James Joyce: a man of convictions

It was August 3, 1903. That night there were only two people in that small and at the same time mysterious room that barely had a bedside table, a brown chair and, on it, more than thirty medications that belonged to him. Mrs. Mary Jane Murray, mother of the Irish writer James Joyce. That woman did not stop vomiting and screaming in so much pain. James, the eldest of her children, watched her from a corner and sang melodies to her. Ten hours had passed since they had been together in that place where the air refused to enter. Murray begged her son to intercede for her soul, to come to her side and say a prayer. He adamantly refused.

He had passed through many Jesuit schools and now, at the age of 21, he had sworn not to believe or waste time praying to a being he had never seen and was not interested in meeting. Possibly that had been his first conviction, one of many that would lead him to walk in a sad world where only he would be in charge of dodging one blow or another.

It was precisely the books that had made him dodge every difficult moment of his life. It was impossible for him to think of an author or a work without the gestures or voice of his father first arriving. He liked to bring it to mind from time to time since it had been John Stanislaus Joyce, a tax collector, who took him out of school, took him by the hand and led him through narrow and battered alleys to visit various bookstores in search of the right book. for him. He was so obsessed with having his son read that he would even buy two or three copies from her, risking Mrs. Mary’s screams, because the next day they would surely not have enough to eat.

After the death of his mother, he promised himself to dedicate himself to studying literary currents in depth and dedicating himself to writing every night. In those days he had written down three words in his red agenda: “Silence, exile and cunning”. As he describes these powerful words in his book The Portrait of the Artist as a Boy published in 1916. He loved the streets and every corner of Ireland, but there was a voice inside him that every night screamed at him that he must escape. He must be far away and yearn for the castles and museums of Dublin to be able to portray them and capture them on paper, on that white sheet that tormented him every time he saw it empty, pale, without a single mixture of ink. He traveled to France to let himself be impressed by the two currents that would most attract his attention: Naturalism and Symbolism. The more he knew other different literary currents, the more he rejected them.

He enjoyed moments of solitude, especially when he traveled by train and could see through the window how the landscapes disappeared at great speed, because his mind wandered at the same rate. It was in those moments when she could think about the importance of the events that became a burden for the human being. It was there when she allowed herself to dream of a book of more than 800 pages that would identify the different sensations that people go through. However, remembering the pain in his eyes made him shudder. It was as if life for a few months prevented him from dedicating himself to what he loved most. Throughout his life he had undergone more than ten surgeries on his left eye due to hyperopia, due to the fact that in his youth he frequented the red light district of Dublin, where he experienced his first sexual relations.

It was during those nights that he contracted urethritis, a venereal disease that would later cause rheumatic fever, causing inflammation in the tissues that support the iris. It was that which led him to suffer from deep depressive processes, since the disease progressed so much that it left him blind. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges said it well in a conference dedicated to the life and work of James Joyce in 1960, in the city of La Plata: “Joyce was not an important thinker, his life was ordinary. He looked for models in France not to look for them in England, Joyce’s ideas were common ideas, but the difference from the men of his time was his literary passion. The fact of giving his life to literature”. It took more than ten years to write Ulysses, his most important work. Neither his schizophrenia nor his tired eyes, much less his blindness prevented him from giving life to Leopold and Molly Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, among other important characters. The story began on June 16, 1904, a day that the author would remember forever, as it was the beginning of his relationship with his life partner, Nora Barnacle.

For seven years he wrote page after page, while thinking about Bloom and choosing the right rhythm to narrate a whole day in the life of this man. She smoked a cigarette calmly and likewise exhaled the smoke slowly. His work would tell us about memory, failures, loneliness and the secrets that we carry stuck in our chests. Only a brilliant mind set out to write for seven years about a day that would become infinite and eternal for its protagonist. He was the linguist, translator and also secretary for several years of the Irish author, Stuart Gilbert, who wrote the book “James Joyce’s Ulysses: a study”. There he mentions in depth the purpose and characteristics that make up this work: “Each episode Ulysses has its scene and time of day, it is (with the exception of the first three episodes) associated with a certain organ of the human body, it is related to a certain art, it has its appropriate symbol and a specific technique. title, which corresponds to a character or episode of the Odyssey. Some episodes also have their appropriate color (a reference, as M. Larbaud has pointed out, to the Catholic liturgy).” It is through this study that we understand that each chapter A verse from The Odyssey is dedicated to Ulysses, and also refers to the reason for the use of colors and body organs narrated by Leonard Bloom on this never-ending day.

“He does not like man and neither does woman, said Stephen. He returns after a life of absence to that place on earth where he was born, where he has always been, man and child, a silent witness, and there, life’s journey concluded.” , plants his mulberry tree in the ground. Then he dies. All movement has ceased. Some gravediggers bury Hamlet père and Hamlet fils. King and prince finally in death, with incidental music. And though murdered and betrayed, he is mourned by all. fragile tender hearts then, Danish or Dubliner, sorrow for the dead is the only husband from whom she refuses to divorce”. British writer Virginia Woolf in the pages of her diary gave her opinion on the work and its writer: “A selfish, insistent self-taught writer , theatrical and ultimately nauseating”. Other authors of the time used to say that those passages were nothing more than tangled words and he could not manage a single sentence full of wisdom. Although it cannot be denied that we will always talk about a work to difficult whose pages demand the reader’s concentration and perseverance. Who has not felt the same sensations as Leonard Bloom? Who has not felt anguish through silence? Who has managed to have his mind calm in the face of so much chaos? Those of us who have had the opportunity to read some pages of this work, beyond the difficulty in its narration, have identified ourselves through an action, gesture, feeling or phrase, because the work “Ulysses” by James Joyce is a treasure more what infinity

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James Joyce: a man of convictions


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