Anaïs Nin: Early Diary, Vol. 2

Quotations selected by Alan Carl Nicoll

October 29, 1920

"To love nature seems to me the greatest consolation for human woes that heaven ever gave us. Though I may long for stranger gifts, like the love of man, of home and children---or, rather, fame instead of these two---I realize with deep gratitude that I have already been given the greatest gifts---the love of nature and of books!" p. 76

November 9, 1920

"I was christened Rosa Juana Anaïs Edelmira Antolina Angela Nin!" p. 82

November 17, 1920

"10 P.M. How the wind howls in the night and shakes my windowpanes. Perhaps because of the tempest raging outside or perhaps because I have just read Edgar Allan Poe's poems, I feel indescribably desolate. Everybody else is sleeping, and I tried to bury my face in my pillow and forget, but after a long while the thoughts that passed through my head were so dreary and sad that I jumped out of bed, lit my lamp and sat by my dressing table to talk with you. I see such a queer reflection of myself in my three mirrors. If anyone looked at me now, they would faint, for I know many people think I am sweet and gentle, but there facing me sits a girl with a very haunted, stern, dramatic expression on her face. My eyes are long and narrow like Madame Butterfly's and that means trouble inside---a storm-tossed heart. My hair falling over my shoulders in wild, reddish ripples reminds me that I am not a philosopher battling with some great questions but an ordinary girl battling with her somber temper. Among the weird and desolate poetry of Poe's are these lines: 'From childhood's hour I have not been / As others were---I have not seen / As others saw---I could not bring / My passion from a common spring--- / From the same source I have not taken / My sorrow---I could not awaken / My heart to joy at the same tone--- / And all I loved I loved alone---'

"All the loneliness is expressed in them, the realization of the 'difference.' That is why I am so changed tonight, for just as when I read Shelley's life, I have lived again all the sorrows of other people's souls. I have not seen as others saw, or drawn my sorrows from the same sources, and I know the great, great loneliness of thoughts and dreams. Even when I sit thus, like tonight, while others sleep so calmly, I think and dream strange things all alone, all alone." p. 93

December 6, 1920

"Mother is reading her old love letters, and below, Vincente and Enric are playing the song 'Sweetheart.' Oh, perhaps no one else would feel burning tears just because of these things, but I can't help it. And now the music changes, but music always stirs me and saddens me more than words can tell. There is no one I can speak to now. I could not explain, they would think me mad. But then you---I can just write, even if I have to stop to cover my eyes with my hand and listen to the great tempest roaring inside of me. Oh, I want to go away, away. Why does it seem so hard to 'just live' sometimes? I want to be happy and careless and thoughtless, like the other girls of my age, and I can't. It does not seem as if I had ever been like them.

"Joaquin is laughing, poor child. He only cries when he hurts himself with stones and such things. I hope he will never sit, as I do tonight, and feel his heart crushed in some inexplicable way, listening to music which expresses all the wordless sorrows. Yes, and that is music---tears and laughter. Just like life---and still, 'life' does not sound as lovely. How I have tried with all my heart to believe this life to be glorious, how I have woven dream after dream around the ugly parts of it, and then gazed at my work with admiration and called it beautiful names, and how the veil is brutally torn, time after time---forever, perhaps. I hardly know if it is the music speaking these words or I. The notes melt into one another, they all rise, then vanish, to give place to more tears, more thoughts. Poor selfish Linotte that I am. Have I no courage?

"December 7. Have I no courage? Very little, but I have shame, and that is courage's shadow. That is why today I have conquered all my weakness, and hum while I work, and read the last lines I wrote last night with a critical, severe little smile. But enough self-condemnation, I am going to be good. I still have the entire day before me, to be good and useful. I am only scribbling a little between the time for 'stockings mended' and some other little duty. I like to see my resolutions in black and white; it makes them more irrevocable." p. 103

January 29, 1921

"I told myself that these insatiable longings [to write, yet feeling unable] would never ravage me again. I told myself that I would learn to express and then share with the world all that lies now in me, whispering in a language I understand but cannot yet translate---that I will learn to write of the thousand things I hear which others have not heard, and the things I see, and feel, and create. I will give names to all that is vague and nameless; I will give my visions to those who cannot visualize; I will share my fancies, dreams; I will describe all that is beautiful; I will make the world listen to unseen and delicate music, and listen to the stories of worlds which they have no time to discover and explore. Oh, dear vision, will your very frailty protect you from destruction?" p. 139

May 14, 1921

"Speaking of boys [in general] excludes Eduardo completely. He is not quite real, I often find, because he resembles so greatly some dream of mine who breathes and moves; and dreams come and go. Eduardo cannot be a part of my real life, for in reality, almost always, people meet naturally and simply in real places. We two meet on mountaintops, are brought together by gusts of wind, and our thoughts melt into one another like passing clouds." p. 197

