“I stress the expansion and elaboration of language. In simplifying it, reducing it, we reduce the power of our expression and our power to communicate. Standardization, the use of worn-out formulas, impedes communication because it does not match the subtlety of our minds or emotions, the multimedia of our unconscious life.”
- Anais Nin, The Novel of the Future
It’s quite a happy coincidence that I picked up this book at the same time that I was reading Carl Jung’s "Memories, Dreams, Reflections." Both books deal with psychoanalysis, symbolism and the subconscious. Anais Nin goes further than Jung did in that she discusses how psychology can enrich literature, and indeed how psychoanalysis is needed in literature. In general, she is quite disappointed by the path that the novel has taken. In her opinion, literature is too sterile, too linear, too cold. She wants more experimentation in novels, to include more psychology, science and so on:
“The old concept of chronological, orderly, symmetrical development of character died when it was discovered that the unconscious motivations are entirely at odds with fabricated conventions. Human beings do not grow in perfect symmetry. They oscillate, expand, contract, backtrack, arrest themselves, retrogress, mobilize, atrophy in part, proceed erratically according to experience and traumas. Some aspects of the personality mature, others do not. Some live in the past, some in the present. Some people are futuristic characters, some are cubistic, some are hard-edged, some geometric, some abstract, some impressionistic, some surrealistic!”
Nin is very passionate about the novel, even more so about the future of the novel. She pays homage to several poetic authors such as Woolf, Proust and Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Kafka, all writers I personally admire, so it made me accept her claims of the future of the novel more readily.
I think that people who aren’t completely sold on diary-writing might reconsider when they read Nin’s chapter about the merits of the diary:
“Another lesson I learned from diary writing was the actual continuity of the act of writing, not waiting for inspiration, favourable climate, astrologic constellations, the mood, but the discipline of sitting at the typewriter to write so many hours a day. Then when the magnificent moment comes, the ripened moment, the writing itself is nimble, already tuned, warmed.”
As always I was impressed by Nin’s beautiful writing. Reading excerpts of books she had written, and having her explain what she was aiming at doing in those passages was really enlightening. It made me understand her more as a writer. I was impressed by her dedication to the trade. An extreme case of that dedication was her taking LSD to write about her experience (not that I’m advocating drug use at all but it was an interesting point).
This is a must-read for any writer or aspiring writer. I learned so much from it.