Nightwood
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Nightwood

by
3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  4,034 ratings  ·  395 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" (TLS). 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...more
Paperback, 182 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by New Directions (first published 1936)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
394th out of 1,303 books — 3,271 voters
Middlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerTipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersMaurice by E.M. ForsterTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best LGBTQIA literature
91st out of 734 books — 739 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
mark monday
Nightwood is the sound of hearts breaking, written on the page, spread out for all to see, five lives, five people eviscerated and eviscerating each other. These people fucking kill me, they are so sad and so full of nonsense and so determined to live in their own personal little boxes, striving for epiphanies that they barely even understand, trying to be a certain idea of What a Person Is. Is that what I'm like? Maybe that's what everyone is like. Barnes lays out these characters' lives like b...more
Aubrey
4.999...9/5

It is wise of me to mention that from here on out, I have no idea what I'm talking about. Which, admittedly, is the usual truth of the matter concerning these reviews, but this book in particular makes me give a damn about how much knowledge did not or has not yet trickled down and damned up in my mind. Not enough to get mad over, or perhaps rather not the right type. No, this is a shaft of light breaking into countless beams that my eye has populated itself with multitudes in hopes o...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 1.75* of five

The Book Report: Serial adultress and all-around malcontent Robin leaves her too, too unendurable husband "Baron Felix" after presenting him with the desired heir...only the child is crippled...and takes up with Nora, a whiny dishrag of a nothing-much who represents Robin's desire for dreary domesticity. Needless to say, Robin can't stand too much of that and leaves Nora at home so she can cavort and disport herself with all and sundry. While so doing, Robin meets Jenny, a s...more
Jimmy
T.S. 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...more
Jeff Jackson
The novel that almost ended my book club.

We'd previously read work by Robert Coover, Anne Carson, and Ben Marcus. Cormac McCarthy's Suttree and The Story of O. But it was Nightwood that most of the usually intrepid group didn't bother to finish, a few unwilling to even venture past the first chapter. Bitter complaints of overly baroque language, old fashioned concerns with ancestry, and a story where "nothing happened." Folks were pissed.

To be honest, I'm still mystified. While it took me far...more
knig
Nightwood plays out lenticularly: Christ-cum Rasputin- like Dr O’Connor dominates the central frame with secondary characters phasing in and out in tune with a subtle rotational accretion of meditational ‘om’ spiked Eurekas.

A trifecta of bisexual women in perpetual locomotion seek out a Pythagorian articulation of their triangular ‘saltarello’, overseen by the gregarious doctor and overshadowed by a jilted husband. This then is the plot, what little of it there is.

Character driven in extremis, ‘...more
Hadrian
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. S. 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...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The Dalkey Archive has produced a beautiful critical edition of Djuna Barnes'Nightwood, salvaging from the censors that material which T.S. Eliot and Emily Coleman thought might doom the book to perpetual non-publication. Grateful as one is to have had Barnes' book published in 1936--in any form--today we should not be satisfied with any version short of what Barnes' herself had intended to write. Editor Cheryl J. Plumb has returned to Barnes' three original typescripts, Barnes' letters to frien...more
Mala
Review of Nightwood by Djuna Barnes.
Shelf: Female writer,Modern fiction,disturbing.
Recommended for: Tortured souls,outcasts.

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.

Nightwood is such a strange book and this isn't so much a ramrod- straight person's reaction to gay-l...more
Paul
A short, but by no means easy novel set in Paris (mostly) in the 1930s. It is semi-autobiographical and contains some strong and memorable characters. My edition has two introductions. The first by T S Eliot says that to truly understand Nightwood you have to have a poetic sensibility (Well thsnks for that Tom; if I don't get it that means I am a complete philistine!!!}. After that I really wanted to hate the book but sadly couldn't. The other intro is an achingly heartfelt and passionate recomm...more
Nate D
Jul 22, 2012 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: moth-flame loves undying and inescapable
Recommended to Nate D by: The terrifying body language of a doomed couple glimpsed across the room
A strange and oddly removed portrayal of chained relationship collapse. Or not so much collapse, as the structures seem never so well-built as to merit the power and finality of a "collapse". Instead, constructed of ephemeral and ill-defined desires, these relationships barely exist to begin with, already well into their inexorable fade into nonexistence. The strongest structures about them were always the bitter unflagging despair of a human connection that will never, never be found. Even when...more
Teresa
Se eu tivesse menos centenas de livros para ler...
Se eu tivesse um pouco mais de tempo livre...
Se eu tivesse uma distância maior da idade definida como esperança de vida...
Se eu tivesse como objectivo principal da leitura não a diversão mas o conhecimento...
Se se se...
Talvez eu tivesse lido as 160 páginas...
Como não, li apenas metade.

