Thursday, 23 March 2017

A damn good one about comets' tails

'To me, this chapter of Ulysses has been a substantial part of the novel's attraction. I love the movement of the characters around the city. I love that Joyce put actual people in actual places. I love the ordinary momentum of an ordinary afternoon. And if literature is ever to teach us anything, this is where Ulysses teaches us how ordinary and ordinarily mobile and natural life is, and how thrillingly and grippingly it can be rendered into art. More, as they say, next week.'

These are Frank Delaney's magnificent final words in Cavalcades and Comets Tails, his Rejoyce podcast of 15 February 2017. Frank was talking about the Wandering Rocks episode, which he had only recently started, after the long dry slog of Scylla and Charybdis.

Sadly, there was to be no next week.

Apart from missing Frank's insights, our big loss is the chance to listen to a beautiful weekly reading from Ulysses, working through the book a page at a time. But there is one way we can carry on the project, thanks to the 1982 RTE radio production which is on Youtube. If you start listening at 31.37 minutes in, you'll reach the point where Frank began his final podcast. The RTE production has the advantage of sound effects (such as Nosey Flynn's sniffling).

The last Rejoyce left us hanging in the middle of Lenehan's anecdote to M'Coy, which made me want to complete it here.  

Lenehan and M'Coy walk through Merchants Arch, by the Liffey's Ha'penny Bridge, where they see Bloom browsing the books.

A still from Joseph Strick's film of Ulysses

They went up the steps and under Merchants' arch. A dark-backed figure scanned books on the hawker's cart.
-- There he is, Lenehan said.
-- Wonder what he is buying, M'Coy said, glancing behind.
-- Leopoldo or the Bloom is on the Rye, Lenehan said.
-- He's dead nuts on sales, M'Coy said. I was with him one day and he bought a book from an old one in Liffey street for two bob. There were fine plates in it worth double the money, the stars and the moon and comets with long tails. Astronomy it was about.

Lenehan and M'Coy watch Bloom
The book M'Coy's talking about is Robert Ball's The Story of the Heavens (1890), which we came across earlier, when Bloom sees the timeball on the Ballast Office.

The Ballast Office Timeball from The Joyce Project
'Timeball on the ballast office is down. Dunsink time. Fascinating little book that is of sir Robert Ball's. Parallax. I never exactly understood. There's a priest. Could ask him. Par it's Greek: parallel, parallax.'

It's also in the catalogue of Bloom's books in Ithaca:

The Story of the Heavens by Sir Robert Ball (blue cloth).

This catalogue gives us all the chance to collect Bloom's library. I picked up a copy of Ball's book second hand, for £1.50, many years ago, so I will share the pictures of those comets with long tails.

Talk of comets' tails inspires Lenehan to begin his story:

Lenehan laughed.
-- I'll tell you a damn good one about comets' tails, he said. Come over in the sun.
They crossed to the metal bridge and went along Wellington quay by the river wall....
-- There was a big spread out at Glencree reformatory, Lenehan said eagerly. The annual dinner you know. Boiled shirt affair. The lord mayor was there, Val Dillon it was, and sir Charles Cameron and Dan Dawson spoke and there was music. Bartell D'Arcy sang and Benjamin Dollard.
-- I know, M'Coy broke in. My missus sang there once.
-- Did she? Lenehan said.....
-- But wait till I tell you, he said. Delahunt of Camden street had the catering and yours truly was chief bottlewasher. Bloom and the wife were there. Lashings of stuff we put up: port wine and sherry and curaçao to which we did ample justice. Fast and furious it was. After liquids came solids. Cold joints galore and mince pies.
-- I know, M'Coy said. The year the missus was there...
That's where Frank left us, cliff-hangingThe story continues.

