Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Happy Birthday, James Joyce!

For once in my life I've had a little warning that Joyce's birthday was about to come up and have thought to commemorate it in some way. How fortunate, then, that in an essay by George Orwell that Adrian McKinty has put up on his blog, I found a passing reference to Joyce just now. True, it's about Ulysses, not Finnegans Wake, but it was Ulysses I had more in mind today anyway. Here's the quote:

 But now and again there appears a novel which opens up a new world not by revealing what is strange, but by revealing what is familiar. The truly remarkable thing about Ulysses, for instance, is the commonplaceness of its material. Of course there is much more in Ulysses than this, because Joyce is a kind of poet and also an elephantine pedant, but his real achievement has been to get the familiar on to paper. He dared — for it is a matter of daring just as much as of technique — to expose the imbecilities of the inner mind, and in doing so he discovered an America which was under everybody's nose. Here is a whole world of stuff which you supposed to be of its nature incommunicable, and somebody has managed to communicate it. The effect is to break down, at any rate momentarily, the solitude in which the human being lives. When you read certain passages in Ulysses you feel that Joyce's mind and your mind are one, that he knows all about you though he has never heard your name, that there some world outside time and space in which you and he are together. 

"Elephantine pedant" is nice, I think.

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