ANAIS NIN: THE LAST DAYS
BY BARBARA KRAFT
PUBLISHED BY PEGASUS BOOKS
“I have chosen to reveal the intimacies of Anaïs Nin’s last days as I witnessed them so that the story of her death is not lost. Everything comes back in the mind’s eye. Everything comes back in the crucible of the heart. She remains in my psyche all these years later as the most refined and rarified human being I have ever encountered.”
Thus begins Barbara Kraft’s memoir, ANAIS NIN: THE LAST DAYS (Pegasus Books; August 2013; $14.95 U.S.). With her sometimes loving and sometimes raw prose, Kraft has captured the humanity, mortality, and essence of one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated and yet mysterious literary figures.
Anaïs Nin, noted for her diaries and erotica, was at the height of her fame when she took on Barbara Kraft as a writing student. Quickly, the two became intimate friends at the moment when both would encounter tragedy: Nin’s terminal cancer and Kraft’s impending difficult divorce. The circumstances created an environment of interdependency: Nin, despite her failing health, supported Kraft’s writing and life decisions, and Kraft became a devoted and untiring part of Nin’s support system during her last two years of life.
Kraft describes her initial meeting with Nin in February 1974, writing that Nin was poetry embodied and seemed to ‘glide’ over the rose-colored carpet of her Silver Lake home ‘like a swan skimming the surface of still waters.’ And in December of that year she begins what was to become a chronicle of Nin’s terrible two-year battle with cancer.
“I can’t tell the world about my illness, Barbara, but you can, and I want the world to know. I want you to write about this.”
Because of the overwhelming reality of cancer, Anaïs Nin was stripped down to her bare essence, which Kraft captures expertly. She poignantly records not only Nin’s stubborn grip on life, but also the heroic efforts that Rupert Pole, Nin’s West Coast lover, made to shield her from the inevitable pain, agony, and humiliation associated with the disease. It is a monumental tribute to not only those fighting for their lives, but also the forgotten ones—the caregivers.
As Kraft writes a few days before she died, Anaïs whispered her final dream into my ear... “I dreamed that I had all my dresses and capes laid out on the floor and that we were going to have them copied exactly for you so that when I am well we can go out together as twins.... But someone told me that was foolish because I could not get up and go out and that we could not be twins together.”
The very personal events in this book will resonate with anyone who has gone through terminal disease or knows someone who has. So, like Nin herself, the raw reality of Anaïs Nin: The Last Days becomes symbolic, mythical, and universally inspirational.
An intimate and beautiful portrayal of the final years and painful death of Anais Nin, interweaving their study of writing together, the publication of Kraft's diary, and the breakup of the Kraft marriage. This compelling memoir is honest, critical, and full of perceptive insights into the relationships between Nin and her men. "Of all the young women I've worked with you are the one most like me," Nin told Kraft as she lay dying.—Noel Riley Fitch, Anais; the Erotic Life of Anais Nin
Because Kraft's visits with Anais Nin were so frequent during the last two years of Nin's life, Kraft is the most qualified to write this book, which details the grace with which Nin confronted excruciating pain and the prospect of death from cancer. Kraft does not depict her mentor as a saint, but acknowledges her shortcomings, including possibly dishonest advice that had unfortunate consequences for Kraft. Anais Nin: The Last Days will appeal to anyone interested in Nin, but also to readers concerned about relationships between women, the process of dying, and even opera.—Benjamin Franklin V, editor of The Portable Anais Nin
Anais Nin died some 30 years ago, but this important new memoir takes us back to the woman herself. Kraft's moving and deeply personal eyewitness account of Nin's final months—and her gift for candor and self-revelation—makes Kraft's book a must-read. Kraft was there, and the intersection of these two lives makes for sometimes heartbreaking, always lively reading.—Chris Freeman, co-editor of The Isherwood Century
Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, PUBLISHED BY PEGASUS BOOKS is currently available on Amazon:
Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, published as an e-book by Sky Blue Press is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords:
Anaïs Nin: The Last Days is now available directly from iPad (through the iTunes store), Nook, the Sony Reader, as well as other Kindle-friendly devices such as the iPhone and is available through nearly every credible device worldwide.
A former reporter for Time, Washington Post, People, USA Today, and Architectural Digest, Barbara Kraft is author of Anais Nin: The Last Days and The Restless Spirit: Journal of a Gemini, with a preface by Anaïs Nin, and laudatory comment by Carolos Baker, definitive biographer of Ernest Hemingway. Kraft’s work has appeared in The Hudson Review, Michigan Quarterly, Canadian Theatre Review and Columbia Magazine, et al; and among the many radio programs she has hosted and produced is Transforming OC, a two-part KCRW (the awarding winning Santa Monica-based NPR station) documentary on the 2006 opening of the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Kraft is a Registered Reader at the Huntington Library in San Marino and lives and writes in Los Angeles, California. Visit her website: www.bkraftpr.com; contact: Barbara@bkraftpr.com
Recent articles about Anais Nin, please click on article name to view.
