Tuesday, January 14, 2014

We are on pages 316-17 and other miscellany

Happy New Year. Reporting in to say that we had our first meeting of 2014 last week, though I'm not going to talk about its contents today, other than to give you a progress point above. I wanted to add a couple of things I came across in other sources that struck me as interesting in the last little while and which you might not run across yourself unless by accident. One is an little aside I came across in Adam Thirwell's introduction to Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's story collection Autobiography of a Corpse, recently published in a new translation by the New York Review of Books. It is an excerpt of a speech by Karl Radek, addressing the Soviet Writer's Conference in 1934. His comments are not on the Wake, but on Ulysses which had arrived in the Soviet Union in 1922--still, I think, relevant.

"Just because he is almost untranslated and unknown in our country, Joyce arouses a morbid interest among a section of our writers. Is there not some hidden meaning lurking in the eight hundred pages of  his Ulysses--which cannot be read without special dictionaries, for Joyce attempts to create a language of his own in order to express the thoughts and feelings which he lacks...

[Joyce's method was perhaps] a suitable one for describing petty, insignificant, trivial people, their actions, thoughts and feelings [but] it is perfectly clear that this method would prove utterly worthless if the author were to approach with his movie camera the great events of the clash struggle, the titanic clashes of the modern world."

And Thirwell goes on to say that Radek concluded that "there was no need for the Soviet writer to consider Ulysses at all. The morbid desire to read it should be happily abandoned".

Makes you wonder what Radek would have done with Finnegans Wake.

My second entry here comes from a YouTube video related to an online course I've been trying to keep up with on the letters of St. Paul. It features a good video with a scholar named AnneMarie Luijendijk and in the course of showing examples of letters on ancient papyrus, she mentions that we have some of these because they were preserved in an ancient Egyptian garbage heap called Oxyrhyncus, where thousands and thousands of papyrus fragments were found. There were letters, marriage contracts, death certificates and even Biblical texts. Is this reminding you of any particular rubbish heap in a book we might all know?

So of course I had to find out whether Joyce would have known of Oxyrhyncus. It was a matter of a moment to discover that he did. In this paper by Nick De Marco on Ulysses use of gnostic and hermitic doctrines, he mentions in the first paragraph that Joyce had access to Oxyrhynchus Papyrus L3525.

And what is Oxyrhynchus Papyrus L3525?

A fragment of the apocryphal Gospel of Mary. Which may have some interest to our members interested in the way Joyce may have used the Wake to explore the feminine side of God. Just a thought.

Oxyrhynchus Papyrus L3525

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