A Novelist’s Favorite Forgotten Novel

Siri Hustvedt recommends an “extraordinary, unusual little book.”
  • Transcript


Question: What’s your favorite “forgotten” novel?

Siri Hustvedt: Oh yeah.  Well, it's not entirely forgotten and for some people, you know, it's a very important book.  But it is a book that seems to sort of go underwater to come up a little and then fall again.  And it is Djuna Barnes’s "Nightwood."  This is a book that was published in the '30s.  It's a tiny little book; a dense, poetic little novel.  I think the current edition still has T.S. Eliot's introduction to it; a very enthusiastic one.  I have read this book now three times.  It is a remarkable little book about passion; sexual passion, also that is sort of living on the margins of a culture.  It takes place in Paris and it's a love story between two women.  And there is a character, a character that I love, whose name is Dr. Matthew O'Connor.  He's a transvestite kind of pseudo-doctor who gives some of the most wonderful speeches in literature.  And I, so when I have a chance, I do come out and say, if you haven't read Djuna Barnes’ "Nightwood"—I think it's the only book, by the way to recommend, by her.  I'm not so crazy about the rest of her work.  But this is a really extraordinary, unusual little book.  And it's not my absolutely favorite work of literature, but it's one that I think people should look at and read more.