Review: Henry and June by Anais Nin

Diaries are a peculiar read – for one, they’re difficult to parse as the author writes solely to herself, communicates only with herself and thus there are no background details, no exposition or filling in on gaps. I know I’ve got confused reading my old diaries because I’d forgotten events my former self clearly thought she’d remember forever, and some of them read like riddles to me now. It’s the same with Nin’s diary only I don’t even have an inkling about the missing bits. I had a hard time keeping up with the timeline, for example, especially since none of the entries in this edition are dated.11038

Another characteristic is the unreliability of the narrator. People tend to overblow stuff if they’re feeling a particular way about them at the time of writing, a diarist writes in the now, rarely does she reminisce or summarise. This results in Nin coming out somewhat emotionally unstable, swinging between opposite extremes seemingly from one day to the next. She loves Henry more than her life and then she’s convinced she never loved him. Same with Hugo and her psychoanalyst (well that was fucked up). The only one she remains on the same page about is June, but that’s probably because she’s no present for the majority of the year covered by the diary.

The sexual parts were beautifully written and I admit, exciting. I got a chuckle out of her analyst listening about her having sex on the regular with three dudes and going „Have you considered you might be frigid?“ Ah, psychoanalysis. When misogyny tried to go scientific.

I can’t say I quite got Anais Nin, even though I was reading her most intimate thoughts and feelings. I couldn’t tell when she was truthful, when she was exaggerating, and when she was just lying to „help life“, i.e. when she was feeling underwhelmed by her existence. Only her shamed confession she’d outgrown her husband and did not want him anymore, but was too scared to admit it even to herself, sounded sincere beyond doubt. I guess that makes her an excellent writer – she can’t shed the role even when she’s confessing her own thoughts to herself.

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