On the centenary of the first edition of “Ulysses”, whose first printing James Joyce received on February 2, 1922 -the same day he turned forty-, the novel continues to occupy a privileged place within universal literature and especially among the readers of our country, since as the writer Edgardo Scott, translator of “Dublineses”, points out, there is “in the ambition, in the project and in the writing of the author a very Argentine style”.
James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882 and lived 59 years. He did not write much: a volume of short stories: “Dubliners”, three novels – “Portrait of the adolescent artist”, “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake” -, poems and a play: “Exiles”. Argentine translator Marcelo Zabaloywho translated “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake” explains that the writer, determined to find “for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the crucible of his soul the uncreated consciousness of his race, broke ties with his country , with his family and with his church”.
Of the long pilgrimage between London, Paris, Pula, Trieste and Zurich, the city where he died on January 13, 1941In addition, there remain an enormous number of letters that have been collected and published in two volumes. “Letters full of love and captivating passion with his wife Nora; tearful and begging letters sent to his female patrons; ironic and mocking letters with friends, translators, enemies and publishers. The line he drew between his way of writing and that of his contemporaries It was too notorious for it not to be considered the precursor of all the avant-gardes,” Zabaloy explained to Télam.
If the volume of stories “Dubliners” had to wait years and suffer repeated rejections until it found an interested publisher, the story of the adventures of his “‘Ulysses’ would deserve another novel that maybe someone will write sometime“, says Zabaloy. The contempt of his fellow citizens increased from his first book of stories and was crowned with the publication of this work where many of his friends and acquaintances were described in great detail, and not precisely with pleasant and elegant details.
While Joyce was living in Paris, the first edition of “Ulysses” was published, from which some installments had already appeared in “The Little Review”, between March 1918 and December 1920. This first edition mistakenly bears the printing date dated 1921 on the cover. It had been made by the printer Maurice Darantière for the English-language bookstore in Paris “Shakespeare and Company”, from the bookstore Sylvia Beach. Darantière, who among other things did not know English, generated several errors in the printing.
In 1945, in Buenos Aires, José Salas Subirat, an Argentine self-taught writer, published the first translation into Spanish. In this regard, Edgardo Scott lists the studies and comments he remembers in the 70s and 80s: “Luis Gusmán, Liliana Heer, Osvaldo Lamborghini, I remember the essays by Saer and Piglia in the 90s, the books by Carlos Gamerro from 2000”.
Zabaloy also states that the influence spread “like ripples on the water and no one was spared” and adds that the efforts to keep these influences from being seen “are more noticeable than explicit admissions” and gives the example of the “wonderful” novel “Life, instructions for use”, where Georges Perec copies and pastes an extensive fragment of the episode 17 of “Ulysses”, in which the narrator describes the country house dreamed of by Leopold Bloom.
At the end of his novel, the French author acknowledges the loans in an annex. Plenty of others use it, legitimately, but with less directness. Joyce himself politely attributes the invention of the internal monologue to the French writer Édouard Dujardin but later mocks, privately and publicly, that the man bought it.
Zabaloy gives more clues to the persistence of Joyce’s imprint on other established authors. It details that Jack Kerouac he writes “Old Angel Midnight” after reading “Finnegans Wake” and says: ‘that Man from Norway’ referring to HCE or Here Comes Everybody, the hero of the novel who for seventy years was considered untranslatable and unreadable.
Harry Mathews, Perec’s friend –who translated into French his “The Collapse of Odradek Stadium” which according to its own author was untranslatable– says in one of Zacarías MacAltex’s letters to his wife Twang: “‘Lester Greek spoke of new findings of ‘Finnegans Wake’ – the palindromic precedence of ‘Eve’ over ‘Anna’. Carlos Emilio Gadda in “The zafarrancho that of via Merulana” or the “Pale fire” of the Russian Vladimir Nabokov or the work of Raymond Queneau in whose beautiful novel “We are always too good with women”, which takes place in Dublin and where all the characters have the names of characters from “Ulysses”. And references to Anthony Burgess and John Kennedy Toole. “In short, the list would be endless,” says Zabaloy.
However, in Argentine literature the impact of Joyce’s influence is not so evident; except in “Adán Buenosyres”. Zabaloy tries to trace Joycean traces in the books he has read and falls short of the examples he mentions from other writers. “Cortázar did not have any sympathy for him and he mocked saying that Joyce, Beckett and Ionesco believed they were an avant-garde that barely got the fluff out of its navel”, says the translator and recalls that “Borges wrote the beautiful poem when Joyce died and confessed not having read all of his ‘Ulysses’ –which can be true or one of his fine ironies–. And of ‘Finnegans Wake’ he said it was a colossal mistake.” It’s pretty much the same as what he said ezra poundto name one of its most faithful promoters.
Piglia, in his “Conversations with José Saer” wrote: “And perhaps we could think of Finnegans as the first text that responds to this kind of possible, utopian movement, of a language that would finally be the true language of literature. A language that would not be worked by political and geographical cuts and that would constitute its own traditions. In this sense we could imagine the possibility of the future story”.
Scott lives in France and he does not see that French literature, for example, has such an insistent and personal relationship with Joyce. He warns that “for our literature the interest in Joyce is permanent” and speculates on at least three reasons for this unalterable validity, beyond the international “renown” of Joyce’s work.”
“I think that in our case there is on the one hand that of the place of ‘the Irish’ and a rare mirror, an identification that Borges astutely claimed for our provinces,” says Scott. “Then there is the connection, I would say migratory: during the Irish diaspora, Argentina was also a place of exile (The story ‘Eveline’, from ‘Dubliners’, shows this), but the most important thing, the decisive thing, is that there is a very Argentine style in Joyce’s ambition –in the project– and in Joyce’s writing. An ideology, an idiosyncrasy, and a search for the impossible formal balance, which I believe many Argentine writers have not only admired or copied, but have been inspired and even oriented”.
If “Ulysses” was an uncomfortable book for readers and especially for critics, the appearance of “Finnegans Wake” in 1939 consolidated the majority opinion that “Joyce had gone mad”, explains Zabaloy, but there is a sentence of that work that gives a very useful recipe for reading Joyce’s work and for life in general: “Now, patience; and to remember that patience is a great thing, and that above all else we must avoid anything that looks like losing or beginning to lose patience.”
About the “Finnegans Wake” everything has been said, rightly so. For and against. Criticism praised him or destroyed him according to the criteria of each one. Zabaloy had an addictive effect from the first pages. “When I didn’t understand anything I started again translating word for word and I spent seven beautiful years in that craft. There will always be cryptic, incomprehensible or simply illegible texts“explains the translator.
Tomorrow marks the 140th anniversary of Joyce’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the first edition of his emblematic novel, “Ulysses”, of which predicted 300 years of prosperitythough as Scott says “we’ve reached a third and suspect hubris fell short.”
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James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’: a work that influenced generations of writers
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