Examining the diaries of the French-born writer—what was true, what was a lie, and what each revealed about her:
It’s not as simple as saying that Nin wrote exhaustively about her own life, or that she did it (as bloggers do now) with an emphasis on an unfolding day-to-day narrative, or even that she received much the same criticism as contemporary women who write about their intimate lives. All of these things were true: By the time she was in her late twenties, at least, she considered her diary to be her major work, and she went at it with a professionalism that some people don’t apply to their paid work. She produced hundreds of pages per year, indexed, numbered, and regularly re-typed so as to prevent physical decay of the text. But by the time Anais Nin got through with writing about ‘her life,’ it rarely bore any resemblance to her experience. Aside from the quirks of her particular, highly subjective sensibility — and the fact that she had a ‘vice for embellishment,’ meaning that she frequently wrote down incidents or compliments that she made up — the diaries were not written in anything like a linear fashion. Those re-typing sessions served a double purpose: Along with preserving the work, they were a chance for Nin to make revisions. She expanded scenes, corrected them, wrote new ones from fragmentary notes or memories and inserted them into the places where she believed she should have or would have had those particular thoughts, and she did this at regular intervals, for decades, until their first publication in 1966. It’s not as simple as saying that Nin didn’t publish her ‘real’ diaries. In a sense, there were no ‘real’ diaries. Their ongoing falsification was key to their form.
“On Keeping A Liary: Anaïs Nin, Autobiography, and the Lady Narcissism Debate.” — Sady Doyle