May 20, 1921

"Many strange moods have followed my outburst of cynicism the other night, and I do believe I have learned a lesson. Dear Diary, you were chosen to be the confidant of the oddest girl in the world, and a very wicked one besides. And yet these days I have understood myself perhaps better than during all the years that have gone by. For a while I have stood completely revealed, to be judged not by the standards of the world but according to my own laws and ideals. This revelation caused me great suffering. It showed me my absolute worthlessness, my contemptible subjection to moods and my distorted understanding of life." p. 205

May 20, 1921

"Emerson says: 'To fill the hours, that is happiness: to fill the hour and leave no crevice for repentance or approval . . .'" p. 206

May 26, 1921

". . . to find yourself, work for others, forget yourself." p. 212

May 31, 1921

"Alas, it takes experience to teach a fool." p. 214

June 6, 1921

"It seems to me that the world is divided into two great classes: those who believe life is short---'Amuse yourself as much as you can'---and the students. I want to be a student, whatever I may be now, and I often ask myself if it means that I shall give up the pleasures of my age---give up happiness for the sake of knowledge. Ah, but are the other things happiness? Or is true happiness found in the intellect and spirit. I would like to know. I will know someday." p. 224

June 27, 1921

"Lately I have given much thought to this tendency of mine toward study and contemplation. It is curious to notice the things which help to mold our natures, which influence our character and habits. I began writing poetry when I was a child because whatever was beautiful or pure, or in any way inspiring, touched me very deeply, and I had to express this, unconscious that my childish language was inadequate to translate feelings which were not childish. Then because I was frail and sickly and because I had to spend so many hours of my time in bed, I returned to books for companionship, for delectation. I say delectation only because I want to show you a certain observation I have drawn. As the years pass, I read continually, widely, and without guidance. Slowly I have wandered away from the first purpose of my reading. I have grown into this love of books, seeing not only pleasure but knowledge. Then it must be that Literature is Knowledge. In my case it has developed into knowledge, seeking, without interference or suggestion, without teaching or guidance. When I contemplate the possibilities, what may be brought forth from this communion with books, my spirit feels a million times more freedom; it soars into such infinite distance that what is left behind can only sit and marvel. Mine is a double joy---the pleasure I find in the flight of fancy and the pleasure I find in this mind which has been given to us to see into something; the mind that asks, doubts and proceeds in its own way to seek the truth, the answer---philosophy; the mind which makes us reflect, meditate, ponder, inquire and find." p. 237

June 27, 1921

"Somewhere I have read of a universe expanded, enlarged by poetry, by reading. No one can grasp the truth in such words who has not spent a few hours alone with books, pen and paper. It is at such a time that one does feel this expansion of the universe, this dilation of the imagination and the soul. It is such a great, great feeling that one's heart does not hold it; it overflows, and one wonders if human beings were made to receive such strong emotions." p. 238

July 17, 1921

"Oh, that the world were filled with friends like these! And yet the very rarity of reasonable conversation, of spiritual relationships, makes them dearer and sweeter when they come to us. One of my fondest dreams is to find myself someday in a home with a husband and children, and with friends with whom one can share the love of books and music, talented, intellectual friends, not gossipers, vain women and idle men, social butterflies expecting to be amused, unable to think or to speak their thoughts and whose purpose in life is to fill the hour, caring not a whit whether they are accomplishing something, helping someone, embellishing the world or serving humanity. Here I have spoken of two kinds of people, those I admire, those I abhor. And I know that I am in the right; I know that my choice is made forever, that I will remain unchanged through the years---for this worship of mine for the things of the mind is rooted within my very nature." p. 245-246

August 8, 1921

Quoting Walter Scott: "I fear you have some very young ideas in your head. Are you not too apt to measure things by some reference to literature---to disbelieve that anybody can be worth much care who has no knowledge of that sort of thing, or taste for it? God help us! What a poor world this would be if that were the true doctrine! . . . We shall never learn to feel and respect our real calling and destiny, unless we have taught ourselves to consider everything as moonshine compared with the education of the heart." p. 261, ellipsis in original

September 23, 1921

"What food for thought it is to be able to look into the heart of another human being! To put one's finger on the forces that move a soul! To explore and analyze a whole life without taking part in it, without suffering, and without losing one's own self! I don't believe Marie Bashkirtsev realized the extent of the task she set for herself, so that she might not be forgotten. Her dairy is a priceless human document. One can forgive her everything because of the sincerity and warmth with which she revealed even the most sacred and intimate things, which someone else would have hidden or disguised." p. 291

October 1, 1921

"Whatever happens and however long the period which takes me away from the calm solitude and meditations I love so much, I return to my shell with greater joy. I take part in active life, but it seems to be a more natural tendency in my nature to contemplate and to wonder, to question and to find the answers in silence and in solitude. And yet how can I say such a thing? Daily I thirst for life, for adventure, for love. Oh, above all things, for love! Although this may appear to be inconsistent, it is the keystone of my attitude toward life. I yearn for the things which all girls of my age want, natural, normal desires. I look up to friendship and love as life's greatest blessings. And when they come to me, perhaps because I have expected such nobleness and beauty in each, I am disappointed. Then it is I return to my hermit's life. Then it is I read and study, and find a perfect joy in nature. In this state of mind I feel an exaltation which is almost incredible and unnatural. I become pedantic, grave, impossible!" p. 296

