Thus begins Barbara Kraft's memoir, Anais Nin: The Last Days. With her sometimes loving and sometimes raw prose, Kraft has done what no biographer, no scholar, no film could do: capture the humanity, mortality, and essence of one of the twentieth century's most celebrated and yet mysterious literary figures.
Anais 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: Kraft's impending cataclysmic divorce and Nin's terminal cancer. 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.
And, as Kraft observes,
"Illness is the great leveler from which none of us is immune. It flushes out all the old, buried truths and puts us in touch with the essential meaning of things. There is no time, no energy for masks, veils, labyrinths, interior cities, or multiple hearts. Death hovered over her, the one reality that Anaïs could not transcend or transmute or transform or levitate with the magic of words. It was a reality she met with a dignity that tore at the heart of all of us who knew her and were close to her."
Because of the overwhelming reality of cancer, Anais 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.
The very personal events in this book can be appreciated by anyone who has gone through terminal disease or know someone who has. So, like Nin herself, the raw reality of Anais Nin: The Last Days becomes symbolic, mythical, and universally inspirational.
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