Friday, 25 November 2016

Clive Hart

Clive Hart from flickr
I was sad to learn recently that the great Joycean Clive Hart died this summer. There's a beautifully written tribute to him by his stepson, the anthropologist, Jed Stevenson, on his blog. He writes that Hart 'had one of the most searching minds of anyone I’ve known, and about the widest interests.' This also comes across in Roland McHugh's description of Hart, in his Finnegans Wake Experience (1981):

'Clive Hart, an Australian of a jovial and tolerant disposition, was, like myself trained in the sciences – physics in fact – and was also a major international authority on medieval kites and windsocks.'

Stevenson's blog sent me to a wonderful interview that Hart gave to Cabinet magazine in 2003, in which he discussed his fascination with early attempts at flight. Like everything Hart wrote, this is full of startlingly original ideas:

'People should have been thinking about bats [rather than birds]. But of course, bats were figures of evil. If they’d based their ideas a little bit more on bats, though, they might have gotten a bit further.....Because bats fly better and because the structure of bats’ wings is much easier to imitate.'



I've already written here about Clive Hart's role in the Great Kiswahili controversy of 1962-3, when he made a passionate defense of creative reading, against Jack Dalton's reductive intentionalism.

'Most modern critics will say, rightly or wrongly, that it doesn't matter a damn what any author intended, except in so far as that intention is borne out by the work itself. ''For all we know, JJ may have intended FW to be a cookery book. Who cares what he thought? What are the book's intentions?'''  

Clive Hart to Roland McHugh, 1968, quoted in The Finnegans Wake Experience

But how do you find out a book's intentions? How do you find out what a book as odd as Finnegans Wake intends?!

Clive Hart came up with his own answer in Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake, which he published in 1962, the same year that, with Fritz Senn, he launched the Wake Newslitter. You can read the whole book online in the James Joyce Scholars Collection here.

In 1962, nobody knew more about Finnegans Wake than Clive Hart. The following year, he would bring out A Concordance to Finnegans Wake, which combines a list of the 63,924 Wake words with a section called Overtones, listing 10,000 English words suggested by the Wake ones. 

Hart was the first scholar to look at the way Joyce uses motifs – repeated rhythmic phrases – in the Wake. For Structure and Motif, he catalogued more than a thousand of them. Here's one example:
'Teems of times and happy returns. The same anew.'
'We drames our dreams tell Bappy returns. And Sein annews' 277.19
'-Booms of bombs and heavy rethudders?
-This aim to you!'
'Themes have thimes and habit reburns. To flame in you.' 614.08-9

For the reader, these motifs provide a reassuring element of familiarity in the confusion of the Wake. They are part of the musicality of the book.

These motifs are clearly 'intended' by the book, since everyone can recognize them.

The problem with Hart's book is when he dealt with Structure.  He argued that the Wake is structured on several interlinked cycles, using various dream levels, Viconian cycles and the World-Ages of Indian philosophy (right).

As a student, in 1982, I went to the Joyce Centenary Symposium in Dublin, where I saw Hart take part in a panel discussion called Joyce the Masterbilker: The Architecture of Finnegans WakeThe panel also comprised Fritz Senn, David Hayman, Margot Norris, Luigi Schenoni, Nathan Halper, Melvin Seesholtz and Robert Boyle S.J. During the discussion, I was astonished to hear Hart say, 'There is no deep structure in Finnegans Wake.'  

I was too in awe of the Joyceans to ask a question in Dublin. But later that year I saw Hart lecture at the University of London, where he repeated the statement that the Wake has no deep structure. At the end I asked him how, having written Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake, he could say that. He said that he no longer believed in his own book!

Hart had come to realise that he'd projected all the patterns and cycles he'd detected onto the book. Fritz Senn also records, in Joycean Murmoirs (2007):

'Clive Hart's Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake took a much wider view, away from individual particles, and it was a big step forward. But I also know that Clive no longer believes in its results and would now throw about 95 per cent of it overboard.'

It strikes me that a creative reading of the Wake, like John Bishop's or John Gordon's, is an act of faith – faith that the patterns and meanings that the reader detects are objectively present in the book. Hart had lost this faith.

