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Anais Nin: A Reader and the Writer EVELYN J. HINZ Anais Nin Reader. Edited by Philip K. Jason; Introduction by Anna Balakian. Chicago: The Swallow Press Inc., 1973. 316 pp. The Diary of Anais Nin: 1947-1955. Edited and with a Preface by Gunther Stuhlmann. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1974. 275 pp. That a prophet is without honour in his own country is a proverb with which numerous artists have had to console themselves. Only in rare cases, however, does history ever justify the individual's recourse to such a self-exalting explanation of apparent failure, while only in the most unusual instances is the individual ever fortunate enough to witness such a vindication in person. Anais Nin would seem to be one of these extraordinary exceptions. For the first thirty years of her literary career, which began in 1932, Nin found herself dismissed as an irresponsible dreamer, a sophomoric psychologist, a third rate artist. Her questionings of the value of social consciousness, rationalism, and objectivity were passed off as the defensive arguments of a romantic recluse, while her converse emphasis upon introspection, a transcendental perspective, and subjective response was interpreted as a symptom of her own narcissistic dilettantism. Her focus upon neurotic women and her analyses of their lesbian and promiscuous tendencies were regarded as indicative of her own psychological disturbances , while her concern with adolescents and eccentrics was seen to reflect her own immaturity and disorientation. Her experimentation in fiction with the personification of various aspects of the psyche was criticized as her inability to create realistic characters, while her use of imagistic sequence to dramatize the free associative nature of the unconscious was regarded as solipsistic formlessness or evidence of a lack of discipline. By her own generation, with such notable exceptions as Henry Miller and Otto Rank, Anais Nin was considered a precious amateur who had no conception of what real life and art in America were all about. Within the last fifteen years, however, Nin has achieved recognition as one of the most significant writers of the twentieth century. Today her fiction is described as the prototype of aesthetic trends which are only currently beginning to emerge, while her observations on psychological and cultural issues are given serious consideration by researchers and used as guides by analysts. To the present generation she is a muse and a model; colleges across America, women;s groups, and artists' yVorkTHE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. VI, NO. 1 1 SPRING 1975 shops vie for her presence as guest speaker. Once her diary was the confidante of her feeling of alienation and loneliness in a hostile world; today it is the coveted companion of readers around the globe, with the fifth volume having just emerged. Once her work was ignored by compilers of anthologies of modern American literature; just recently it has been given an anthology all of its own. Sceptics may argue that Nin' s popularity is ephemeral, but they will nevertheless have to credit her with being a woman who anticipated contemporary tastes; traditionalists might argue that her popularity is merely a reflection of the immaturity and confusion of the younger generation, but this would not lessen the significance of her current acclaim. Finally, howsoever critical one might be about her literary accomplishments, one can only admire the humanistic achievement which is her literary career. The change in Nin's fortunes began in 1961 when Alan Swallow, with his characteristic perspicacity, decided to reissue her earlier pieces and to publish her new fiction. The Swallow Press' s recent publication of the Anais Nin Reader therefore nicely rounds off the pioneering efforts of the founder of that press and to a certain extent suggests that the recovery phase of Nin's belated literary debut in America is now completed. Edited by Philip K. Jason, the Reader consists of excerpts from Nin' s fiction , criticism, and Diary, together with the complete texts of five short stories and three critical essays. The period covered is from 1932, when Nin published her first work, D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study, up to and including I 968 when she published her major critical work, The Novel of the Future...


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