The legal opinion The most famous in history, said Irving Younger, had to be that of Judge John M. Wolsey when the ban on the distribution of the drug in the United States was lifted. Ulises from James Joyce. The publisher of Random House, to get rid of cans, delays and small talk, decided to print a paragraph of Wolsey’s opinion in the copies that would circulate throughout the country.
Good idea: that each specimen travels with its own printed passport and, with those lines, at the same time we avoid Puritan delays and fuel curiosity. In fact, the ban on importing and distributing Joyce’s book could be lifted by two opinions in favor against one unfavorable.
Judge Martin Manton voted to uphold the ban; he had no doubt: “Who can deny the obscenity of this book after reading the pages referred to, which are too indecent to cite in this opinion? Anyone reading them would have to characterize them as obscene.” There he.
But the other two judges, the aforementioned Wolsey and Augustus Noble Hand, were not only sensible but remarkable readers, capable of literary judgments, more than adequate, admirable, although in very different ways. (And let it be understood: I am Mexican and this thing about a judge being able to read and interpret literature leaves me perplexed.)
The book eventually circulated widely, spurred on by the ban, among customers eager to read obscenities and readers finally agreeing to one of the greatest literary challenges in history. But it is curious that Cerf, the publisher, had chosen to print Wolsey’s opinion and not that of the judge of the best judicial name in history: Augustus Noble Hand.
The copies displayed this paragraph: “After mature reflection, my opinion is that, while in many places the effect of the Ulises on the reader is certainly of an emetic character, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac” and that the book “does not tend to excite sexual impulses or lascivious thoughts, but its net effect is to make a very powerful tragic comment about the inner lives of men and women.
That is to say that the book was not obscene because it did not set in motion the mechanisms of desire but rather the sensation of disgust and human tragedy. Repulsion and pain can circulate, but desire cannot. There everyone with their flames or their ice, but it is admirable that the book has freed the accusation of obscene not because the judge was liberal but because it was excessively puritanical, to the point of finding Molly Bloom’s monologue vomitive, perhaps the highest allegation of the desire expressed by a woman’s voice: “yes, I said yes I will. And it is”.
Admirable that Mr. Wolsey, stung by puritanism, if he understood nothing of desire and its strange forms, could at least realize that it was not about pornography but about the exploration of human natures and the tissues of their inner speech.
Perhaps it would be more difficult to edit the opinion of Augustus Noble Hand, very well written in that elegant prose that despises short sentences, far superior in quality to the other two: “It is fair to say that it is a sincere portrait, with skillful art, of the ‘streams of consciousness’ of his characters. Even though the portrait, fortunately, is not of all men but perhaps only of those of a morbid type, it seems sincere, truthful, relevant to its subject matter, and executed with true artistry. Joyce, citing the Lost paradisehas dealt with ‘untried matters in prose or verse’, with things that would probably have been better left untried, but his book exhibits originality and is a work of symmetry and excellent mastery of his craft”.
And “if we were to confiscate this book, we would have to do the same with Venus and Adonis, Hamlet, Romeo and Julietand the story told by Demodocus in Book VIII of the Odyssey… and it would be necessary to question whether the obscene passages of Romeo and Juliet they were as necessary to the plot as they are in Mrs Bloom’s monologues to the portrait of her tortured soul.”
Of the three judges, Manton, moderately puritanical and conservative, goes down in history as stupid and ignorant; Wolsey got it wrong: he found the intricacies of ordinary people’s desire and inanity repugnant.
But Mr. Noble Hand leads me to believe that if John Milton had read the Ulises of Joyce, would also have applauded with an enthusiasm that survives times and censorship.
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When reading Ulysses, by James Joyce, was forbidden | Bugs and relatives
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