Our anti-hero is this American bird Robin who is so alluring she makes a series of people do the Icarus dance. First in line is the Austrian businessman Felix Volkbein, a closet Jew and fake Baron, whom she marries and bears a son by in Paris. The free spirit he loves cannot be caged in domesticity, and he cannot deny her need to wander away to frolic with others. Nora Flood, a bohemian socialite and former circus performer is the next to be swept away by Robin.
The happy household they form in free-spirited Paris of the 20s does not last as soon the greedy and homely American Jenny Petherbridge, rich from a sinister line of four dead husbands, gets Robin in her talons and sweeps her off the U. We spend a lot of time commiserating with Felix and Nora in the wreckage left behind.
He has the last say in everything. You never know if anything he says is true, but he is the closest to wisdom we can find in this cockeyed tale. That is only the skeleton of this book. The divine ferment of its living flesh lies in the polarities that garland almost every thought and every sentence in the narrative. What do I mean by polarity?
You know, like those maxims such as pleasure always being relative to pain, life forever embodying death and decay, or rewards being proportional to risk. When Felix first encounters Robin as a patient of the doctor, he is drawn to how her eyes remind him of a wild animal. Get this as a strange place for the mind to travel: Sometimes one meets a woman who is beast turning human. Such a woman is the infected carrier of the past: In another scene Nora shares with the doctor how her lost love for Robin is driving her mad: A strong sense of identity gives a man the idea he can do no wrong; too little accomplishes the same.
Would you hurl yourself into any body of water, in the size you are now, for any woman you had to look for with a magnifying glass, or any boy if he was the height of the Eiffel Tower or did droppings like a fly? No, we love in all sizes, yet we all cry out in tiny voices to the great booming God, the older we get.
And I, who want power, chose a girl who resembles a boy. But realism is not the goal. A brilliant and disturbing read that will remain etched on my consciousness. Despite an early presentation of a bisexual character, there is little in this version that really delves into substantive issues of gender and sexuality. Robin is a cipher no matter what. I read that there was much in this novel that was taken out to make it acceptable for publication and that an edition of the Dalkey Archive Press contains as much as possible the version Barnes intended.
View all 6 comments. Many of the reviews of Nightwood on this website seem to reflect the same sentiment, 'how do I even review this? A novel generally follows a basic plot with some semblance of a structure and often has one main character. Nightwood begins the birth of Baron Felix.
We learn about his false patronage and we follow him in his attempt Many of the reviews of Nightwood on this website seem to reflect the same sentiment, 'how do I even review this? We learn about his false patronage and we follow him in his attempt to produce an heir. Then we move on. The book forgets about him and Robin Vote becomes the main character. Then Doctor Matthew becomes the main character. Then Nora becomes the main character. Also over half of this book isn't even narrative. It's just the transsexual Irish gynaecologist Doctor Matthew O'Connor talking about essentially nothing.
There is no plot. There is no structure. There is no one main character. And yet, Nightwood is totally immersive and highly readable. Within the genre of Modernist literature, Nightwood is a relatively easy read.
Barnes doesn't resort to the stream-of-conciousness style that many of her fellow Modernists adopted. Instead she relies on transgression. This novel was one of the first in Western literature to portray a lesbian relationship. Also our pseudo-narrator Dr. Matthew is openly transsexual. This novel is set in bohemian Paris during the rein of Gertrude Stein. It presents an almost unbelievable oasis of decadence and liberality that genuinely did exist before Nazism ended it all. That is the bittersweetness of reading the flamboyant novels of this era, we have the foresight of history and we know how it's all going to end eventually.
Nightwood is a fabulous little novel. It is not hard to believe why Dylan Thomas, T.
Eliot and William S. Burroughs all believed it to be one of the greatest novels ever written. It also recently appeared on the list of Greta Gerwig's ten favourite books, which was the catalyst for my reading it as I bow down at the heels of Gerwig. I would also suggest that this book would be a good starting place for those of you who want to dip your toes into the world of Modernist literature.