Da metade que li não percebi se se trata de um romance ou de um tratado filosófico.
A prosa é muito bonita, lá isso é. Mas não o suficiente para me interessar pelo...more
S.
This book can be read in many different ways: As an ode to an era, a pagan allegory of the mundane, a surrealist tale of love and loss, a lament for the stupid fornication tango of hiërarchical primates 'till death does them pointless, a cryptic description of the search for sexual identity.

What you must do, however you approach this text, is put your skin back on afterwards, because this book rips you out of it sinew, pump and spine.

It took me forever to read it, considering how short the actua...more
Jesse
After a second reading had to include the missing fifth star. Full reassessment soon.

...


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. Immediately. This never happens to me.

And this despite not knowing what the hell was going on half (most?) of the time, but by the end I became intoxicated by the sheer absurdity that made me laugh stupidly despite being in public, the unexpected submersions into harrowing despair,...more
David
Mar 28, 2013 David rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lesbian flappers, transvestite gynecologists, fake Jewish barons
Nightwood is one of those literary books where the power is all in the prose, and you read it for the experience. Of plot there is very little, and the characters are grotesque sketches. Robin Vote is an American in Paris. She marries a Jew and self-styled "Baron" named Hedvig Folkbein, bears him a sickly child named Guido, and leaves them both abandoned and ruined when she runs off with another woman, Nora Flood. She and Nora enjoy a tumultuous, passionate and dissipated affair before Robin run...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
T.S.Eliot wrote an introduction to this novel in 1937. He said he has read it "a number of times." Twelve years later, in 1949, he wrote a note to the book's second edition. He said his "admiration for the book has not diminished."

In 1937 T.S.Eliot said that this novel would "appeal primarily to readers of poetry." I agree. I could even dare say that this is poetry masquerading as prose. Thus, even with a deceptively simple plot, almost in every page passages will move you even if you're unsure...more
Jess
Attention lesbians: Don't marry a Jewish guy pretending to be an Austrian Duke, have a son, and ignore them both to run off to America with a much older, neurotic sugar mama. That PSA aside, I have to say this is the longest 170 pages I've ever read. There are, for example, whole chapters born out of a character asking, "What is the nature of night?" (This was answered by a gay socialite fake doctor.) It's one of those books people call "poetic."

Lest I forget to spoil the ending for you, the les...more
Tom Meade
Well this was a strange, yet strangely compelling book. Lauded by William S. Burroughs - an introduction by T.S. Elliot - the better part of its length is taken-up with bizarre monologues against the insanity and artifice of modern society, delivered by an unlicenced, transvestite medical doctor. It has all the markings of a cult classic and couldn't possibly be as good as it sounds - but then it actually is.

I wonder if we can trace modern literary fiction's obsession with writing purely in epig...more
Jim
May 09, 2013 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of language, philosophy, despair, and the night
What a great surprise to read this novel!

Barnes creates an engrossing and marvelous and terrifying world of the night with rich prose and acute observations of the night's victims and perpetrators. Robin, the woman-child destroying the hearts who dare to love her. Nora and Jenny, two contenders for Robin's abuse. Felix, a would-be aristocrat who has a son with Robin shortly before she leaves him for good. And most impressive, the transvestite Doctor O'Connor, whose midnight musings show off the...more
Bastet
Sabía que me iba a gustar, pero no imaginaba que me iba a fascinar. Djuna Barnes (Cornwall-on-Hudson, Nueva York, 1892 - Nueva York, 1982) pone en boca del personaje bisagra, el que sostiene toda la novela, Matthew O'Connor, el doctor irlandés confidente de Nora (trasunto de la propia escritora), unas analogías endiabladamente gráficas entre el reino animal y el sexo femenino. Da la sensación de que Djuna Barnes entiende mejor a los animales que a las personas. Salvando las distancias, otro escr...more
Bandit
This book has been praised as one of the best works by a female author and in general of the last century. It gathered praise by famous poets and authors. It seems almost criminal to dislike this book, but I got to be honest I pretty much regard it as an utter waste of time. It satisfied my curiosity about it, sure, but as far as the reading experience goes, it was stupendously tedious. Possibly, as the accolades suggest, one must be a poet or have a certain appreciation of poetry, to enjoy this...more
Antonomasia
There are some stunning, mind-twisting sentences and paragraphs in Nightwood: things I'd truly never heard before. Things I needed: I was doing well enough until you came along and kicked my stone over, and out I came, all moss and eyes. But I didn't really bond with the book as a whole.
Yes, it is dreamlike, yes it is more like dance than a novel. That I understand and appreciate.

