cover image Anaïs Nin: A Sea of Lies

Anaïs Nin: A Sea of Lies

Léonie Bischoff, trans. from the French by Jenna Allen. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (200p) ISBN 978-1-68396-759-0

Angoulême audience award winner Bischoff’s English-language debut is an exhilarating if sometimes disturbing graphic biography of writer and artist Anaïs Nin (1903–1977). “My lies are protective, life-giving,” says Nin, whose deceptions include affairs, clandestine meetings, and a secret diary full of explicit erotic fantasies. While married to the loving but naive Hugo Guiler, Nin begins to explore different sides of herself, including the obedient wife, the sexual taboo-breaker, and the passionate devotee of sensuality. After obsessive affairs with the novelist Henry Miller, several psychotherapists, and even (unsettlingly) with family members, Nin vows to reject conventions to “write like a woman” and instead “express the inexpressible.” Bischoff is careful to not reduce Nin to her liaisons, which are drawn across a romantic, curlicue depiction of 1930s Paris, but instead delves into how her sexual exploration helps free her as a writer. Bischoff’s combination of charcoal and rainbow color palettes echo Nin’s double life, while the immersive splash pages blend reality and fantasy. The stunning visuals elevate the titillating but respectful narrative. It’s a nuanced, gorgeously drawn portrait of a beautifully complicated figure. (June)