Ulysses, by James Joyce one hundred years later | Always!

To my dear brother Armando G. Tejeda,
on its fiftieth anniversary

Irish writer of enormous significance for English letters, James Joyce (Rathgar, 1882-Zurich, 1941) is listed as one of the key novelists of the last century and of contemporary narrative. His mature work constitutes one of the highest expression exercises of the narrative renovation of the 20th century, inaugural not only for the structural and stylistic resources which he used to delve into the conscious/unconscious of the contemporary individual, but also for a no less risky linguistic exploration. His broad and eclectic training, first strictly religious and later scientific, at the Jesuit college and later at the University of Dublin, would outline a combative and restless spirit, of manifest internal crises implicit in the short but condensed multitonal work of the.

After having gone to Paris ––under the pretext of studying medicine–– where a more conducive environment would help to finally detonate his true vocation, Joyce moved to Trieste. In this beautiful Adriatic port, in addition to earning a living teaching English, she established a relationship with who would ultimately be elemental for her narrative endeavors: Italo Svevo; the last years of the author of Zeno’s conscience, was one of the first to discover and support such a visionary writer. During the years of the First World War, and driven by circumstances, he lived in Zurich, attracted in particular by his great University Cultural Center.

Joyce’s production is essentially narrative, and a connoisseur of the modern genre par excellence since the genius of Cervantes, passing through Sterne and Diderot, plus its nineteenth-century fullness, would take it to its last possibilities. However, and although with less insistence, he also cultivated poetry and theater, and in the first of these two expressive channels he bequeathed us verses of intense emotion and profound philosophical meaning. The poet Joyce, especially that of his beautiful book of both romantic and impressionist reminiscences Chamber musicfrom 1907, reveals to us one of the most vigorous writers of contemporary Anglo-Saxon lyricism, who between the lines already reveals in some way the great revolutionary narrator in the making three decades later.

To get to know better this intertwined corpus literary it is well worth reading first the no less autobiographical storyteller of Dublinersand the narrator already more done with his inaugural novel ––and even preparatory to what would come later–– Portrait of a Teenage Artist, unquestionable prolegomena to understand the upward path of such a remarkable Irish polygraph. Compendium of fifteen beautiful and revealing short stories whose unity is raised by the purpose of reflecting through them the bland life and the provincial environment of the Irish capital –– the city of Dublin will always be the center in the work of the so-called “writer of the self-exile”––, this presence of the author will become much more noticeable and unavoidable in his aforementioned first novel Portrait of a Teenage Artist.

One of the works that has been written and said in abundance, as a paradigmatic model of contemporary narrative ––elementary chapter and inexhaustible source for critics and theorists––, Ulisesfrom 1922, meant Joyce’s great writing project, perhaps only surpassed by his no less complex and iconic finnegans wake, from 1939, practically his creative testament. A work of heroic proportions, as its one-time secretary and equally notable Irish writer Samuel Beckett called it, Ulises poses an otherwise ingenious reworking of the Homeric universe as the cornerstone of Western literature, revealing a legacy that well emphasizes that wise expression of the poet Pedro Salinas from Maturity that art is explained from two apparently contrary but complementary coordinates: tradition and originality.

One of the nodal works of the 20th century, Joyce began publishing it in installments as early as 1918, and its first complete edition did not see the light of day until four years later, in Paris, thanks to the patron and no less visionary North American publisher Sylvia Beach ( founder of the iconic bookstore shakespeare and company), also her dear friend. The title of the novel responds to an ironic and even parodic translation of the structure of the Homeric epic, of course with different characters, setting and time. Thus, here Leopold Bloom, a socially frustrated man deceived by his wife, embodies the mythical hero, but in the same way he is the antithesis of him, because the human being is affirmation and negation of himself, Joyce himself said; Molly Bloom, a female with an intense erotic life and fiery sensuality, to Penelope; and Stephen Dedalus (the same from Portrait a teenage artist, alter ego of the novelist), to Telemachus.

Also a reliable mirror of life through language, the great Umberto Eco wrote that the no less inaugural masterful handling of the interior monologue, in the characteristically Joycean indirect style, contributes to intensifying the vital sap of the characters, their prosaic complexity, far from that traditional omniscient first person that writers like Fernando Vallejo have dismissed for its unavoidable falsehood. In this sense, what in the field of music represents the leitmotiv Wagnerian, in the no less influential Joycean narrative are the repeated fragments that, like gears, contribute to a better understanding of the architecture of a more elaborate whole, as a formal and thematic unit, and why not stylistic. We must not lose sight of the importance that Joyce had for Joyce, as a keen intellectual of his time, the use of the different resources and languages ​​available to him, as formative elements of his complex time –– which is also ours. ––; of the other manifestations, music, the plastic arts and the new cinematograph; of different journalistic and even advertising uses; and why not even about what was to come and that in a great writer like him it is invaluable material of his visionary roots.

Like other great novels of the 20th century, a panorama within which Ulises appears reigning, the masterpiece of James Joyce continues to be revealing and amazing, hardly suitable for a knowledgeable and attentive reader, obsessive like its creator, of which the immortal Irish writer would once again attest in his subsequent and testamentary finnegans wake.

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Ulysses, by James Joyce one hundred years later | Always!

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