Djuna Barnes (June 12, 1892 - June 18, 1982) was one of the key figures in Bohemian Paris. Her 1936 novel Nightwood became a cult work of modern fiction, helped by an introduction written by T.S. Eliot, and stands out for its portrayal of lesbian themes.
Early Life and Writings
Barnes was born into Cornwall-on-Hudson, a New York artists' colony. Her father was an artist and her mother a writer. In the early 1900s, she studied art in the Pratt Institute and the Arts Students League. By 1913, she was writing and illustrating a regular column for The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In 1915, she published a collection of poems called The Book of Repulsive Women.
In 1919, after a failed marriage, Barnes moved to Paris with letters of introduction to Ezra Pound and James Joyce and soon entered the Parisian world of expatriate bohemians who were at the forefront of the modernist movement. Her circle in Paris included Pound, Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Robert McAlmon, Natalie Barney, Peggy Guggenheim, and Kay Boyle. She also maintained a friendship with the Italian poet Eugenio Montale.
In Paris, Barnes published a second book of poetry, A Book in 1926 (enlarged edition A Book - A Night Among the Horses, 1929) and a novel, Ryder in 1928. Her reputation as a writer was made when Nightwood was published in an expensive edition by Faber and Faber with Eliot's introduction. She returned to New York in 1940 and published several more works, including the verse play, The Antiphon in 1958.
Back in New York, Barnes became a recluse, living in a small apartment in Greenwich Village. She was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1961.