Believe me, it's a lot safer than my tragic attempt to read Woolf's The Waves unassisted. Mar 15, Nathan "N. I still see far too frequently folks adding the Truncated Nightwood to their reading. The one slashed up by Eliot in order to get it past the Uptight Folks. If you want Barnes as Barnes wrote herself, you'll have to do better than a slim cheap pb even if it is a New Directions. If you're interested in the controversies about BAN'd Books and things of this nature, you'll not be reading that ubiquitous vic I still see far too frequently folks adding the Truncated Nightwood to their reading.
If you're interested in the controversies about BAN'd Books and things of this nature, you'll not be reading that ubiquitous victim of The Editor's Knife. Eliot and Emily Coleman thought might doom the book to perpetual non-publication. Grateful as one is to have had Barnes' book published in in any form--today we should not be satisfied with any version short of what Barnes' herself had intended to write.
Plumb has returned to Barnes' three original typescripts, Barnes' letters to friends and editors, and all editions of the work from to to produce a version of Nightwood which is as close as possible to what Barnes would have had published had she the freedom then of her reputation now.
In addition to the restored text are helpful annotations explicating some of Barnes' musical, literary, and historical allusions as well as several interesting instances of her self-explication in attempting to clear up her meaning for various translators. The book is typeset in a very friendly manner with critical apparatus interruptions quietly left to the margins, leaving the appearance of a non-surgical text.
Rare among critical editions it is both reader-friendly and critically deep, the entire apparatus being readily ignored. And for the committed Barnes student, Plumb has included 75 pages of related draft material, photographically reproduced with hand corrections and comments by Barnes and her editors. Although this edition is far richer in content than the average fiction reader may require, one should not settle for an outdated text.
And for any student of modernist fiction this edition is the essential avenue by which to approach Barnes and her most well known novel. As for the book itself, I cede ground to those who love better. The book has its lovers. It is that good. But I am certainly not worthy of it. Please, for the readerly experience allow me to recommend those four- and five-star reviews here on goodreads written by its lovers.
View all 17 comments. Jan 09, Kai rated it liked it Shelves: It's vibrant, engaging and utterly confusing. It's philosophy made poetry. And I am neither a philosopher nor a poet. This book is and will most certainly always remain a mystery to me. The plot is the easy part: Woman marries dude, has his child, leaves him for another woman, leaves her for another woman, and everybody is friends with the Doctor.
Not the Doctor, though. What remains "We are but skin against a wind, with muscles clenched against mortality. What remains in the shadows are Robin's woman who leaves everybody for somebody else motives. And the Doctor's monologues. But if you're looking for a queer classic novel and truly beautiful prose, this is your book. Find more of my books on Instagram Apr 05, Hadrian rated it really liked it Shelves: Nightwood is a damned fearsome book.
It is a crazed electric monologue through the intimations of secret love and the creeping monsters that lurk in nightmares. I am obliged to quote T. Eliot's introduction and say that this is a book suited for those with "sensibilities trained on poetry". This is not just from the beauty of Barnes' prose style, but the meaning and insinuation dripping from every word.
It is a flowing sequence of emotions, mostly traumas. Love is seldom sappy here, but an in Nightwood is a damned fearsome book. Love is seldom sappy here, but an intensely sharp and painful thing. At the beginning, Djuna lapses into dull stereotypes about Jews. This a gross fault because otherwise she's such an authentic writer on relationships, and relying on these props is a major detraction from the rest of the work.
Still, Nightwood is an entrancing book, an intense and rapid burn. In the preface, the book receives copious amounts of praise from Jeanette Winterson. She was influenced by the blatant lesbian content Barnes presents here: S Eliot even praised it, and T. S Eliot criticised everything to death.
