Goodreads Review: Trapeze (Anais Nin 1947-1955)

Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947–1955Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947–1955 by Anaïs Nin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anais at her most brittle but the result is a greater glimpse into who Anais really was beneath the poetry, fiction and roles she took up for a variety of reasons. One thing I have loved about the diaries (expurgated and unexpurgated) is that Anais wraps herself in layers in order to hide her vulnerabilities from herself. At times it can seem as though she is full of lies for the outside world but Trapeze reveals that much of what she’s done over the years has been an effort to hide the source of her pain from herself. It has always been this which attracted me to her work. There are so many times when, as a reader, the impulse is to become so frustrated with her obsessions (especially when she dives into brittle narcissism) but Anais is self aware and she is actively trying to overcome the traps of her life.

Reading this part of her life in 2019 creates new layers of understanding and repulsion. Earlier versions of the unexpurgated diaries did not give as much insight into the day to day life that Anais led–primarily because she despised the unelevated life and chose to focus on her affairs, artists in her circle and other topics she thought were more interesting but as a result it was difficult to really understand Anais as a person (by design). It was fascinating to read about how much work she was doing to support both of husbands’ work by creating materials, acting, working in a receptionist/secretary capacity and so on. It is difficult to place blame on her or Rupert or Hugo because we are witnessing cultural conventions that all three are desperately working to be part of as well as working to reject.

The impression that I’m left with from all the diaries so far is that Anais’ fear of being rejected for her true self (due to her father’s very real rejection of her, her mother and her brothers) compelled her to wrap herself in a version of herself that she had hoped would lead to acceptance (and never did) but that the closer people got to the true Anais, the more they appreciated and loved her even in her fragility, vulnerability and ugliness. As a reader I feel this to be the case. Anais without the brittle mask is likeable–she wants acceptance and uses all her strength (as well as some borrowed from Dr. Feelgood) to help build up the lives that those she loves want but she herself isn’t free of a desire to be more than someone fueling the lives of others, she desperately wants to build a life on her own steam and is trapped by a lot of the conventions of her time (but mostly by her own fears).

She’s always been fairly judgmental of others in her diary but with the inclusion of letters from others it provided a clearer picture of how often Anais’ judgment is her lashing out in fear of being abandoned, shunned and as cliché as it may seem, so much of Anais’ fear traces directly back to her parents. This diary is the first one that gives a full confirmation of that fact as she faces the deaths of her parents and is able to really be honest with herself and make a sort of peace with that now that they are no longer overlarge and impossible to reach.

I was grateful for the letters included because they also underscored how much love and interest others expressed for Anais. It was also incredibly sad how misunderstood Anais felt. It became clear that much of the disconnect between her and others was down to her deep insecurities which made her feel that anyone who was different than her could not understand her and thus would reject her or try to change her. Reading some of Hugo’s letters made it clear that because they had both come into the marriage with such deep insecurities they were often hurting each other deeply because their needs were often so opposed. As to Rupert, I think the relationship was similarly complicated by their individual insecurities–it is heartbreaking every time Anais talks about how she has told him he can cheat on her but not to flirt with other women in front of her. As she relates towards the end of the book there’s an encounter she misinterprets that causes her to lash out at Rupert and it made me wonder how often Rupert simply wasn’t sure how to behave to make her happy.

I’m curious how the next diary will be structured as it should relate to Anais finally publishing the diaries. All in all, wonderful experience and makes me want to reread all the previous diaries again with the new context from this one.

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