Friday, 15 May 2020

Adding commas to Finnegans Wake

'Mr Joyce has been looking at FINNEGANS WAKE several times lately and every time he finds some misprints. In view of the possible necessity of a second edition of the book I think it will be well to start making the corrections right away....He says to me that he is sure the misprints must have crept in after his reading of the first proofs as he did not pass a single letter. '

Paul Léon to Richard de la Mere of Faber, 22 July 1939, from the Joyce Digital Archive 

In April 1940, nine months after Finnegans Wake was published, George Pelorson asked James Joyce, 'What are you going to do? Are you writing?' 'No, I'm rereading and revising Finnegans Wake.' 'Why?' 'Well, I'm adding commas.'

He wasn't joking.

These are just a few of Joyce's c800 revisions, published as a sixteen-page pamphlet by Viking press in 1945, which you can read online here, on Eric Rosenbloom's excellent Wake website Thanks to Peter Parker who scanned the booklet.

Joyce could have said, 'I'm adding exclamation marks'. He added 14 to Anna Livia's final monologue.

This looks like it might have changed the tone of the ending, but it already had lots of exclamation marks (on p625, where he added three, there had been six previously).

The corrections weren't incorporated in the Viking Press text until 1958. Until then, readers who got this pamphlet could go through their copies of Finnegans Wake adding all these commas and exclamation marks themselves! Did anybody ever do that?

In 2018, Sam Slote had a geat article in the James Joyce Quarterly discussing the convoluted history of these corrections, which were applied differently by Faber in the UK and Viking in the USA.

The published list of corrections itself has misprints, which were only fixed by Faber in 1975.

The bulk of Sam's article is an annotated list of the corrections themselves, including the 'corrections to the corrections.'

When I shared this on facebook, Sam commented, 'It's probably the geekiest thing I've ever written (and that's saying something). Unfortunately I found a few mistakes *after* it was published.'

The application of the corrections explains a few strange features of some of the editions. Rather than reset the whole page, the printers squeezed the new commas into existing spaces.

I asked Sam if Joyce had been told he could only make tiny corrections. Sam replied, 'Yes; he had limited latitude with the corrections; as indeed was also the case with the revisions made on the galley- and page-proofs. Unlike Shakespeare and Co., he was dealing with a real publisher.'

This must have taken a lot of self-control on Joyce's part! His earlier habit with proofs was not to correct misprints but to add loads of new material.  Here's a typical page from the third set of proofs of the Jaun episode given to transition, in May 1928.

Joyce couldn't get away with this sort of behaviour with Faber and Faber and Viking.
Even so, old habits die hard. He couldn't resist adding a bit of new text to page 176, even though it meant cutting a pantomime reference to Ali Baba.

Sam commented, 'That's one of the few emendations that affects more than one line. This particular one throws off the lineation for nine lines!!'

When I asked Sam for his permission to quote him here, he wrote, 'Yes, please do. And this gives me a chance to correct a big mistake: in order to correct the misalignment of the marginalia in II.2, Faber used the Viking plates for the 75. However, for some weird reason, five pages in II.2 still used the old Faber plates, which is evident since the font size of the marginalia is noticeably smaller. The affected pages are: 275, 281, 285, 297, 301.'

Finn Fordham has also made a detailed study, in which he worked out that 28% of the corrections were added commas. He also comments on this one.

Finn describes this added question mark as 'a rare insertion of an editor’s voice or presence, as if detached from the text at hand, an aside to the reader which, like us, asks ‘what exactly is all this?’

On facebook, Finn shared his own favourites: 'My deep geek favourites are on pages 285 and 287: for ''redor' read 'erdor'... for 'erdor' read 'odrer'. Both gratuitous anagrams (i.e. re-orderings) of "order". Which is what they were when first entered onto early draft levels: 'cyclic order... violated' and 'applepine order'. "Considerations of space influenced [his] lordship's decisions".'

Changing 'redor' to 'erdor' at 285.01 gives us HCE's initials. is this a rare example of a genuine correction to a misprint?


In his introduction to the Alma Classics Finnegans Wake, Sam Slote says that only one of Joyce's corrections 'really helps.' Here it is:


In this description of HCE's sin in the park, two lines have been swapped, wrecking not just the syntax but two words, 'touching' and  'exposure'.


As corrected by Joyce, sense and words are restored.


Well spotted Mr Joyce! 


My favourite punctuation change is a full stop, added at 257.27 after the word 'the'.


