Navel-Gazing into the light

On Nin and the importance of navel gazing.

“…alienation from the self means alienation from others. You cannot relate to others if you have no self to begin with…In order to take action full maturity in experience is required. Novels which contribute to our emotional atrophy only deepen our blindness. And nothing that we do not discover emotionally will have the power to alter our vision. The constant evasion of emotional experience has created an immaturity which turns all experience into traumatic shocks from which the human being derives no strength or development, but neurosis.” Nin.



“Anaïs Nin, for instance, is my idea of a navel-gazing, hyper-sexed bore…” (Daphne Merkin in The New York Times, June 16 2002.)

The critique of navel gazing commonly befalls Anaϊs Nin in book reviews, especially during the notorious smear campaign that The New York Times inflicted upon Nin in the 1990s before falling silent on her completely and thus effectively silencing much of the surrounding popular discussion of her. Self-examination is sometimes celebrated, if conducted by those who are seen as worthy subjects, but the same act by others (usually women) is not always afforded equal cultural value but dismissed as if it were a boring self-indulgence rather than vital self-expressive practice.

Navel-gazing is a diminutive term often employed to belittle the work of women who explore deeply personal and intimate details of their inner lives, dismissing them for gazing into what Nin called their “Cities of the…

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