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Saturday, January 25

Henry and June by Anaïs Nin

Once again, a book that reminds me of the unexpectedness of personal journeys meant to liberate the spirit and challenge the heart. Henry and June is the incredible account of a woman's awakening to life, of her mysterious and provocative becoming into her much craved womanhood. Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell was born under a fascinating star- that of Bohemian, artistic influences, thrills of flamenco music, accomplished writing and self-indulging way of looking at life. Upon reading her books, based on her diaries, one feels instantly drawn to her vulnerable, yet overwhelming passion. This is a woman passionate about writing, true to her feelings, emotional and open about her consuming interests. Without necessarily being into female erotica, I still marveled at her easiness and natural manner of exploring erotic writing. The most extraordinary thing about her writing is her strength, her explosion of femininity and her open-mindedness.

Henry and June is the story of the intriguing moment in her life when Anaïs met Henry Miller and his wife, June Mansfield Miller. At the time, Anaïs became fascinated with both of them, taking the shy banker little wife out of her shell and turning her into an accomplished woman, both sexually and intellectually. Anaïs was taken aback by Henry's literary force and helped him with his work, becoming his mistress, once June went away. In the beginning, Anaïs felt more intrigued by June's captivating personality and physical attractiveness; however, the two women did not have an intimate relationship or if they did, Nin kept it for her eyes only. Upon June's departure, the relationship between Anaïs and Henry grew into an addictive obsession, taking them on an exploring path meant to reveal unimagined sensations and discoveries. The more she fell for Henry completely, the more estranged she became from her husband, Hugo. It was interesting though how all the other men revolving around her -Eduardo, Allendy, Hugo- openly or secretly coveted the devilish creature that could fulfill every male fantasy and hidden expectations.

Anaïs is hard to resist. She must have been an intriguing beauty that made your senses boil with anticipation. I, for one, am not attracted to women, yet I felt a sudden, unexplained magnetism towards her exquisite writing, her sharp mind and the sexually charged, self-assumed womanhood. Much to her flaws and humane limitations, Anaïs is one of the most fascinating women I have read about, read into and wished to have met. Some people simply burst with life and passion, incapable of walking through life without pouring their grace upon the fortunate few who penetrate their circle of fire. And this woman and writer surely was one of them great characters. Her talent resides in her writing skills, in the way she manipulates words into penetrating the readers' minds, in her liberated, fluid style and the beauty of her narrative.

Henry and June is an analytical book, dissecting the relationships with her abusive father, her cousin Eduardo, her shrink Allendy, her husband Hugo and her lover, Henry. Her desires are selfish and self-centered, her actions are at times hard to accept, yet we are not to take upon ourselves the difficult task of judging her choices. Polyamorous relationships are still a tabu, a controversial subject in nowadays' modern, open-minded society. Right or wrong, sinful or natural, I believe they do not make the core of this book; it is the intensity of the writing and the idea that love is so challenging in this respect that it takes endless analysis. Yet, for a woman to face and accept her shortcomings and limitations, to be open about her feelings and her desires is a healthy, natural process that should be applauded and appreciated. This is a book for the brave women, for those who are not afraid of meeting challenges as they grow and become themselves the strong creatures they are meant to be. Roaming the cafes in Paris, visiting art galleries, watching prostitutes, writing powerful lines, questioning personal life, marriage, choices, make Henry and June a book that is both spontaneous and delicate, a journey into self-discovery. Henry is "a man who makes life drunk", June "the most beautiful woman on earth" and  Anaïs, I would say, is the devilish candour that should define a woman.
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