Aesthetic Lies

  • Suzanne Nalbantian


Questions of sincerity and authenticity, what have come to be known as the ‘truth claim’, are constantly brought into the discussion of autobiography, and with Anaïs Nin the truth factor becomes an issue as the reader moves from diary to fiction, searching for truths in a writer who herself was ambivalent about the notion of absolute truths. In fact, the essential tension that the critics have been identifying in Nin’s work is between the lifelong voluminous Diary (1914–74) and the terse fiction, precisely because the barriers between ‘truth’ and fiction are not clearcut. Was she herself practising the life-enriching lie in an effort to live life more fully and to embellish that life? Was her life-experience a laboratory or springboard for the heightened experience of art? Or was she simply imbibing the relativism of truths, the duplicity of personality, which was made vivid to her early on in Marcel Duchamp’s painting Nude Descending the Staircase? Indeed, the configurations of selves which she presents in her continuous novel of Cities of the Interior relate to the tentative nature of truth in her vision.


Life Fact Verifiable Truth Essential Tension Jazz Musician House Image 
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  1. 1.
    Anaïs Nin, A Woman Speaks, ed. Evelyn J. Hinz ( Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975 ), p. 162.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Anaïs Nin, D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study ( London: Neville Spearman, 1961 ), pp. 33–4.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Anaïs Nin, House of Incest ( Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers, 1958 ), p. 40.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Anaïs Nin, A Spy in the House of Love in Cities of the Interior (1959; Chicago, IL: Swallow Press, 1974), p. 95.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Anaïs Nin, Winter of Artifice (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1948), p. 94. The next quotations are on pp. 119 and 122.Google Scholar
  6. 25.
    Anaïs Nin, The Novel of the Future (New York: Macmillan, 1968) p. 162. The subsequent quotations from this work are on pp. 194, 162 and 133.Google Scholar

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© Suzanne Nalbantian 1997

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  • Suzanne Nalbantian

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