French-Cuban writer Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1903 – January 14, 1977) endures as one of history’s most prolific, dedicated, and timelessly insightful diarists. The fifteen volumes of her journals published to date, which she began at the age of eleven and kept up until shortly before her death, span six decades of profound introspection and keen observation of public life.
Nin crossed paths with some of modernity’s most celebrated writers, artists, psychiatrists, and intellectuals, including Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, Otto Rank, Salvador Dalí, John Cage, Robert Duncan, Peggy Guggenheim, and her longtime lover Henry Miller. Her records of these encounters and relationships read like a lyrical alternative history of 20th century intellectual life.
But more than merely recording public life and her private reflections, Nin’s journals exude a remarkable faith in the creative spirit, a kind of optimism about life and the wisdom of the heart even in the direst of circumstances, from world wars to life in poverty to repeated professional rejection. Hers was a tireless quest for wholeness and integration, blending a cultural insider’s perceptiveness with an outsider’s sensitivity – an immigrant, a woman, a struggling writer, who at one point even founded her own press in order to self-publish her and her literary friends’ work, learning to operate a heavy letterpress machine and painstaking typesetting the books by hand.
Nin was also a relentless champion of the female spirit, poetically venerating “woman’s role in the reconstruction of the world” in a 1944 diary entry – a sentiment from which this very project borrows its title.
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