller in Tropic of Cancer (1934), or the poetic and surrealistic prose of Djuna Barnes in Nightwood (1934), sex and desire, as a vehicle in the literature of these authors, exposes the chaos and confusion within their world and suggests the establishment of a new order for self and/or society.
Written between 1931 and 1934, The Diary of Anaïs Nin chronicles one artist’s psychological journey. Deserted by her father as a girl, Anaïs experiences an “initial shock” that leaves her “like a shattered mirror” (Nin 103). The shards of glass, each developing a life of their own, come to be the “several selves” of Anaïs (103). Through the pages of The Diary, reflecting upon and dissecting these various selves, she concludes, “one does not need to remain in bondage to the first wax imprint made on childhood sensibilities. One need not be branded by the first pattern. Once the deforming mirror is smashed, there is possibility of wholeness; there is possibility of joy” (105). Seeking this sense of completeness, Anaïs records and analyzes her personal and sexual relationships. The language is erotic and sensual, but rarely specific. When explicit, the words are neither coarse nor crude. Even a visit to 32 Rue Blondel with Henry Miller becomes beautiful. Observing “Henry’s whores” Anaïs describes how the big woman “caressed” the small woman’s clitoris and caused her to “moan and tremble with pleasure,” the mouth is “voracious” and the climax results in a “cry of joy” (58-60). Thus, Nin’s perception and use of language transforms what many perceive as aberrant and ugly into an image of beauty.
Willing to transcend socially prescribed boundaries, Anaïs explores her desire for June. Upon meeting her, Anaïs writes “Her beauty drowned me” and later she remarks that she wants to “become immersed with her,” both images reminiscent of a surrealist painting, thereby illustrating Anaïs’ preference for the world of dream and fantasy (20, 24). Despite her attraction, Anaïs admits, “June does not reach the same sexual center of my being as man reaches. She does not touch that. What,...

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