The life and erotic times of Anaïs Nin

Samantha David meets the author Paul Herron, who offers a glimpse into her wild life in Paris and complex tangle of relationships

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) is perhaps most famous for her affair with Henry Miller, but her affair with Paris was arguably more significant. Born in France, she spent much of her childhood in the United States, only returning to Paris in 1924 a year after her first marriage, to banker Hugh Parker Guiler. At first, according to biographer Paul Herron, she loathed it.

“She found France and Paris in particular, dirty, immoral, old, decrepit and horrible. It took her years to lose that puritanical attitude instilled by her mother and a New York childhood.”

Bit by bit, as her husband pursued his banking career, Nin’s writing brought her into contact with the city’s flourishing creative community. She took flamenco lessons, published a critique of DH Lawrence, and became fascinated by psychoanalysis, studying with René Allendy and Otto Rank – both of whom became her lovers.

In her extensive diaries, she says she first came across erotic literature in Paris, devouring “French paperbacks” until she had a “degree in erotic law”. Her novel Henry and June, based on her 1931-1934 diaries, detailed her passionate affair with Henry Miller, along with her desire for personal and sexual liberation. “The fact is, Paris had ...

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