That first page will, nevertheless, always remain awful. But this is a book about appearances; it is a book about seeming rather than being, as the book progresses it does, indeed, change completely. The language became almost poetical and eloquent: If you go into this expecting a linear progression or a sense of fulfilment, then you will be highly disappointed. This is something different, a piece of art that captures the intertwining lives of a bunch of people who are in themselves a little bit different. Centre to them is the character Robin. She has a strange effect on people; she possesses a power, an ability that draws people to her.
A sense of strangeness or otherness that is hard to pinpoint, though it is one that makes people fall in love with her rather quickly.
She is not a conventional person. Anyone who spends time with her drastically risks getting hurt. She moves on from lovers rather quickly but her partners most certainly do not move on from her, ever.
Her existence is a strange one. In this sense she reminded me very much of Andre Bretton's Nadja She seems to float through life without a sense of purpose or direction. She is always drawn away from what she has. In the romantic sense, this seems to be a communion with nature. The ending of the book could suggest that she finds it, but it could also suggest that she has gone completely insane due to her unfulfilling life. It is one that must be experienced and pondered.
In a strange sort of way, it is more like poetry than a novel. The words are a vessel for capturing an essence of something meaningful. This is a book to be scrutinised and studied to see the depth of the work, but it is not one I overly enjoyed reading. A patient reader is required. Apr 25, Jesse rated it it was amazing Shelves: Fourth reading, and it remains just as much a mystery as ever. Marianne Moore said that "reading Djuna Barnes is like reading a foreign language, which you understand," and while I don't disagree I find that any sensation of "comprehension" simply feels like entering another locked room to puzzle out of.
A labyrinth with no exit, and I wouldn't have it any other way. After a second reading was compelled to include the missing fifth star.
Maybe someday I'll be able to write something Fourth reading, and it remains just as much a mystery as ever. Maybe someday I'll be able to write something that would do this magnificent, enigmatic text justice. So I'm not used to this kind of reaction with a book--finished it this morning, and I might very well start it all over again. This never happens to me. And this despite not knowing what the hell was going on half most? I've never come across anything quite like this before. Was initially intrigued by Susan Sontag's comment in her journal that her and her friends were essentially characters out of this novel; I wonder now how much of her own romantic sufferings were modeled off of Norah Flood's Jul 14, Jimmy rated it really liked it Shelves: Elliot said of Nightwood , that it was "so good a novel that only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it".
It's really more like a poetic dream than it is a novel. This isn't really because there is no narrative to be found, there is, and what's more, there is a clearly defined romantic conflict between the two main female characters, Nora Flood and Robin Vote. What makes it poetic is probably the flowery digressions that follow the brief explanations of what is happening i T. What makes it poetic is probably the flowery digressions that follow the brief explanations of what is happening in the story. These digressions are eclectic though, with a focus on a variety of themes; the war, Catholicism, Judaism, and the cultural qualities of several different nationalities.
Although, it's main focus is Nora Flood's complicated and, more or less, unrequited love for Robin Vote. To be honest, it seems as though one's opinions of Nightwood should be reserved for after a second reading. Its opening pages introduce a world that goes through a number of alterations in tone and feeling. And as one starts to pay attention to the story, Barnes' overwhelming flood of poetic language dominates the narrative, to the point where they are stunned by the beauty of the sentences and descriptions, not to mention the countless aphorisms spouted by Barnes' characters.
Lines such as "To pay homage to our past is the only gesture that also includes the future" sort of tranquilized my mind. I found that I had stopped reading, glanced out of the window of the bus, and mused on the paradox of time for about five minutes. So, in short, it's a book of so many beautiful distractions that it's difficult to describe.
What I've just read still eludes my mind to an extent, but whatever it was, I remember being moved by its poetic boldness. My second reading of this, but my first of the Dalkey edition. Reading it along with other of her work this year I have no doubt of her place amongst the great literary geniuses of the inter-war era. She is unafraid of complexity, subtlety and nuance. She is unabashedly, proudly, queer and the un-censored Dalkey edition does much to bring the transgressive power of this text back to life. She has the intelligence, ambition and courage to produce truly great art.