Lenehan linked his arm warmly.
-- But wait till I tell you, he said. We had a midnight lunch too after all the jollification and when we sallied forth it was blue o'clock the morning after the night before. Coming home it was a gorgeous winter's night on the Featherbed Mountain. Bloom and Chris Callinan were on one side of the car and I was with the wife on the other. We started singing glees and duets: Lo, the early beam of morning. She was well primed with a good load of Delahunt's port under her bellyband. Every jolt the bloody car gave I had her bumping up against me. Hell's delights! She has a fine pair, God bless her. Like that.
He held his caved hands a cubit from him, frowning:
-- I was tucking the rug under her and settling her boa all the time. Know what I mean?
His hands moulded ample curves of air. He shut his eyes tight in delight, his body shrinking, and blew a sweet chirp from his lips.
-- The lad stood to attention anyhow, he said with a sigh. She's a gamey mare and no mistake. Bloom was pointing out all the stars and the comets in the heavens to Chris Callinan and the jarvey: the great bear and Hercules and the dragon and the whole jingbang lot. But, by God, I was lost, so to speak, in the milky way. He knows them all, faith. At last she spotted a weeny weeshy one miles away. And what star is that, Poldy? says she. By God, she had Bloom cornered. That one, is it? says Chris Callinan, sure that's only what you might call a pinprick. By God, he wasn't far wide of the mark.
Lenehan stopped and leaned on the riverwall, panting with soft laughter.
-- I'm weak, he gasped.
M'Coy's white face smiled about it at instants and grew grave. Lenehan walked on again. He lifted his yachtingcap and scratched his hindhead rapidly. He glanced sideways in the sunlight at M'Coy.
-- He's a cultured allroundman, Bloom is, he said seriously. He's not one of your common or garden... you know... There's a touch of the artist about old Bloom.

M'Coy doesn't find this story funny or entertaining, which is why, after putting on a brief show of smiling, his face grows grave. M'Coy identifies with Bloom, looking up to him as more successful version of himself. He's been an advertising canvasser, like Bloom, and his wife is a singer too, as he reminds everyone he meets. Here's how he's described in Dubliners:

Mr. M'Coy had been at one time a tenor of some reputation. His wife, who had been a soprano, still taught young children to play the piano at low terms. His line of life had not been the shortest distance between two points and for short periods he had been driven to live by his wits. He had been a clerk in the Midland Railway, a canvasser for advertisements for The Irish Times and for The Freeman's Journal, a town traveller for a coal firm on commission, a private inquiry agent, a clerk in the office of the Sub-Sheriff, and he had recently become secretary to the City Coroner. Grace

So listening to Lenehan's story, M'Coy puts himself in the position of Bloom.

Lenehan realises his mistake, which is why he scratches his head and glances sideways at M'Coy. He then tries to repair the damage by speaking seriously of Bloom as a cultured all-round man.

All this is done with immense subtlety by Joyce, showing not telling, leaving it to the reader to work out the underlying interplay of emotions.  

There's wonderful irony in the next section, where we find that Bloom, this cultured all-round man, is browsing pornography!

He read where his finger opened.
-- All the dollarbills her husband gave her were spent in the stores on wondrous gowns and costliest frillies. For him! For Raoul!
Yes. This. Here. Try.
-- Her mouth glued on his in a luscious voluptuous kiss while his hands felt for the opulent curves inside her déshabillé.
Yes. Take this. The end.
-- You are late, he spoke hoarsely, eyeing her with a suspicious glare. The beautiful woman threw off her sabletrimmed wrap, displaying her queenly shoulders and heaving embonpoint. An imperceptible smile played round her perfect lips as she turned to him calmly.
Mr Bloom read again: The beautiful woman.
Warmth showered gently over him, cowing his flesh. Flesh yielded amid rumpled clothes. Whites of eyes swooning up. His nostrils arched themselves for prey. Melting breast ointments (For him! For Raoul!). Armpits' oniony sweat. Fishgluey slime (her heaving embonpoint!). Feel! Press! Crushed! Sulphur dung of lions!
Young! Young!

Sweets of Sin is one book you won't be able to track down, because Joyce is believed to have invented it.



