Barnes, Djuna (1892–1982) By Roos, Bonnie
Djuna Barnes (1892–1982) was a significant U.S. American literary figure of Paris of the 1920s and 1930s, but became a recluse of New York’s Patchin Place in the 1940s, ending her life in obscure poverty. She is best known for her experimental novel Nightwood, one of the most influential works of modernist fiction, and for her caustic wit. Barnes worked as a poet, journalist, illustrator, playwright, reviewer, and novelist. Her most recognized writings include The Book of Repulsive Women (produced 1915), Ryder (1928), Ladies Almanack (1928), Nightwood (1936), The Antiphon (1958), and Creatures in an Alphabet (1982).
Barnes’s first novel, Ryder (1928), details 50 years of the fictional Ryder family; the same year, Ladies Almanack, understood as a roman à clef novel parodying participants of Natalie Barney’s salon, was privately published. Many of the qualities of satire, dark humor, and surrealism for which Barnes is known are visible in Ryder and Ladies Almanack. But it is Nightwood, Barnes's third novel, that critics see as her most successful work.