Jed Stephenson writes in his blog:

'After decades of work, even tentative answers to the questions of how the book was structured, or what its central themes were, were elusive. “The student of Finnegans Wake needs to be a humble person,” Clive wrote in the introduction to his concordance to the book. Those who claimed truly to understand it he viewed sceptically.' 

He viewed those who claimed to understand the Wake sceptically because he understood them.  When he wrote Structure and Motif, he had been one of them. 

Jed Stephenson also quotes a comment that Hart made about the years he'd spent working on the Wake: 'What were we looking for? Were we looking for the wrong thing?' 

A Topographical Guide to Ulysses  


My favourite book of Hart's is A Topographical Guide to Ulysses, originally published by the Wake Newslitter Press in 1975. The first edition came out as a booklet, with a separate folder of maps by Leo Knuth. That summer in 1982, I wandered all over Dublin, exploring the city with those maps. For the 2004 centenary Bloomsday, Hart brought out a beautiful hardback edition, published by Thames and Hudson, with exquisite new maps by Ian Gunn.  


The Guide demonstrates the extraordinary accuracy of the way in which Joyce, writing in far away Trieste, Zurich, and Paris, made his characters move around Dublin.  Hart worked out how the novel operates in time and place using 1904 tram and train timetables, and by walking the streets of Dublin with a stopwatch. One of the big events of the 1982 symposium was 'O Rocks', a re-enactment of the Wandering Rocks episode by more than a 100 actors, based on Hart's own tabulation of the chapter. He himself played Father Conmee, who sets the chapter in motion. I followed Bloom around, with a radio pressed to my ear (listening to RTE's all-day dramatic reading of the whole novel).


Here's what Hart has to say about Bloom's route to the post office and baths in Lotuseaters:


'The simple, matter-of-fact style of the first few paragraphs of Lotuseaters conceals the remarkably tortuous character of Bloom's route...He is trying, of course, to reach the post office without being seen by acquaintances – especially perhaps, by Boylan, whose own advertising agency was evidently in the centre of town – and at the same time he is troubled by his own conscience and sense of personal failure. The meanderings which follow his initial apearance on the quay are like the aimless wanderings of a drugged and troubled man, Bloom's demeanour suggesting, indeed , that he may not be fully conscious of what he is doing....Thus far Bloom's wanderings describe the shape of a question mark.'



Here's another map, showing the Ship pub at 5 Lower Abbey Street, where Mulligan and Haines wait for Stephen to buy them drinks at noon. Stephen never arrives, sending a telegram instead.



Just four doors to the left of the Ship, at 1 Lower Abbey Street, stood Mooney's pub, now sadly gone, but still open when I visited Dublin. This is where Stephen goes drinking with the newspapermen at the end of the Aeolus episode:


I have money.
–Gentlemen, Stephen said. As the next motion on the agenda paper may I suggest that the house do now adjourn?
–You take my breath away. It is not perchance a French compliment? Mr O’Madden Burke asked. ’Tis the hour, methinks, when the winejug, metaphorically speaking, is most grateful in Ye ancient hostelry.
–That it be and hereby is resolutely resolved. All that are in favour say ay, Lenehan announced. The contrary no. I declare it carried. To which particular boosing shed? ... My casting vote is: Mooney’s!

Hart writes:


'Mulligan is beginning to have good reason to feel piqued at the waste of his time. He would doubtless be still more piqued were he to realise that while waiting in the Ship with the insufferable Haines, Stephen was drinking with other acquaintances in Mooney's only a few doors away.' 


There are so many things, like this, that we can learn about Ulysses by understanding the topography of the city. If you can't get to Dublin, read the book. But if you can visit, I recommend walking the streets of Dublin with the Topographical Guide. It's the nearest thing to travelling in a time machine back to 16 June 1904.  


Only last year, Clive Hart announced plans to bring out a revised edition,  which will be 40 pages longer than the 2004 version, and which will have new maps and photos and a whole new chapter documenting the movements of the minor characters. Read all about it here.



