The fiery and enigmatic masterpiece—one of the greatest novels of the Modernist era.
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.
About the Author
Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) was born in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, and worked as a journalist in New York before leaving the country to spend many years in Paris and London. She returned to New York in 1941, and lived in Greenwich Village until her death.
Jeanette Winterson is the author of nine novels, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (which won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel), Lighthousekeeping, Sexing the Cherry, and Weight.
T. S. Eliot (1888–1965) was one of the fathers of modernism and a defining voice in English-language poetry. He is the author of some of the best known poems in the English language, including "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," The Waste Land, "Ash Wednesday," and Four Quartets. The leading poet of the modernist avant-garde, Eliot radically reimagined the possibilities for literature in the twentieth century and beyond, and was also renowned as a playwright and as a literary and social critic. Eliot's books of criticism include The Sacred Wood, while his theatrical works include Murder in the Cathedral. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.
A novel of extraordinary and appalling force...a kind of symbol of sinister magnificence.
— The New York Times
One of the great masterworks of twentieth-century fiction.
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 your is pearl-lined.
— Jeanette Winterson
What I would leave the reader prepared to find is the great achievement of of a style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliant of wit and characterization and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy.
— T. S. Eliot
One of the greatest books of the twentieth century.
— William S. Burroughs
Djuna Barnes is a writer of wild and original gifts. . . .To her name there is always to be attached the splendor of Nightwood, a lasting achievement of her great gifts and eccentricities---her passionate prose and, in this case, a genuineness of human passions.
— Elizabeth Hardwick
A masterpiece of modernism.
— The Washington Post Book World
To have been madly and disastrously in love is a kind of glory that can only be made intelligible in a sublime poetry—the revelatory and layered poetry of Djuna Barnes's masterpiece, Nightwood.
— Dorothy Allison, author of the National Book Award-nominated novel Bastard Out of Carolina