It was O'Connor's speeches which got in the way of the story for me. (Having read lots of Booker novels recently I s...more
Adam
Nightwood is one odd duck of “novel”, a cascade of beautiful and sometimes disturbing images written in poetic yet comic prose. People looking for a book about a realistic treatment of a lesbian relationship or a book of female empowerment might be confused by this book, as this is all about the language and the truly weird characters. The female empowerment is in the fiery eccentricities of Barnes’ writing. The combination of the poetic, the ominous, and the comic earns her comparisons to Joyce...more
will
i read this book in college and have read it on an almost annual basis since. and i swear, i never feel like i'm reading the same book. it's prose is thick with lush descriptions and imagery reminiscent of a lot of the ex-pat's of paris at the time. it's intoxicating. the only drawback is that there's not a whole lot of djuna barnes' work available. so don't get too attached. and if you do, don't say i didn't warn you. i'm notorious for my warnings and i've worked hard to garner such a reputatio...more
Rhonda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janet
Another book that the star rating system barely fits. This is a classic, interior, brilliant, odd, irritating, lovely, unpleasant, lyric, weird book from the '30's... self-impressed European decadence... traces of Sally Bowles, definitely expect that green nailpolish. It was heavily promoted by TS Eliot in one of those strange literary love affairs... You wince at the anti-semitism (I hate when people try to explain their characters as racial specimens, rather than human beings), and flounder a...more
Andrew
I really, really wanted to love this. Because it's all transgressive and modernist and shit.

But its whole is vastly, vastly smaller than the sum of its parts. A good turn of phrase here, a monologue there doesn't make for an especially interesting story. In fact, the monologues kind of feel like angry and needless tack-ons from the novel's characters... who are not especially interesting and remind me of the paper-doll French haute-bourgeoisie that I used to watch play about in late-'60s Godard...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is a complicated, complex book. Written, in part, as a way to lash out a lover, much of the action is obfuscated and hidden. But there is a lyric quality to the narrative, and Barnes' dark imagery conveys intensely what she is feeling.

Louise deSalvo's Conceived with Malice Literature as Revenge in the Lives of Woolf, Lawrence, Barnes, Miller has a brilliant chapter on this book.
Philip Lane
I had great difficulties understanding this book. Sentences such as 'When the streets were gall high with things you wouldn't have done for a dare's sake, and the way it was then; with the pheasants' necks and the goslings' beaks dangling against the hocks of the gallants, and not a pavement in the place , and everything gutters for miles and miles, and a stench to it that plucked you by the nosttrils and you were twenty leagues out!' are just plain too long. If I read it three times slowly I ca...more
John David
For whatever reason, it seems that “Nightwood” has one of the more precarious reputations in twentieth-century literature. The name of its author, Djuna Barnes, is still synonymous with the life of the modern, and Modernist, American expatriate living in Paris; however, like Lawrence Durrell, another author I have been thinking quite a bit about, she seems to have fallen into disfavor – and this is quite a loss.

And like Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet,” this coheres as fiction in a completely dif...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Making of Americans
  • Two Serious Ladies
  • Alphabetical Africa
  • La Bâtarde [The Bastard]
  • Women and Men
  • HERmione
  • Mulligan Stew
  • The Complete Claudine
  • The Cannibal
  • Girls, Visions and Everything: A Novel
  • The Jade Cabinet
  • Asylum Piece
  • Patience & Sarah
  • AVA
  • Good Morning, Midnight
  • The Royal Family
  • The Unfortunates
  • Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine
30013
Barnes has been cited as an influence by writers as diverse as Truman Capote, William Goyen, Isak Dinesen, John Hawkes, Bertha Harris and Anaïs Nin. Writer Bertha Harris described her work as "practically the only available expression of lesbian culture we have in the modern western world" since Sappho.

Barnes played an important part in the development of 20th century English language modernist wr...more
More about Djuna Barnes...
Ryder Ladies Almanack The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings Smoke: And Other Early Stories Collected Stories

Share This Book

“I talk too much because I have been made so miserable by what you are keeping hushed.” 76 likes
“The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy.” 37 likes
More quotes…