Robert Ball explains Parallax

'Timeball on the ballast office is down. Dunsink time. Fascinating little book that is of sir Robert Ball's. Parallax. I never exactly understood. There's a priest. Could ask him. Par it's Greek: parallel, parallax.'
Lotus Eaters

'Agendath is a waste land, a home of screechowls and the sandblind upupa. Netaim, the golden, is no more. And on the highway of the clouds they come, muttering thunder of rebellion, the ghosts of beasts. Huuh! Hark! Huuh! Parallax stalks behind and goads them, the lancinating lightnings of whose brow are scorpions.' 
Oxen of the Sun 

'our system plunging towards the constellation of Hercules: of the parallax or parallactic drift of socalled fixed stars.'  

My old tutor, Charles Peake, in his brilliant book James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist has a good discussion of parallax:

'The word 'parallax' (which Bloom failed to understand) recurs as a pointer to the nature of the book's vision and method; figuratively it means the apparent change in the nature, position or size of an object as a consequence in the nature, position and concerns of the observer or point of observation. The sense of the relativity of experience dominates Joyce's vision in Ulysses, and its representation made necessary the sudden and emphatic changes of manner and convention.'

This is why Joyce used so many different styles in the book, and why he shows the same events from multiple perspectives. So the shift of perspective from Lenehan describing Bloom as 'a cultured allround man' to Bloom reading a pornographic novel is a parallactic one.

The Glencree dinner, which Lenehan associates with Molly Bloom's breasts, is also remembered differently by both Bloom and Molly. Bloom recalls it as a happy time in his marriage:

'The Glencree dinner. Alderman Robert O'Reilly emptying the port into his soup before the flag fell, Bobbob lapping it for the inner alderman. Couldn't hear what the band played. For what we have already received may the Lord make us. Milly was a kiddy then. Molly had that elephantgrey dress with the braided frogs. Mantailored with self-covered buttons. She didn't like it because I sprained my ankle first day she wore choir picnic at the Sugarloaf. As if that. Old Goodwin's tall hat done up with some sticky stuff. Flies' picnic too. Never put a dress on her back like it. Fitted her like a glove, shoulder and hips. Just beginning to plump it out well. Rabbit pie we had that day. People looking after her.'  

And Molly Bloom in her final monologue thinks of Lenehan 'making free' with her after the Glencree dinner (reminded by Boylan's anger at his loss of money on the horse Lenehan tipped). She also recalls the tasty chicken, the lecherous glances of the Lord Mayor, Val Dillon, and she regrets not stealing the silver cutlery:

'swearing blazes because he lost 20 quid he said he lost over that outsider that won and half he put on for me on account of Lenehans tip cursing him to the lowest pits that sponger he was making free with me after the Glencree dinner coming back that long joult over the featherbed mountain after the lord Mayor looking at me with his dirty eyes Val Dillon that big heathen I first noticed him at dessert when I was cracking the nuts with my teeth I wished I could have picked every morsel of that chicken out of my fingers it was so tasty and browned and as tender as anything only for I didnt want to eat everything on my plate those forks and fishslicers were hallmarked silver too I wish I had some I could easily have slipped a couple into my muff when I was playing with them then always hanging out of them for money in a restaurant for the bit you put down your throat we have to be thankful for our mangy cup of tea itself as a great compliment ' 

The National Portrait Gallery has this photograph of Molly's dirty-eyed big heathen, Valentine Blake Dillon. He was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1894-5, when the Glencree dinner took place. He had died just three months before Bloomsday 1904.



Thursday, 23 February 2017

Frank Delaney

The final episode

Like Joyceans everywhere, I was shocked and saddened to learn yesterday of the sudden death of Frank Delaney. Since 2010, his weekly Ulysses podcast has been our regular Saturday morning lie-in listening. After seven years, Frank was almost a third of the way through, and he was looking forward to continuing it for another twenty years at least.

Listening to the podcasts, you could see why NPR described him as 'the most eloquent man in the world'. He seemed to be talking without notes, yet always fluently, and quoting from memory from Shakespeare, Coleridge, Browning, the Latin mass and assorted Irish songs (which he would often sing). In one episode he even gave us a rap, which has been animated by dizkoteck on youtube. He was also a great dramatic reader, with a range of accents – using a Cork accent for Ned Lambert and Simon Dedalus, and a Derry one for Richard Best.

