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86 the minnesota review Maxine Molyneux and Julia Casterton Looking Again at Anais Nin Introduction (Julia Casterton) In 1970 Maxine Molyneux interviewed Anais Nin; they talked about her third volume of Journals, which had just been published in England. The transcript of the discussion went the way of all print that is not quickly presented to a reading public: it disappeared into a drawer and lay, often considered but never finally used, for ten years. Last summer Maxine and I began to talk about Nin's work. I had just read the erotica and also taught some of her fiction in a women's writing class. We remarked on how uneasily her work sits in the history of women's writing in this century, and the problems she presents to feminist analysis because of this. Although she died in 1977, her work presented itself to us as a prodigious spread: a temporal spread in that her writing began early this century and continued until her death, and a cultural spread also, spanning and uneasily moving back and forth between Europe and America. The very history of her writing, then, assailed us as formidable, a perhaps undigestible chunk. So many other women writers had made their marks during that time and subsequently disappeared, perhaps to be rediscovered by our generation. Nin had, on the other hand, quite simply but quite unaccountably (in the light of the tragedies in store for others, notably Woolf and Plath, who made writing their choice) carried on writing. The persistence of Anais Nin was a question in itself. We did not want to reject or ignore her work because it doesn't fit into any predictable pattern, because it cannot be cited in the same breath as that of contemporaries as diverse as Jean Rhys, Simone de Beauvoir, and Virginia Woolf, who can be far more unproblematically "claimed" as the literary grandmothers of present day feminist writers. On the contrary, her writing presented itself to us as perhaps more engaging and challenging because of the questions it raises about writing and femininity. She seemed to be a living exception to the notion of "the totality ofwomen" that has bugged feminist theory for so long.' While her highly-regarded contemporaries are involved in writing which indicates a general oppression of women, and are amenable to a theory ofpatriarchy that is now (perhaps wrongly) widely accepted, the importance of the father and the celebration of sexual difference that we find in Nin's work sets her apart; she stands as anothervoice, making different meanings and representations of women. She is a dissonant element that asks to be heard in a long line of women writers who can sometimes, perhaps mistakenly, be registered as a fully-constituted orchestra playing in harmony. She seems to be one of those stereotypes (mother/witch/child/whore) we thought we had cast off, and as such, she is a clanging cymbal to us. Nin was always aware of the unacceptability and heterogeneity of her writing, but for quite different reasons from the ones we were thinking about. 87 molyneuxand Casterton An emigree, an American in spite ofherself, she recognized and acknowledged the problems of a writer trying to use forms (familiar and acceptable in Europe) in a country whose literary traditions were quite alien to her own history as a writer. She was a problem in her lifetime, and accepted herself as such; and now, when the importance of surrealist writing is fully recognised in America, she presents problems of a different nature for feminists. We wanted to examine her asa problem, not dismissively or condemningly, but in a way which would perhaps reveal to us the inefficacy and unhelpfulness of blanket statements that feminists often make about women writers. So we looked again at the "self-revelation" of the 1970 interview, and now, these ten years later, offer it along with Julia Casterton's commentary as an example ofa possible exercise, a possible interrogation that can be made ofa "difficult " woman writer. Interview (conducted by Maxine Molyneux on the publication ofAnais Nin's third volume of Journals, on May 27th, 1970) MM You are, ofcourse, best known for your fictional work, yet...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 86-101
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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