January 5, 1922

"He is adoring life, not using it. He is praising the work of others and allows his own tools to lie idle." p. 363

January 19, 1922

"The world is the Sea. You [diary] are my Ship. I am the Sailor. Now and then I plunge into the depths, am ballotted and storm-tossed and wind-lashed, or gently carried on the crest of the waves and blessed by a vision of shores and harbors. My hands are tightly gripped around Experience's very hair. I go wherever it leads me until I tire of her strenuous company and swim back to my Ship. Once there, I rid myself of all the trinkets I have gathered during my expedition. Pearls, seaweeds, sea shells, foam. I place them all in my treasure chest. Then I stand by the steering wheel and gravely guide my Ship toward the shore of which I had a fleeting glimpse. The voyage is slow, because I am intent on noticing everything, and because I plunge so often. The flight of the sea gulls, the passing of a cloud, sunrises, sunsets, every phase, transformation, change of light, every mood of the sea, its anger, its calms, its heavings and rollings---all these attract my attention, force me to pause, and to record. Thus while I am meditating, dreaming, rhapsodizing and philosophizing, my ship is left to wander left and right, at the mercy of changing winds and capricious waves. Other ships pass mine by, pursuing a direct and well-charted course. They never pause. It never occurs to the man at the wheel to notice what I notice, and still less to record it. Yet which is the happier voyage? Which is the fortunate ship? Mine! Mine is the Errant Ship. It is guided by a poet. It has a treasure chest. Its sails are Hopes. It is Enchanted." p. 379

January 24, 1922

"In my heart of hearts I believe with Gladstone that an honest biography is the best one can give to literature. Poor little Diary! You are an honest biography, but badly written and I fear someday you shall perish in the flames." p. 389-390

August 6, 1922

"There must be some way of arranging one's life so that there should be time for all things; it is not possible that it should thus remain filled to the brim with work alone." p. 461

September 16, 1922

"After all, I am weary of seeking a perfect harmony of souls. It does not exist. We are all destined to an eternal solitude. Love only relieves this solitude by moments of utter and sublime communion and unity, by fleeting touches and a sense of nearness both rare and frail.

"And there is more to consider than our own happiness. Hugo would be a good father to my children, a loyal, conscientious and dutiful husband. Can I expect, besides the altruism and devotion of a Great Lover, gentleness and tenderness, response to all that is feminine and soft and reliant in me?

"Alas! 'The ideal has poisoned reality for me.' I was never meant for happiness. I cannot be happy in such a world among such people. But at least I could redeem the failure of my own heart by making others happy and become purified and ennobled by the task." p. 475

December 20, 1922

"Though most moods tinge one's view of life and color it with their own peculiar character, there are times when, impersonally, one can see life as clearly as through the purest, clearest crystal, when, moodless and selfless, truth alone reveals itself to man. It is a universal element, truth, a thing so great that it cannot be encompassed within one living soul, so dazzling that it cannot be seen wholly by the eyes of one mere man, except in such moments of intensified vision as come with the utter forgetfulness of self, of sentiment, of prejudices, of human ties, of vanity therefore.

"I have proved the wisdom of my objection to secondhand information in regard to life and love and fame and human nature, etc. In nearly all things I have gone against the general belief, and I have found myself right. It is senseless to abide by general statements, for no experience ever resembles another, and the best in the world is composed of exceptions to these classifications and conclusions.

"To begin by discrediting all things is to begin with an open mind, free of prejudices or obstinate preconceptions, and it is simpler for truth to penetrate one in such a state than to do what it is generally forced to do---to filter a drop at a time through thick, dense opposition and unwillingness, at the risk of crowding at one of those microscopic byways and finally leaving the rest in utter darkness.

"It is, at least, in such an open mood that I have discovered intelligence in many who have been thought stupid, sparks of comprehension sometimes in seemingly ignorant, uneducated natures, flashes of natural ability in habitually selfish creatures, treasure after treasure in the form of a rare and valuable quality too often unperceived because it is so unexpected, too often crushed by cynicism or lack of kindness, too seldom helped to flower.

"Every passing day increases my faith in a contrary opinion. I would prefer the risk of drowning rather than follow the common current---when that common current leads me downward into abysses instead of into the higher spheres of the ideal." p. 516-517

December 28, 1922

"Analyses and criticism turned upon one's self spell self-destruction. I am in danger of stifling all shadows of happiness by my questioning and examination and dissecting, and of reaching a state of such intolerable consciousness as to threaten to exterminate every vestige of sincerity and every natural impulse. I alone am the one who creates doubts and oppositions within myself. I am the very cause of every internal trouble and confusion. And it is only by my constant thinking that I am losing the strength of my own convictions. I myself am the genie who each day uncovers the jar and frees the demons with which it is filled." p. 518