Anaïs Nin? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The acclaimed modern diarist Anaïs Nin apparently experienced an addictive intensity when writing in her diary. The following words have been attributed to her:
This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe.
Is this an authentic quotation, or is it simply a hallucination?
Quote Investigator: The publication of Anais Nin’s personal diary entries began in 1966 and continued into the 1970s. A series of seven edited and expurgated volumes were released under the umbrella title “The Diary of Anais Nin”. The content was based on her life and thoughts commencing in the 1930s. An entry in volume 1 dated June 1934 discussed the dichotomous struggle between private and public writing. Nin employed figurative language to express her drug-like dependence on the composition of the diary: 1
This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice. Instead of writing a novel, I lie back with this book and a pen, and dream, and indulge in refractions and defractions, I can turn away from reality into the reflections and dreams it projects, and this driving, impelling fever which keeps me tense and wide-awake during the day is dissolved in improvisations, in contemplations. I must relive my life in the dream. The dream is my only life. I see in the echoes and reverberations the transfigurations which alone keep wonder pure. Otherwise all magic is lost.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
The metaphor was striking, and a book review that appeared contemporaneously with the first publication in 1966 reprinted Nin’s vivid expression: 2
A second person of consequence treated in the diary, Dr. Otto Rank, was Anais Nin’s psychiatrist and close friend. She records a handful of fragmentary but brilliant comments by Rank on art, neurosis, and women’s place in society. Through his help, she was able to face up to her father and to break free from a complete bondage to her diary, which had become, as she says in the book, “my kief, hashish, and opium pipe…my drug and my vice.”
Nin herself found the drug metaphor compelling when she reread her diary. The following passage appeared in an entry dated October 1938 that was published in volume 2. The text was based on material she had entered into her diary several years earlier. Interestingly, the content matched the June 1934 entry, but the phrasing was different: 3
One day, when I returned to the houseboat, I had left on my desk a page from my diary written long ago, but which still seemed to apply today.
This diary is my drug and my vice. This is the moment when I take up the mysterious pipe and indulge in reflections. Instead of writing a book I lie back and I dream and talk to myself. A drug. I turn away from a brutal reality into the refracted. The driving, impelling fever which keeps me tense and wide awake during the day is dissolved in abandon, in improvisations, in contemplation. I must relive my life each day in the dream. The dream is my only life. I see in the echoes and reverberations the transfigurations which alone keep wonder pure. Otherwise all magic is lost, and I awake to touch my prison bars.
In 1976 Anaïs Nin was interviewed for an article published in the literary journal “New Orleans Review”, and she was asked about the metaphor. Nin indicated that she had finally resolved the perceived conflict between composing for the private and public spheres. She found that the two types of expression nourished one another: 4
NOR: You also say, “This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice. Instead of writing a novel, I lie back with this book and a pen, and dream. … I must relive my life in the dream. The dream is my own life.” How much of a conflict was there for you in expanding from the privacy of the diary into the novels which, unlike the diary, were meant for immediate public consumption?
Anaïs Nin: At one moment, it seemed like a conflict. The feeling that Henry Miller had and that Otto Rank had was that the diary was a refuge and a shell, an oyster shell, and that I was going inward instead of coming out to face the world with my fiction, since I concentrated on writing something which couldn’t be shown to people. The conflict doesn’t exist for me anymore. I see them as being interrelated, the novels and the diary. I see that the fiction helped me to write better for the diary; it helped me to develop the diary in a more interesting way, to approach it more vibrantly than one sometimes does when you’re simply making a portrait or communicating a whole series of events. I feel now that they were really nourishing each other.
In conclusion, the quotation is genuine. Anaïs Nin wrote it in her diary in an entry dated June 1934. It remains conceivable that the text was edited before publication in 1966; however, it was published under Nin’s name and properly reflected her viewpoint about her diary in the 1930s.
Images Notes: Picture of an opium poppy from byrev at Pixabay. Illustration by Raphael Kirchner circa 1911 of a woman together with opium smoke.
(Great thanks to EM whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)
- 1966, The Diary of Anais Nin: 1931-1934: Volume 1, by Anaïs Nin, Edited by Gunther Stuhlmann, (Diary entry dated June 1934), Start Page 325, Quote Page 333 and 334, A Harvest/HBJ Book, Published by The Swallow Press / Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1966 May 15, Best Sellers: Semi-Monthly Book Review, Volume 26, Number 4, Editor R. F. Grady, (Review by Peter Corodimas of the book “The Diary of Anais Nin: 1931-1934”, Harcourt, Brace & World), Quote Page 66, Column 2, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania.(HathiTrust Full View) link link ↩
- 1967, The Diary of Anais Nin: 1934-1939: Volume 2, by Anaïs Nin, Edited by Gunther Stuhlmann, (Diary Entry dated October 1938), Start Page 309, Quote Page 310, A Harvest Book, Published by The Swallow Press and Harcourt Brace & World, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1994, Conversations with Anaïs Nin, Edited by Wendy M. DuBow, Interview Titled: Link in the Chain of Feeling, (Interview of Anaïs Nin by Jeffrey Bailey recorded at Miss Nin’s home in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles; originally published in 1976 in The New Orleans Review, Volume 5, Number 2), Start Page 235, Quote Page 235, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi. (Google Books Preview) ↩