Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An appeeling wakefulness

Have you seen this man?
Now he has gone far, away;

We shall ne'er hear his voice in the morning.

Some of you may have noticed a gentleman farmer guy named John Peel poking out at you in different parts of the Wake and this happens as a leitmotif throughout the book.  So why would this guy riding to hounds show up over and over again?

And he's clearly dead.  Why wake him up?

"Peel was born at Park End, near Caldbeck, Cumberland; ...He was baptised on 24 September 1777, ...Peel married in 1797 to Mary White [whose] family's property at Ruthwaite (near Ireby) passed into his hands, which secured Peel a comfortable income.

However, he was, ... prone to dissipation and he devoted himself primarily to hunting. Peel was a farmer by profession, and kept a pack of fox hounds...By the end of his life (13 November 1854, most likely due to a fall while hunting) he had accrued large debts, which his friends helped him pay off.[1]...

Peel became a moderately well-known figure, owing to the song written about him. ... He died in 1854 and is buried in the churchyard of St Kentigern's Church, Caldbeck.[2]

In 1977 his grave was vandalised by anti-hunting activists."

 --Wikipedia [emphasis mine]

As well as an almost a Caldbeckian version of Tim Finnegan, Peel seems to me to be a herald of the morning.  This morning can be thought of multivariately as we Wakeans are wont to do, as  the waking of the dead, the waking of the sleeper, the renewal of the cycle of eternal return, the waking of day, and the waking to a new consciousness, to a new heaven and new earth.

So let's listen to the song of John Peel and note the Wakean themes:

D'ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay?
D'ye ken John Peel at the break o' day?
D'ye ken John Peel when he's far, far a-way.
With his hounds and his horn in the morning?

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed,
And the cry of his hounds which he oftime led,
Peel's "View, Halloo!" could awaken the dead,
Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Note a variant reading of "grey" for "gay" in some versions of the poem. Some other variations are:

Yes, I ken John Peel and his Ruby, too!
Ranter and Ringwood, Bellman so true!
From a find to a check, from a check to a view,
From a view to a kill in the morning.
For the sound of his horn
, etc.

Then here's to John Peel with my heart and soul
Let's drink to his health, let's finish the bowl,
We'll follow John Peel through fair and through foul
If we want a good hunt in the morning.

D'ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay?
He liv'd at Troutbeck once on a day;
Now he has gone far, away;
We shall ne'er hear his voice in the morning.

For the sound of his horn
, etc.


...Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,


From a view to a death in the morning

... and many more...

You will hear echoes of John Peel and his hounds innumerable times in the Wake.

 John Peel Farm Cottage 
For example early on, he gallops up: "For he kinned Jom Pill with his court so gray and his haunts in his house in the mourning. " (31.28-33).

And even the "far, far" is subtly evoked in the recorso in the last page in the phrase "Far calls. Coming, far!"


John Peel:

Yet more variations:


daf yomi

I was starting to write up my second post on Finnegans Wake in translation, but just came across this interesting piece on Slate, which describes a group that we Santa Cruz Wakeans may feel some affinity with. It is a about a group of of thousands of Jews, most living in the greater New York vicinity and many of whom will flock to the Meadowlands in New Jersey tomorrow to celebrate the siyum hashas, the end of the seven and a half years of commitment it has taken them to read the 2711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud, one page a day. This undertaking is known as daf yomi.

Okay, it's related to our own undertaking here in a kind of to the power of ten way, but still, reading the article, I see similarities, and perhaps even more so in the author's fascination with, but ultimate decision not to complete the process. For her, the page every single day goal became too mechanical, and she felt that she wasn't retaining the meaning of her own connection to the Talmud. I can understand that, especially since, as a group, we tend to like to meander through our own text and not feel driven. But I also can see the attraction of the every day sort of total immersion effect. It's hard to make that sort of commitment to a text without some kind of outside motivation. I often feel when I do spend a few satisfying hours on my own pondering the Wake that I would like to make that more of my practice than it really is. All right--than it is at all. And I think in some ways the author of the article values retention over the sheer submersion in a way that I don't. Well, I value it--I just don't attain it very often.

Another similarity is that daf yomi also avails itself of the possibilities of our interconnected age.  There are daily podcasts and an abundance of English language translations and commentary.
An app is reputed to be in the works.

If there was an app for the Wake, I might finally be tempted to get a cell phone.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Finnegans Wake in translation?

A recent question from some of us in the group was whether there were any translations of Finnegans Wake, and whether in fact it was a book that could actually be translated. I thought of this again the other day, and happened to be near enough to a computer to google it. I was surprised to find a couple of apt articles right off the bat. One of them was by W.V. Costanzo and was published in The James Joyce Quarterly some years ago. It is available at JStor, but I was only able to glimpse the first page, as JStor is very particular about who they let in, and that particularity doesn't include me.

