Nightwood (Faber Classics) (Faber Fiction Classics) Paperback – 9 Apr 2001
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Djuna Barnes' novel documents the lives of Americans and Europeans in Paris in the decadent roaring twenties.
About the Author
Djuna Barnes was born in 1892 in Cornwall-on-Hudson in New York State. In 1912 she enrolled as a student at Pratt Institute and then at the Art Students' League, and while she was there she started to work as a reporter and illustrator for the Brooklyn Eagle. In 1921 she moved to Paris, where she lived for almost twenty years and wrote for such publications as Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. Nightwood, written in 1936, was her second novel. It is now considered a masterpiece, praised by T. S. Eliot for its 'great achievement of a style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterization, and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy'. Her other works include A Book, a collection of short stories, poems and one-act plays; a satirical novel, Ladies Almanack; and a verse play, The Antiphon. She died in New York in 1982.
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But what of other factors that would comprise a novel? We may consider theme or character, and "Nightwood" has them in abundance. Barnes' facility with prose justifies its poetic attribution, and she twists her words into a tapestry nothing short of gorgeous, giving us the memorable Matthew O'Connor, "the greatest liar this side of the moon"; the Baron Felix Volkbein, and the principal women of this theatrical cast; Robin Vote, a woman with the body of a boy, Jenny Petherbridge, and Nora Flood. This hymn to forsaken love gives us a novel that is operatic, sung in a Baudelairian mode in 1920s Paris. The Beloved, the Night, the swell of hearts so misfit that they must surely belong if only for an instant, are what we encounter through the unique voices of our anti heroes.
I will say no more. "Nightwood" is a novel and a poem, and is a work not to be missed.