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Nightwood (1936)

by Djuna Barnes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,549464,090 (3.53)129
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.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Lime Twig by John Hawkes (nymith)
    nymith: Barnes was a great influence on Hawkes and both novels share a dreamlike and grotesque writing style.
  2. 00
    A Woman Appeared to Me by Renée Vivien (mambo_taxi)
    mambo_taxi: Nightwood is definitely the better of the two books, but if early 20th century expatriate lesbians living in Paris are your kind of thing, then A Woman Appeared to Me will be of interest.
  3. 00
    Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (lilysea)
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» See also 129 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
El bosque de la noche es la obra maestra de Djuna Barnes y una de las grandes novelas de la literatura contemporánea. París, 1927. En un ambiente que fluctúa entre la aristocracia, la bohemia y el mundo del circo, se encarna el enigma esencial de la condición humana en la figura de la joven Robin Vote, fascinada por la atracción del abismo, y en las tres personas que se disputan su amor: el falso barón judío vienés Felix Volkbein, la leal Nora Flood y la ávida Jenny Petherbridge. Testigo de la historia, y confidente de Felix y Nora, el extravagante doctor Matthew O’Connor.

Incapaz de encontrar editor para la versión inicial y más explícita de El bosque de la noche, Djuna Barnes accedió a que su amiga Emily Coleman y su editor, T. S. Eliot, cortaran fragmentos —desde una palabra hasta pasajes de tres páginas— para dar con la versión «publicable» que vio la luz en 1936. La especialista Cheryl J. Plumb ha estudiado y publicado la novela restituyendo el material eliminado y la redacción y puntuación original, ofreciendo al lector en español por vez primera la versión íntegra de este gran clásico del siglo XX.

El bosque de la noche recibió inmediatamente críticas elogiosas. The Spectator la comparaba con la obra de Virginia Woolf; Lawrence Durrell decía: «El hecho de ser contemporáneo de Djuna Barnes es un motivo de felicidad»; Graham Greene escribía: «Una escritora dotada de una asombrosa capacidad expresiva… Una riqueza espontánea de imágenes y de alusiones, una umbría fecundidad del habla, alarmante e irresistible como la mar brava», y Dylan Thomas sentenciaba: «Uno de los tres grandes libros en prosa que jamás haya escrito una mujer.»
  ArchivoPietro | Oct 24, 2020 |
No clue why this is regarded as some kind of seminal work in queer literature. It’s certainly queer, but not in the way the gushing Winterson considers it in her foreword.

It’s kind of very loosely about the love of two women for each other, but then it’s not even really about that. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to say that it’s about anything at all.

There are a number of characters who are linked by their love for a woman who basically trashes them all emotionally, and there’s a mad doctor. He gives them advice at various stages which either resembles the ramblings of a madman or some esoteric philosopher no one can make head nor tail of.

It’s very tedious to read, there’s no real plot to speak of, and the whole thing has aged quite badly indeed. There’s really nothing here so it’s no surprise that it’s fallen into obscurity.

There is one plus point, though: it’s fewer than 200 pages long. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 6, 2020 |
A landmark work in lesbian literature and certainly the work of a highly intelligent woman, but for my taste, far too dense in its prose, with long meandering sentences making up paragraphs and modernist techniques that made it a battle to get through. The references and gist of the points Barnes expands on about her characters (telling instead of showing) often seem tedious or just escaped me. Maybe I’m just getting too old, but for whatever reason, this didn’t resonate with me, and I just didn’t see the elegance of poetry in the work, as T.S. Eliot did. ( )
1 vote gbill | Apr 6, 2020 |
An interesting story of a fake baron, three women who have affairs with each other, and a cross dressing doctor who rambles endlessly and ties the four other characters together. A favorite of T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas although Eliot does say it needs to be read several times. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
"gloomy nonsense that doesn't work" ( )
  slplst | Jun 23, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
...the real achievement–and where I found most of my enjoyment–is in Barnes’ phenomenal and inimitable use of language. While reading Nightwood, I thought often of Slate critic Meghan O’Rourke’s line in her case for difficult books: “Reviewers sometimes don’t tell readers what to expect or explain that a book’s primary pleasure is linguistic rather than narrative…” What I loved about Nightwood–what really had me inking up the margins–was Barnes’ powerful ideas and unusual word combinations.
 
...the wonder of Nightwood is not only stylistic. It lies in the range and depth of feeling the words convey. There is irony here and humor, too, but in the end, the novel is a hymn to the dispossessed, the misbegotten and those who love too much. At one time or another, I suspect that those adjectives describe most of us.
 
Nightwood is itself. It is its own created world, exotic and strange, and reading it is like drinking wine with a pearl dissolving in the glass. You have taken in more than you know, and it will go on doing its work. From now on, a part of you is pearl-lined.
 
Few authors have achieved so much celebrity with one novel as the elegant, exotic Djuna Barnes, without whom no account of Greenwich Village in the teens, or the Left Bank in the 1920's, is complete. That one novel was "Nightwood." Overwritten and self-indulgent, it carries off its flaws with splendid nonchalance.
added by Lemeritus | editNew York Times (Nov 26, 1995)
 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Djunaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eliot, T.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterson, JeanetteIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Peggy Guggenheim and John Ferrar Holms
First words
Early in 1880, in spite of a well-founded suspicion as to the advisability of perpetuating that race which has the sanction of the Lord and the disapproval of the people, Hedvig Volkbein—a Viennese woman of great strength and military beauty, lying upon a canopied bed of a rich spectacular crimson, the valance stamped with the bifurcated wings of the House of Hapsburg, the feather coverlet an envelope of satin on which, in massive and tarnished gold threads, stood the Volkbein arms—gave birth, at the age of forty-five, to an only child, a son, seven days after her physician predicted that she would be taken.
Quotations
In our society, where it is hard to find time to do anything properly, even once, the leisure—which is part of the pleasure—of reading is one of our culture-casualties. (Jeanette Winterson, Preface)
We don’t go to Shakespeare to find out about life in Elizabethan England; we go to Shakespeare to find out about ourselves now. (Jeanette Winterson, Preface)
Nightwood, peculiar, eccentric, particular, shaded against the insistence of too much daylight, is a book for introverts, in that we are all introverts in our after-hours secrets and deepest loves. (Jeanette Winterson, Preface)
There is pain in who we are, and the pain of love—because love itself is an opening and a wound—is a pain no one escapes except by escaping life itself. (Jeanette Winterson, Preface)
What had formed Felix from the date of his birth to his coming to thirty was unknown to the world, for the step of the wandering Jew is in every son. No matter where and when you meet him you feel that he has come from some place—no matter from what place he has come—some country that he has devoured rather than resided in, some secret land that he has been nourished on but cannot inherit, for the Jew seems to be everywhere from nowhere. -Page 10
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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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