Still, a page can tell a lot, and what I learned there is that Joyce, with his keen interest in language, took part in many of the translation attempts going on at the time, and had a role that went from collaborator to consultant to supervisor. His most direct involvement was when Samuel Beckett undertook the fragment of the book referred to as Anna Livia Plurabella. Beckett was helped by Alfred Peron, a friend who he had actually met (I learned elsewhere) while at Trinity College and who had been of enormous help to him in learning both written and spoken French. This version was then submitted to another group for revision, which included Paul Léon, Eugene Jolas, and Ivan Goll, under the supervision of Joyce himself.

I was curious who these helpers were. Léon was a Russian Jewish émigré living in Paris, who ended up taking over many of Joyce's business affairs, but also was a central figure in his literary life. In a word, he was the Sylvia Beach of Finnegans Wake. He also is the one we have to thank for the survival of many of the manuscripts that we have, because he is the one who went back to the Joyces' Pais apartment and gathered their belongings as they fled before the Nazis and put them in safekeeping for them. A tricky role for a Russian Jew, I'd think, but definitely a brave one.

Jolas, who certainly has a French or at least European sounding name was actually born in Union City, New Jersey. But his family moved to the Alsace Lorraine area, that annexed and reannexed border region between France and Germany, when he was two, so he has his European credentials. He was among othe things, the editor of the literary magazine transition, and he and Joyce had an affinity because Jolas recognized what Joyce was doing with the Wake as an illustration of his manifesto , which he had published in his magazine.

Ivan Goll, or Yvan, as the sources I've looked at have it, was a poet who wrote in both French and German, being another transplant from Alsace Lorraine. He was in touch with both the French surrealist movement and the German expressionism. His father, at least, was Jewish. Goll, whose given name was Isaac Lange described himself thus: "By fate a Jew, by an accident born in France, on paper a German."

It is so interesting to think of all these different nationalities and language influences hovering around the Wake during its gestation. Costanzo quotes from a book called Souvenirs de James Joyce by Phillippe Soupault, another French writer who was involved with the project, which describes how they fixed upon a regular meeting time at Jolas' apartment. Joyce would sit reclining and smoking, Léon  would read the text in English, and Soupault would follow along in the French version.

This unfortunately is all I know, as that is where the page stops. The link to Costanzo's article, however, is here, and if you have access to the rest of the article, perhaps you could clue the rest of us in as to what happened next.

I found another fascinating article about the Wake in translation, but that will have to wait for another post...   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thunderous news

Our roaming correspondent PQ has put up a new blog post announcing his reading Finnegans Wake in earnest. I 'm not sure what he was doing with it before, but in any case, this is good news for the rest of us. He may be in earnest, but there is a good deal of humor in his  post about thunderclaps.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Finnegan on the Fourth

Our all meeting together on the fourth was a bit ill-fated, but worked for some. Ed sent round an email which I thought other visitors of this blog might like:

"As JJ was dedicated to the "abnihilisation of the etym", and coined the word "quark", today, the strong evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson has been announced."

Happy Independence Day everyone.   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Page 234

I wanted to write up at least a little something about the page or so we did ponder, particularly the long paragraph that lies on  page 234. This paragraph, which begins, "But, Sin Showpanza.." is littered with at least three sets of references, namely to Don Quixote and crew, the life of the Buddha, and Lewis Carroll. Thanks to Roland McHugh's Annotations to Finnegans Wake, we picked up on quite a few of the Lewis Caroll ones--"Loose curls", "The sweetest smile that ever a man wore," and a couple of reference to another of his girls, Isa Bowman. I was looking for the word ladder that is supposed to always accompany talk of Carroll today, but except for the "ripidarapidarpad" of the little girls running around Chuff faster and faster, I didn't spot it.

What's interested me most in my reading today, though, was this life of Buddha aspect of the paragraph. I found a really interesting article by someone named Eishiro Ito called "How Did Buddhism Influence James Joyce and Kenji Miyazawa?" which you can find HERE . Among other things, he talks about this paragraph in particular, with it's references to Siddhartha's mother, Maya, his father-in-law Dandapani and the dream of the six tusked elephant, when she conceived Siddhartha, who would be the 'seventh Buddha'.

This is kind of what I can piece together from all these sources whirling around in my head. Sin Showpanza, in one sense is without panza, or belly, and Don Quixote without Sancho Panza is a man without the earthly desires that would make him whole. The next part of the sentence, "could anybroddy which walked this world with eyes whiteopen" apparently refers to Buddha walking the world after his enlightenment, and then remaining immobile with eyes wide open. In Ito's interpretation, though, this makes Buddha a Shaun/Chuff/Stanislaus character--who, along with St. Kevin, who also features in this paragraph, one of the "cold-to-women sainted men". Buddha immobile after enlightenment is something like Chuff, standing in the middle  of the rapidly whirling girls, immune (or is he?) to their charms. He is the golden boy. Or the white, green and golden boy, standing like the Irish flag in their midst. In our terms, the boy scout.

Glugg is not a boy scout, whatever else he is.

Joyce in the quantum universe

I may not get to a piece on our last meeting in time for tomorrow's, but at least I can post this link to a very interesting article by Andrzej Duzenko on Joyce and quantum mechanics that I somehow stumbled upon while looking for something else. It's actually part of a larger work on Joyce and science, but I haven't had time to read the rest yet.