Anaïs Nin on writers and writing

"Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare" by Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris, France: 1932)

"Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare" by Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris, France: 1932)
Image credit: Scribbling with light... - The Art: Decisive moment

I walked through the streets which Henry [Miller] taught me to love. Water is being thrown on the sidewalks and swept by an old man with a broom. Dirt is floating down the gutter, windows are being opened, meat hung on hooks, vegetables poured in baskets for display, wheels are rolling, bread is baking, children are skipping rope, dogs are carrying the weight of downtrodden tails, cats are licking off bistro sawdust, wine bottles are being carried up from the cellar. I love the streets I did not know as a child. I always played in houses in Neuilly, Brussels, Germany, Cuba. Henry played in the streets. His world was filled with ordinary people, mine with artists.

Henry’s recollections of the past, in contrast to Proust, are done while in movement. He may remember his first wife while making love to a whore, or he may remember his very first love while walking the streets, traveling to see a friend; and life does not stop while he remembers. Analysis in movement. No static vivisection. Henry’s daily and continuous flow of life, his sexual activity, his talks with everyone, his café life, his conversations with people in the street, which I once considered an interruption to writing, I now believe to be a quality which distinguishes him from other writers. He never writes in cold blood: he is always writing in white heat.

It is what I do with the journal, carrying it everywhere, writing on café tables while waiting for a friend, on the train, on the bus, in waiting rooms at the station, while my hair is washed, at the Sorbonne when the lectures get tedious, on journeys, trips, almost while people are talking.

It is while cooking, gardening, walking, or love-making that I remember my childhood, and not while reading Freud‘s “Preface to a Little Girl’s Journal.”

Henry teases me about my memory for conversation. Every now and then he says: “Put this down in your diary.” He never says, as others do: “Do not put this down in your diary.”

Even his face is changing. I was looking at him in amazement while he explained Spengler. No trace of the gnome or the sensualist. A gravity. An intentness.

Talk about his work. I feel sometimes I have to hang on to the significance of it while he tosses about, fumbling, stumbling.

Fred criticizes Henry’s reading, his efforts to think, attacks his knowledge of science, interest in movies, in theatre, in philosophy, criticism, biography. A big enough artist, I say, can eat anything, must eat everything and then alchemize it. Only the feeble writer is afraid of expansion. Henry is fulfilling a deep necessity: to situate himself, to adopt values, to seek a basis for what he is to build.

I laugh at my old fear of analysis. The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.

I have no fear of clarity.
Anaïs Nin in The Diary of Anaïs Nin: Volume One, 1931-1934, edited by Gunther Stuhlmann, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969), p. 154. First published (New York: Swallow Press, 1966).

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"I walked through the streets which Henry taught me to love"
Anaïs Nin Posted on behalf of on Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 under Quotations.

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