Nightwood

Front Cover
New Directions Publishing, Aug 29, 2006 - Fiction - 182 pages
328 Reviews
Nightwood, Djuna Barnes' strange and sinuous tour de force, "belongs to that small class of books that somehow reflect a time or an epoch" (Times Literary Supplement). That time is the period between the two World Wars, and Barnes' novel unfolds in the decadent shadows of Europe's great cities, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna—a world in which the boundaries of class, religion, and sexuality are bold but surprisingly porous.

The outsized characters who inhabit this world are some of the most memorable in all of fiction—there is Guido Volkbein, the Wandering Jew and son of a self-proclaimed baron; Robin Vote, the American expatriate who marries him and then engages in a series of affairs, first with Nora Flood and then with Jenny Petherbridge, driving all of her lovers to distraction with her passion for wandering alone in the night; and there is Dr. Matthew-Mighty-Grain-of-Salt-Dante-O'Connor, a transvestite and ostensible gynecologist, whose digressive speeches brim with fury, keen insights, and surprising allusions. Barnes' depiction of these characters and their relationships (Nora says, "A man is another persona woman is yourself, caught as you turn in panic; on her mouth you kiss your own") has made the novel a landmark of feminist and lesbian literature.

Most striking of all is Barnes' unparalleled stylistic innovation, which led T. S. Eliot to proclaim the book "so good a novel that only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it." Now with a new preface by Jeanette Winterson, Nightwood still crackles with the same electric charge it had on its first publication in 1936.
  

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5 stars
117
4 stars
86
3 stars
44
2 stars
52
1 star
29

Barnes writes in lovely prose. - Goodreads
The writing is just murky and awkward. - Goodreads
Her writing is incredible. - Goodreads
Ending was quite odd and abrupt though. - Goodreads
And of course it's a love story. - Goodreads
... okay, so that's not a great intro. - Goodreads

Review: Nightwood

User Review  - Sidra - Goodreads

A great reputation. I see its significance. Ahead of its time with its queerness and the identies of the characters. A feminist dream. I'm not happy I hated it. I usually like run on, dreamy, poetic ... Read full review

Review: Nightwood

User Review  - Sasha Danielle - Goodreads

“she was always holding God's bag of tricks upside down” (Djuna Barnes, 'Nightwood') Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

BOW DOWN
3
LA SOMNAMBULE
32
NIGHT WATCH
55
THE SQUATTER
71
WATCHMAN WHAT OF THE NIGHT?
84
WHERE THE TREE FALLS
114
GO DOWN MATTHEW
132
THE POSSESSED
176
Biographical Note
181
Copyright

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References to this book

Bisexuality: A Critical Reader
Merl Storr
No preview available - 1999
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About the author (2006)

Although Djuna Barnes was a New Yorker who spent much of her long life in Greenwich Village, where she died a virtual recluse in 1982, she resided for extended periods of time in France and England. Her writings are representative modernist works in that they seem to transcend all national boundaries to take place in a land peculiarly her own. Deeply influenced by the French symbolists of the late nineteenth century and by the surrealists of the 1930s, she also wrote as a liberated woman, whose unconventional way of life is reflected in the uncompromising individuality of her literary style. Barnes's dreamlike and haunted writings have never found a wide popular audience, but they have strongly influenced such writers as Rebecca West, Nelson Algren, Dahlberg, Lowry, Miller, and especially Nin, in whose works a semifictional character named Djuna sometimes appears. In 1915 Barnes anonymously published The Book of Repulsive Women. Not long after she moved to Paris and became associated with the colony of writers and artists who made that city the international center of culture during the 1920s and early 1930s. Her Ladies Almanack was privately printed in Paris in 1928, the same year that Liveright in the United States published Ryder, her first novel. The book on which Barnes's fame largely rests is Nightwood (1936), a surrealistic story set in Paris and the United States, dealing with the complex relationships among a group of strangely obsessed characters, most of them homosexuals and lesbians. Barnes wrote little after Nightwood. In 1952, she professed to Malcolm Lowry that the experience of writing that searing work so frightened her that she was unable to write anything after it. Fortunately, her literary talents revived with The Antiphon, a verse-drama originally published in 1958, which is now available in Selected Works (1962).

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