Frank was a very partisan reader, strongly on the side of Stephen and Bloom, and sensitive to slights against them. With Bloom, he found antisemitism in seemingly innocent exchanges, even accusing Jack Power and Davy Byrne. He disliked Buck Mulligan, seeing him as an enemy of Stephen from the very beginning. So, when Mulligan borrows Stephen's handkerchief to wipe his razor, Frank responded:

Frank Delaney with his pocket square
'Now admittedly it wasn't the cleanest handkerchief in the world, but that's not the point. I've been wearing pocket squares in my jackets since I was twenty years old, and if anyone did that to me, there'd be a fire on the moon, that's for sure! Such an invasive act.'

I loved the way he would always bring in his own memories of Dublin or of his childhood in Tipperary.  The phrase 'Bad Cess!' in episode 362 inspired a digression on swearing.

'Dublin was full of swearword euphemisms, my favourite being 'James's Street Christ Church and the Coombe!'... used instead of 'Jesus Mary and Joseph' and usually shortened to 'James's Street!''

Bloom's thoughts on watching communicants receiving the eucharist ('they don't seem to chew it only swallow it down') brought this memory:

'When I was a child of seven being taught how to take communion for my first communion, and practising with disks cut out of an ice-cream wafer, it was impressed upon me and upon all of us that we must never never never chew the host because it's the body of Christ. We had to swallow it whole, which wasn't always easy, because it always, it seemed to me, stuck to the roof of the mouth.'


After every twelfth podcast, Frank put up a 'Baker's Dozen' episode, a more general Joycean discussion. Here he is in episode 240a, talking brilliantly about how to read Finnegans Wake:

'Now we come to Finnegans Wake. Ha! Ha! (sigh) Two notes here, one minor one major. The minor note - there's no apostrophe in 'Finnegans'. We've all made that error, but you'll never make it again after I tell you that it is not a title with anything possessive in it. It's an exhortation to everybody by the name of Finnegan to wake up: 'Finnegans WAKE!'

The major note, Finnegans Wake is not a novel....No! No! Finnegans Wake is a poem, it's a symphony by a modern atonal composer. It's an assembly of language tying together floating evanescent ideas. It's a long rapid eye movement dream, it's a marathon technicoloured musing that might have been induced by mescaline or LSD or some other mind-bending substance. It's a seemingly reckless careening through English and other languages. Yet you know that every word has been considered in this hodge-podge pot-pourri of miscellaneous and not always aligned thoughts and ideas, in this flamboyant and brilliant linguistic exercise that mimics the intensely illustrated pages of a medieval Irish manuscript. It's a massive rap, as in rapper, as in street talk, as in lingo, as in the heat of the day and the cool of the night captured dreamily and melodiously in words of all shapes and sizes. It's a mirage. 

So 'How do I read it?' I hear you ask. Answer, don't!  Do not read FW. Feel it. Dip into a page, any page, and if you find something that lights up your synapses, and you will find lots and lots. Enjoy it. Coleridge said that every great and original writer must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished, as Coleridge himself did in trumps....Joyce had already done that with his previous books. Here he does so incandescently. I love Finnegans Wake, but it's a private love, almost a guilty secret. I read it to myself aloud, knowing that I can never ever do it justice.  And I don't follow it page by page. I dip. 

And when all its investigations have done, and when someone comes along and devotes forty or fifty or sixty years to opening out Finnegans Wake in full access, as I am trying to do with Ulysses, well then ladies and gentlemen we shall have available to us one of man's greatest works of art. I so hope that happens in my lifetime.  I so hope it's going on now. And I so hope we'll get to it during my life. And my life has to last another twenty-five years because of the Ulysses podcast. So my final advice in a single sentence is, read Finnegans Wake on any page at any time, and listen to it. Feel the words in your mouth and smile. But above all else: feel it in your spirit.'

Episode 240a 'Reading Joyce' 16 January 2015

PQ has written about this passage on his excellent Wake blog, coincidentally called Finnegans, Wake!

I still have episodes 365-8 left to listen to, and it will be so unbearably sad to hear the final one.


Friday, 10 February 2017

Last Memories of Joyce

Here's another quotation from Nino Frank, describing the last bleak period in Joyce's life:

Joyce in 1938 by Gisele Freund
'Harnessed to an inhuman task, this man had been leading an hallucinatory and raw-nerved life for a long time. By a supreme effort during the years 1938 and 1939 he had finally completed Finnegans Wake. This was an event of the utmost importance for himself, but not for the so-called civilised world, which at that time was otherwise occupied....On the day when he held the first copies in his hands, the continent was crossing the threshold of night; from then on, all was lost in the inane noise of the first cannonades.
   The last stage of Joyce's life was therefore to be a time when the arrow shot from his bow disappeared into a derisive void. When the self relaxes after such a long effort, it no longer offers any resistance to the forces of destruction. The avidness with which James Joyce sought some attention for his work was without any doubt the cry of a life in danger. I was informed that, his daughter still mentally unbalanaced, his daughter-in-law in turn had to be hospitalized. It was as if around the old hero – I have mentioned Oedipus as well as Don Quixote: doesn't Finnegans Wake seem to be man's answer to the sphinx? – some obscure vengeance of the gods was falling.'

Nino Frank, 'The Shadow That Had Lost Its Man' in Portraits of the Artist in Exile ed Potts.

Here's a similar memory of that time, from Georges Belmont, in a 1982 account translated by Anthony Burgess:

'In my final view of him – the most precious of all – at the end of February 1940, I left him at about two in the morning. I was taking the dawn train. Back in Paris I remember telling some friends that I’d never see him again – it was all over. And I wasn’t thinking merely of the inevitable separation of war – I was thinking of Goethe after Faust Part II, Wagner after Parsifal, of the death – the most natural of deaths – which seizes the great creators after they’ve said all they have to say.
In that little hotel at Saint-Gérand-le-Puy, when I asked him if he was working at something, he replied with a smile and a sigh – “I’m adding commas to Finnegans Wake.” Then, after one of his long silences, he laughed and said: “If I write anything new, it will be something very very simple.” It was the best way, the quietest and most resigned way, of telling me that he’d write no more.'

Joyce with Paul Léon
I was reminded me of John Naughton's 1991 interview with Alexis Léon, the son of Paul Léon, Joyce's unpaid assistant while he was writing the Wake.

'My main memory of Mr Joyce is of a very quiet man. He used to come and sit, with long periods of silence, in his favourite armchair in our living room, and he and my father would talk together or would be working on some papers and so on. Like my father, he was a man of great courtesy and as I grew a little bit older I thought of them as quiet beacons of civilisation in a world that was very much in upheaval – havens of grace perhaps, under pressure....
  Why was he so devoted to Mr Joyce? Well, first of all, he admired him. And I think he felt he should help because after all Mr Joyce was labouring under many disadvantages and doing something which had never been attempted before....He was breaking the bounds of language and bringing into literature a whole stream of coinsciousness....
  The last memory I have comes from St Gérand-le-Puy during the exodus from Paris. I remember my father and Mr Joyce sitting or taking walks, very often without talking, just like that.
  Once, while I was dashing around on a bicycle, I found them sitting on a tree trunk looking at something. Joyce pointed to an earwig that was coming out of a log and he said 'Ah, here's HCE, here comes HCE' – H.C. Earwicker, one of the characters of Finnegans Wake. They were both watching it and they truly thought it was a sign.
  That is my last memory of Joyce. He then went back to Zurich and my father and I left for Paris. The war did its work and both men died. But I have never forgotten those three or four years, when I came close to someone who left his mark on this century.'   

'Arm in Arm With A Literary Legend', The Observer, 13 January 1991 
I've found another interview with Alexis Léon in the Irish Times, where he says:

'(Joyce) was courteous but very silent. He was good with children. His eyesight may have been impaired, but he had an ear open to the world....In writing Finnegans Wake, Joyce was breaking the bonds of language. He would check ways of saying things with my father, who could speak seven languages.'
In 1941, Paul Léon risked his life to save Joyce's papers, left behind in his flat in occupied Paris:

'Paul and a handy man we sometimes employed made two trips with a pushcart, and it was only later I realized how distasteful entering someone else's home and rummaging through private possessions had been to my husband. He told me he hoped he had saved everything of importance, and I suggested that he go once more and make sure. Paul looked at me very steadily and said very gently, 'Do you realize what you are saying?''   

Lucie Noel (Léon), quoted by Danis Rose, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, p 4

It's thanks to those two trips with a pushcart that we can read Joyce's notebooks and manuscripts in the National Library of Ireland and the University of Buffalo.

Léon was arrested by the Gestapo in October 1941, and murdered in Auschwitz the following April.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Anna Livia Plurabella Part 2

The story of the Italian translation of Anna Livia Plurabelle has a villain – the journalist Ettore Settanni, who stole the co-authorship credit from Nino Frank and mutilated the text.  

'Settanni writes me from Capri that he thought it well to soften certain passages. Please obtain a copy of the review and note the variants in the margin. In that way I will have our original text. Settanni writes me that your name does not appear for reasons you will understand at once. But it will not always be kept hidden I trust.'

Joyce to Nino Frank 13 March 1940 Letters III p 468-9
Nino Frank

The reason for Frank not being credited was that he had been exiled from Italy for anti-fascist activity – ironically, by Curzio Malaparte, the editor of the very review in which the translation was published. Malaparte had been a prominent early fascist, but later became an opponent of both Hitler and Mussolini. In 1932, he had been stripped of his fascist membership and sent into internal exile on Lipari. His offence was writing a book in which he called Hitler 'a woman'! (Hitler: Une Femme)

Curzio Malaparte, who called Hitler a woman!
Settanni, who was ignorant of the original text being translated, took it upon himself 'to soften certain passages', without consulting Joyce. He also changed the text of Joyce's letter (quoted in the previous blog) when he pubished it in the same journal:

'The April issue is publishing a letter I wrote to Settanni. The text shows that the third person singular pronouns have been changed to second person plural pronouns!  By the way, did I ever lend you At Swim Two Birds by F.O'Brien? I am only asking, not accusing you.'

Joyce to Nino Frank, 9 April 1940  Letters III p474-5

The pronoun changes were made was because, in 1938, had Mussolini banned the use of 'Lei' replacing it with 'voi' in formal speech.

(I've included that last bit because it's the only independent confirmation I can find of Joyce's love of this book – which still carries an unsourced approving quote from him: 'That's a real writer, with the true comic spirit')

Here's Nino Frank on the changes made to 'Anna Livia Plurabella' by Settanni:

'A dozen slight modifications, most of them absurd, had been made in our text – I mention only a particular sentence in which, by means of puns, Joyce inserted the names of four counties of Ireland: Derry, Cork, Dublin, and Galway; the newcomer changed the words and spoiled the puns.'
Nino Frank, 'The Shadow That Had Lost Its Man', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile ed Potts, p 202  

So this is one passage 'softened' by Settanni:
'And his derry's own drawl and his corksown blather and his doubling stutter and his gullaway swank.' 197.04

Joyce and Frank translated this as:

'Un ghigno derriso del corcontento, ma chiazze galve dal cervel debolino'

Settanni had no idea what was going on here, so he changed it. 

Back to Nino Frank:

'Furthermore the text was presented as the work of Settanni himself, my name having completely disappeared; the Italian wrote that I 'would understand.'
 His reasons were doubly good: for more than ten years I had been a literary fuoriuscito*, and it happened that I owed my very exile to the hate of that very Malaparte – it dated from his 'ultra' days (To finish with Settanni, I will add that these reasons no longer existed around 1955, when he republished the text, still omitting my name. He was later forced to rectify the error). Yet Joyce seemed somewhat troubled the day he informed me of the intrigue...'

*One exiled from Italy for political reasons. 

Yes, in 1955, Settanni published James Joyce e La Prima Versione Italiana del Finnegan's (sic) Wake, (Venice: Cavalliino) which includes a reminiscence in which he claimed to have worked on the translation with Joyce!

This morning I discovered the typescript of Joyce and Frank's translation online on the National Library of Ireland's wonderful website. Although this is the original typescript, it's described as an 'Italian translation by James Joyce, Nino Frank and Ettore Settanni.'