This is one of the great books o My second reading of this, but my first of the Dalkey edition. This is one of the great books of the dark, of that which we have always already hidden. It is a great work of Modernism, and was recognised as such by at least one of the Trinity - as T.
E's editing and introduction make clear, he certainly recognised the importance of the text, despite his over-eager use of the red pen This book does not need a review from me, it has managed to remain above the earth and no spade-work is required. If you plan to read it, I would say that the only edition worth getting is the Dalkey and that you do the book and yourself a disservice by reading any other version View all 5 comments.
Nelle notti alcoliche si inseguono amanti effimere e atroci, tra bar sconfinati, sentieri minacciosi e teatri di insensatezza. Sembra, hanno scritto, ricaduta dal cielo la sua prosa poetica, ancestrale rapace intrappolato in pelle di donna. Di mistero in mistero, il lettore cerca una o molte interpretazioni, in un bosco disorganico e inviolabile di significati e contenuti, in una forma immersa e mutevole, in una tensione che attrae e respinge.
La coscienza fluisce allora nella scrittura, tormentata forse dalla violenza; tratti di fiaba, colpi di satira, antimateria lirica. Mar 23, Mala rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Night people do not bury their dead, but on the neck of you, their beloved and waking, sling the creature, husked of its gestures. And where you go, it goes, the two of you, your living and her dead, that will not die; to daylight, to life, to grief, until both are carrion. This is the beginning of the modern diaspora - all peoples, all places, all change.
Most important in this regard, is the character of Dr. I wisely used points from T. Eliot's introduction as signposts, that: The book is not simply a collection of individual portraits; the characters are all knotted together, as people are in real life, by what we may call chance or destiny. The book is not a psychopathic study. The miseries that people suffer through their particular abnormalities of temperament are visible on the surface: To regard this group of people as a horrid sideshow of freaks is They want to know everything about her the way M.
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. Her body suffered from its fare, laughter and crumbs, abuse and indulgence.
But put out a hand to touch her, and her hand moved perceptibly with the broken arc of two instincts, recoil and advance, so that the head rocked timidly and aggressively at the same moment, giving her a slightly shuddering and expectant rhythm. She writhed under the necessity of being unable to wear anything becoming, being one of those panicky little women who, no matter what they put on, look like a child under penance.
She had a fancy for tiny ivory or jade elephants; she said they were luck; she left a trail of tiny elephants wherever she went; and she went hurriedly and gasping. Her walls, her cupboards, her bureaux, were teeming with second-hand dealings with life. It takes a bold and authentic robber to get first —hand plunder. Someone else's marriage ring was on her finger; the photograph taken of Robin for Nora sat upon her table.
The books in her library were other people's selections. She lived among her own things like a visitor to a room kept "exactly as it was when. She stopped, fluttering and febrile, before every object in her house. She had no sense of humour or peace or rest, and her own quivering uncertainty made even the objects which she pointed out to the company, as, "My virgin from Palma," or, "The left-hand glove of La Duse," recede into a distance of uncertainty, so that it was almost impossible for the onlooker to see them at all.
When anyone was witty about a contemporary event, she would look perplexed and a little dismayed, as if someone had done something that really should not have been done; therefore her attention had been narrowed down to listening for faux pas. She frequently talked about something being the "death of her," and certainly anything could have been had she been the first to suffer it. The words that fell from her mouth seemed to have been lent to her; she had been forced to invent a vocabulary of two words, "ah" and "oh.
The stories were humorous, well told. She would smile, toss her hands up, widen her eyes; immediately everyone in the room had a certain feeling of something lost, sensing that there was one person who was missing the importance of the moment, who had not heard the story; the teller herself. She was generous with money.
She made gifts lavishly and spontaneously. She was the worst recipient of presents in the world. She sent bushel basket of camellias to actresses because she had a passion for the characters they portrayed.