Friday, 7 October 2016

The Joyce Trail in Trieste Part 4: Looking for the Beach at Fontana

Here's a photograph of Joyce with his son Giorgio from Joyce Images (edited by Bob Cato and Greg Vitiello).  It was taken in 1914, the year that Joyce wrote a poem about taking Giorgio to the beach in Trieste.

On the Beach at Fontana

Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.

From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.

Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love! 

We can find the inspiration for the poem in Joyce's Trieste notebook of 1907-9 (in The Workshop of Daedalus):

'I held him in the sea at the baths of Fontana and felt with humble love the trembling of his frail shoulders: Asperge me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor: lavabis me at super nivem dealbalor ['Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow'].
 Before he was born I had no fear of fortune.' 

Trieste is famous for its winds, especially the bora, the north wind. Years after leaving Trieste, Joyce described this for his biographer, Herbert Gorman, in a list of all the things he remembered fondly about the city: 'Even the 'bora' that dreadful wind that blew so fiercely through the town that ropes had to be stretched across the streets to aid pedestrians, fascinated him as one of the irresistible phenomena of nature.'

The whining wind is something we saw for ourselves on the beach at Grado, just along the coast. Here you can see the lifeguard holding on to his sunshade as the wind suddenly whipped in from the sea. 


From the opening of Ulysses, where the hydrophobic Stephen Dedalus refuses to join Buck Mulligan for his morning dip, you'd think that Joyce didn't like swimming. But this is what Stanislaus Joyce says in My Brother's Keeper:

'My brother was very fond of swimming...He was a splashy swimmer but fast. Over a short distance he could beat his burly friend Gogarty, who was, of course, a far stronger swimmer.'  

Lisa and I are very fond of swimming too, and I was looking forward to seeing the beach at Fontana, though I had no idea where it was. But while riding a bus along the seafront to the castle of Miramare, the indicator announced 'Fontana'.  We got off, and found it was a popular spot with Slavs, sunbathing on the pavement.  There's no real beach here, just rocks and a roadside, which made me think how much Trieste must have changed since Joyce's day. Where were the shingle and crazy pierstakes?

Lisa on the 'beach' at Fontana where we swam from the rocks
I later discovered, from Renzo Crivelli's Joycean Itineraries, that we were at the wrong Fontana. Joyce's beach was at the other side of town, beside the Trieste docks. Here's a photo of the Fontana Baths from the book. Renzo Criveli says that Joyce was a regular visitor here.

The book says that their location was molo Maria Teresa (today molo Fratelli Bandiera). I fed that into Google Earth and got this aerial view of what the beach where Joyce took his son swimming now looks like.

'Of the original bathing places only the 'Lanterna' baths have survived; moreover they are the only ones in present times to maintain the old tradition of keeping the beach divided into two separate areas, one for the male swimmers and the other for the female.'   Renzo Crivelli

So Joyce's Fontana Baths are no more. The nearest we could get to a swim at Fontana was a visit to the nearby Ausonia Baths which, unlike the Lanterna, aren't segregated. These include a little beach and a series of wooden platforms over the sea.

The Ausonia Baths, named after an ancient poetic name for Italy, date from the 1930s. They felt much more relaxed than the usual Italian beach experience, with densely packed rows of sun-loungers. There were old ladies playing cards, gentlemen sunbathing, and teenagers diving off a high platform. There's also a little bar selling beer and pizza.

From the Ausonia, you can watch the ships coming in.

And you also get a view of the Lanterna, the last of the original bathing establishments. You can see the wall which divides the men's and women's sections. There have been attempts by the city authorities to remove it, but they've always been defeated by popular protests.

Soon we were swimming in the sea, in an area enclosed by a barrier of nets held up by floats.  We stayed there until dusk, when the sky began to turn purple.

While writing this blog just now, I googled 'Ausonia Baths', and came up this bit of history from the Discover Trieste website:

'At the beginning of the twentieth century Bagno Lanterna (El pedocin) and Bagno Fontana opened on the Lantern Pier near the city centre. Over the years, Bagno Fontana was gradually renovated and expanded. In the 1930s it became the magnificent "Ausonia" bathing complex, frequented by generations of residents and still extremely popular today.'

So we did get to swim at the Baths of Fontana!