Barbara Kraft is available for readings, lectures, speaking engagements and conferences.
Barbara Kraft - ANAIS NIN: The Last Days
The Light Between the Shadows
Publication Date: February 28, 2014
Today more than ever, the sentiments expressed by Ionesco in Barbara Kraft’s ‘Conversation’ with him, are as important, if not more so, than when he spoke to her many years ago. As he said to Kraft, “We know very well that Western humanism is bankrupt. We also know very well that the leaders of the Eastern countries no longer believe in Marxism. Absolute cynicism and a great biological vitality are all that remain of the East’s revolutionary faith and all that keeps its leaders in power — active in the struggle for power and world supremacy…. Life has become, then, a deadly combat without scruple, since all ideologies and moralities have vanished — a combat for the conquest of the planet and its material riches.”
THE RESTLESS SPIRIT:JOURNAL OF A GEMINI
A journal full of drama, sensuality, dreams, fantasies and reflections on readings by a friend of Anais Nin. Includes notes on Nin's depression, hospitalization and teaching... Mythbook
Published by Les Femmes (Milbrae, CA) The Restless Spirit, recounts Kraft’s struggles to achieve individual freedom “as an artist who is a woman in a wealthy, sophisticated society,” The preface was written by Anais Nin.
Carlos Baker, definitive biographer of Hemingway (Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story), wrote “ …Barbara Kraft's book stands out strongly because of her intelligence, her sharp perceptiveness, the power of her prose and the enthralling personal story she has to tell. Many women will want to read what she has written and an equal number of men could profit from it too."
A review in the L.A. Times noted, "There can be no question that this extraordinary journal is a work of excellence. Its poetic merit alone places it beyond the routine categories of thought and art….The Restless Spirit will undoubtedly be a “valuable document in the history of woman’s evolution.” So Anais Nin, the ultimate woman diarist and the author’s own teacher and mentor predicts."
Barbara Kraft has written and published in a variety of genres including drama, fiction, non-fiction (essays, book reviews), autobiography, poetry, and opera libretti.
An hour-long radio play written, directed and produced for KPFK on the Irish revolutionary and extravagant muse of William Butler Yeats; Maud Gonne received the prestigious Ohio State Award as “an outstanding example of original radio drama…” The production featured Julie Adams as the extraordinary Maud.
THE INNOCENTS: WITCH TRIAL AT SALEM
Barbara Kraft wrote the libretto for William Kraft’s The Innocents: Witch Trial at Salem, a chamber work for chorus and orchestra. The Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote: "The libretto by Barbara Kraft gives vivid, incantatory fragments to vocal quartets of Magistrates, Clergy, two groups of Innocents and a chorus representing the Populace. Sections of raucous, conflicting (but tightly written) cries portrayed a community beset by hysteria....the union of words and music bore complete conviction."
THE DREAM TUNNEL: A MUSICAL JOURNEY THROUGH AMERICA
Barbara Kraft wrote and performed the narration for The Dream Tunnel: A Musical Journey Through America set to music by composer William Kraft. The work was commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the 1976 Bicentennial; the first of the three performances was broadcast live over KPFK Pacifica Radio.
FRAU LOU: “DARE EVERYTHING, NEED NOTHING”
A dramatic documentary written, directed and produced for KPFK Pacifica Radio. The legendary Salome, featuring Julie Adams in the title role, was the object of Nietzsche’s thwarted adoration, muse to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and, late in life, a student of Sigmund Freud’s in Vienna.
A radio documentary written, directed and produced for KPFK Pacific Radio. An unscholarly conjecture about the women in Richard Wagner’s life, both real and ‘operatic,’ and how they became intertwined in the composer’s life and work.
SELECTED WORKS PUBLISHED IN LITERARY JOURNALS:
“Recollections of Anais Nin by her Contemporaries,” Ohio University Press, 1996
“An Edited Life: The Death of Anais Nin,” Anais Nin: A Book of Mirrors, Sky Blue Press, Michigan, 1996
“The Last Days of Henry Miller,” Henry Miller: A Book of Tributes, 1931-1994, Standish Books, 1994
"The Last Days of Henry Miller," The Hudson Review, New York, Fall 1993; also broadcast over KCRW-FM
“Art is What Artists Do,” on John Baldessari, for Articles, published by CalArts, 1984-85 issue
“The Universe of Sidney Sheinberg,” Columbia, published by Columbia University Magazine, 1984
“A Conversation with Henry Miller,” Michigan Quarterly Review, the University of Michigan, 1981; also broadcast over KCRW-FM
"Interview: Eugene Ionesco," Canadian Theatre Review, York University, Downsview, Ontario, 1981