Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pages 119-123--the Tunc page

Though we were down a person at our last meeting, we nevertheless had a lovely time, due to the guest appearance of one of our member's parents. Their willingness to just drop in at page 119 is  a tribute both to their being good sports and to the paradoxical openness of a book that is famous for its inaccessibility. We had a chance to describe "what we've learned so far", and they were actually inspired to contemplate starting a Finnegans Wake reading chapter of their own.

As I said last time, this next part focuses on the Book of Kells, particularly the Tunc page, which reads Tunc crucifixerant Xpi cum eo duos latrones, and  means "Then were there two thieves crucified with him." One of the things we learned was that Joyce was basically riffing off of and having fun with (or making fun of) a famous commentary on the book done by one Edward Sullivan. You can read his introduction here.

I learned a lot from perusing a few pages of a book called The Books at the Wake: a Study of Literary Allusions in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake by James S. Atherton. One is to be on the watch for puns on the name of the founder of the monastery where the Book of Kells was produced. St. Columba actually first appears on is also known as Colum Cille, so mentions of "Hagios Colleenkiller"  and "Calomnekiller" are plays on that name. That last comes from the first mention of the Book of Kells on page 50. As Atherton has it, this is "all the French leaves unveilable out of Calomnequiller's Pravities." He says that "French leaves" means "missing leaves", and there are 60 pages missing from the manuscript, but it also means "obscene pages" "the depravities of which can not be veiled or concealed." Atherton thinks "Pravities" comes from "pravus" or crooked, depraved and Calomnequiller lends it to "writer of calumnies". The point being that The Book of Kells "like all acts of creation..has something sinful about it". This, from my admittedly limited understanding, seems a very Joycean concept. Atherton also points out an anagram in Tunc, which Joyce was most certainly aware of.

I've strayed from our meeting though, where, for instance, at least a couple of people knew what the meaning of 'ineluctable' was and still others pointed out that it was from a very famous phrase in Ulysses--"...the ineluctable modality of the audible". Yeah, I knew that...

Speaking of Ulysses, we had a very nice Bloomsday celebration. You can read about one of its more appetizing aspects here.

1 comment: