Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Book in Brown Paper

I bought this for just £8 in Brighton Books
'Buy a book in brown paper
From Faber and Faber
To see Anna Liffey trip, tumble and caper.
Sevensinns in her singthings,
Plurabelle on her prose,
Seashell ebb music wayriver she goes'

That's a verse Joyce wrote for the dust jacket of the Anna Livia Plurabelle booklet, published in 1930. He was annoyed when the sales department at Faber only used it on a mimeographed publicity release, along with a note expressing bafflement at it.

Covers were very important to Joyce (Ulysses originally had a blue cover with white letters to represent the Greek flag and Homer's white islands on the blue sea)
. He chose this brown because it was the colour of the River Liffey flowing through Dublin. 'The stream is quite brown, rich in salmon, very devious, shallow', he wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver.

The red triangle on the cover, representing the river delta, is Anna Livia's symbol. It also appears in the opening page of the chapter/booklet (right).

Anna Livia is the River Liffey, and also a woman, partly modelled on Livia Svevo, the red-haired wife of the novelist Italo Svevo. Joyce told an Italian journalist: 'They say I have immortalized Svevo, but I've also immortalized the tresses of Signora Svevo. These were long and reddish-blond. My sister who used to see them let down told me about them. The river at Dublin passes dye-houses and so has reddish water. So I have playfully compared these two things in the book I'm writing. A lady in it will have the tresses which are really Signora Svevo's.'

Ellmann writes, 'When Livia Svevo heard that Joyce in Finnegans Wake was using her flowing hair as a symbol of the lovely river Liffey, she was flattered, but when she heard that in the river there were two washerwomen scrubbing dirty linen, she was disgusted.'

You can find ALP's saffron hair, 'deepdark and ample like this red bog at sundown' on page 203 of Finnegans Wake.

An early version of Anna Livia was first published in Adrienne Monnier's magazine Navire d’Argent in October 1925. The finished text then came out in transition 8, in November 1927.  This was followed, in 1928,  by a deluxe limited edition of 850 copies, by Crosby Gaige of New York. Ellmann, citing Sylvia Beach, says that it 'had to be published in a tea-coloured cover because the Liffey was the color of tea' (p.603). Here the delta symbol is reversed.

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