Djuna Barnes

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Barnes, Djuna

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


This strange little tale, set in western Europe, revolves around the shifting relationships among an Irish doctor, a would-be Austrian baron, a circus performer, and the American woman, Robin, who is to become the nemesis of them all. The plot is unfolded in a long series of conversations, many convoluted by their stream-of-consciousness style, rather than in observed action.

The physician (it is never clearly stated that he is a fully trained physician but the point is probably moot, since he assumes the role), the most consistently present and verbal character, is a study in contradictions. He is essentially never portrayed in a classic physician role, but much is made of his profession. This may be explained by the fact that it is his profession that justifies his central position--he knows and is in the confidence of all other characters. The reader follows, by means of the long and complex dialogues, Robin’s systematic destruction of a chain of male and female lovers in what appears to be an obsessive desire for self-destruction.

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