Eccentric & Morbid Quotes by Djuna Barnes

Djuna barnes portrait

Djuna Barnes (1892 – 1982) was a singular voice in the literary world, best know for her experimental novel, Nightwood. Often viewed as eccentric and morbid, it’s no wonder that quotes by Djuna Barnes can be described the same way.


“New York is the meeting place of the peoples, the only city where you can hardly find a typical American.” (“Greenwich Village as It Is” Pearson’s Magazine, 1916)


“After all, it is not where one washes one’s neck that counts but where one moistens one’s throat.”  (“Greenwich Village as It Is” Pearson’s Magazine, 1916)


“Suffering for love is how I have learned practically everything I know, love of grandmother up and on.” (from a 1934 letter to a friend)


“I like my human experience served up with a little silence and restraint. Silence makes experience go further and, when it does die, gives it that dignity common to a thing one had touched and not ravished.”


“The very condition of Woman is so subject to hazard, so complex, and so grievous, that to place her at one moment is but to displace her at the next.”


“For most people, life is nasty, brutish, and short; for me, it has simply been nasty and brutish.”


“We are beginning to wonder whether a servant girl hasn’t the best of it after all. She knows how the salad tastes without the dressing, and she knows how life’s lived before it gets to the parlor door.” (“The Home Club: For Servants Only” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1913)


Djuna Barnes

Learn more about Djuna Barnes


“This life I write and draw and portray is life as it is, and therefore you call it morbid. Look at my life. Look at the life around me. Where is this beauty that I am supposed to miss? The nice episodes that others depict? Is not everything morbid?”


“I am not a critic; to me criticism is so often nothing more than the eye garrulously denouncing the shape of the peephole that gives access to hidden treasure.” (“The Songs of Synge: The Man Who Shaped His Life as He Shaped His Plays” New York Morning Telegraph, 1917)


“The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy.” (Nightwood, 1936)


“I was doing well enough until you came along and kicked my stone over, and out I came, all moss and eyes.” (Nightwood, 1936)


“We are but skin about a wind, with muscles clenched against mortality.” (Nightwood, 1936)



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