- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Anaïs Nin on Life, Art, Writing, Death, and More

 

Happy birthday, Anaïs Nin! Here are some quotes from the writer:

 

“The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say. Most of the writing today which is called fiction contains such a poverty of language, such triteness, that it is a shrunken, diminished world we enter […]. The writer’s responsibility is to increase, develop our senses, expand our vision, heighten our awareness, and enrich our articulateness.”

 

“I have an attitude now that is immovable. I shall remain outside of the world, beyond the temporal, beyond all the organizations of the world. I only believe in poetry.”

 

“I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.”

 

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

 

“To lie, of course, is to engender insanity.”

 

“The artist is the only one who knows that the world is a subjective creation, that there is a choice to be made, a selection of elements. It is a materialization, an incarnation of his inner world. Then he hopes to attract others into it. He hopes to impose his particular vision and share it with others. And when the second stage is not reached, the brave artist continues nevertheless. The few moments of communion with the world are worth the pain, for it is a world for others, an inheritance for others, a gift to others, in the end. When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others.”

 

“We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely. We write as the birds sing, as the primitives dance their rituals. If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in a prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.”

 

“Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.”

 

“Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.”

 

“When one is pretending the entire body revolts.”

 

“I hate men who are afraid of women’s strength.”

 

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”

 

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

 

“To withhold from living is to die…the more you give of yourself to life the more life nourishes you.”

 

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

 

“The morning I got up to begin this book I coughed. Something was coming out of my throat: it was strangling me. I broke the thread which held it and yanked it out. I went back to bed and said: I have just spat out my heart.”

 

“Worlds self made are so full of monsters and demons.”

 

“In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again.”

 

“Finding one’s self in a book is a second birth…”

 

“The preoccupation of the novelist: how to capture the living moments, was answered by the diary. You write while you are alive.”

 

“Art is the method of levitation, in order to separate one’s self from enslavement by the earth.”

 

“Life is so fluid that one can only hope to capture the living moment, to capture it alive and fresh…without destroying that moment.”

 

“Electric flesh-arrows traversing the body. A rainbow of color strikes the eyelids. A foam of music falls over the ears. It is the gong of the orgasm.”

 

“The poet is one who is able to keep the fresh vision of the child alive.”

 

“Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.”

 

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous.”

 

“Most artists have retired too absolutely; they grow rusty, inflexible to the flow of currents.”

 

“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic—in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.”

 

“Love is the axis and breath of my life. The art I produce is a byproduct, an excrescence of love, the song I sing, the joy which must explode, the overabundance—that is all!”

 

“In creation alone there is the possibility of perfection.”

 

“Creation which cannot express itself becomes madness.”

 

“No desire of the body, but for what lies in there, what lies in the flesh, the world, the thought, the creation, the illumination.”

 

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

 

“All those who try to unveil the mysteries always have tragic lives. At the end they are always punished.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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