Here 'the.' is followed by a hundred-letter thunderword made up of different ways of saying 'shut the door'.

Finnegans Wake never ends – its last word is 'the' without a stop. Luca Crispi discovered that after writing that final 'the', Joyce added full stops after definite articles in places where doors are being closed.

'who oped it closet thereof the. Dor' (FW 020.17-18). 
'that henchwench what hopped it dunneth there duft the. Duras' (334.29).

Dirk Van Hulle describes the significance of the stop on p257:

'In the Wake the full stop is never used only to mark an end but to indicate the possibility of a new sentence. Although this extra full stop is camouflaged and disguised as one of the 'Corrections of Misprints'' on the errata lists, it is not just an accidental but one of the most subtle constantive variants in modern literature, Giordano Bruno's coincidentia oppositorum summarized in the smallest of textual marks. It is significant that this change was made after the work was 'finished' and presented to the public, emphasizing the fact that even as Wake the work continued to be in progress: a full stop indicating the unfinishedness of a sentence, as a textual counterpint to the full-stopless closing of the book.'

Dirk Van Hulle, 'The Lost Word', in How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake, p 454-5

Joyce sometimes uses punctuation marks as pictures.  In the Phoenix Park Nocturne, where the park animals and birds are settling down for the night, we read 'the birds, tommelise too, quail silent. ii.'

Joyce gave Jacques Mercanton an extraordinary note on this:  ‘two little birds, male and female, release their little prayers, the two dots on the i's.’

If there are fans of wild punctuation out there, I recommend page 124. This is a discussion of punctuation as puncture marks - paper wounds - in the letter pecked by a hen out of a dunghill.

Joyce didn't suggest any corrections for this passage! Even so, according to Rose and O'Hanlon, it includes several misprints. Here's their corrected text version.

Thinking about pictorial punctuation reminded me of the stop at the end of the 'Ithaca' chapter of Ulysses. The answer to the final question, this marks the moment that Bloom falls asleep. The stop here is being used as a picture of his conscious mind shutting down, like an old tv screen image collapsing to a white dot.

Joyce told the French printer of the first edition that he wanted 'un point bien visible.'   
posted by Sam Slote on twitter

The printer gave him a black square (a quadrilateral six point typesetters 'em).  

Joyce's symbol for Finnegans Wake was also a square. 

'I am making an engine with only one wheel. No spokes of course. The wheel is a perfect square. You see what I'm driving at don't you? I am awfully solemn about it, mind you, so you must not think it is a silly story about the mouse and grapes. No, it's a wheel, I tell the world. And it's all square.'  

To Harriet Shaw Weaver, 12 May 1927

So a black square is a perfect image and symbol of Joyce's 'lingerous longerous book of the dark' (251.23).  I like to look at this little black square in Ulysses through a magnifying glass and think of it as a portal into Finnegans Wake. Could it be a microdot containing the whole of Joyce's book?


Postscript from twitter

This is an annotation by Clive Driver, from his James Joyce's Ulysses: The Manuscript and First Printings Compared, 1975.

It looks to me like a drawing of James Joyce's spectacles, which magnified his left 'good' eye - the eye he used to finish Finnegans Wake with

'Retinal congestion suddenly developed in my left (the one really left) eye in consequence of months of day and (literally) allnight work in finishing WiP....but it was only strain and righted itself with a few weeks rest.' 

To Pound, 9 February 1938, Letters III, 415

Photograph by Lipnitski

Friday, 10 April 2020

Good Friday with James Joyce

'one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water' John 19:34

Today is Good Friday, though the churches are empty of worshippers because of the Corona Lockdown. Stay home, save lives, read Finnegans Wake!

Holy Week was the one time of the year when James Joyce would visit a Catholic church. Although he lost his faith, he always kept his love for Church ritual and music, telling his brother Stanislaus c1900, 'The Mass on Good Friday seems to me a very great drama.'

Strictly speaking, there is no mass on Good Friday. But until 1955, the Good Friday service was called the Mass of the Presanctified, using a sacrament consecrated and reserved at an earlier mass.  Here's Stanislaus Joyce:

'The Mass of the Presancitifed...was introduced, i believe, in the fifth or sixth century, no doubt to supplant the dramatic interest of the pagan mysteries, which the people still missed. It was as a primitive religious drama that my brother valued it so highly. He understood is as the drama of a man who has a perilous mission to fulfil, which he must fulfil even though he knows beforehand that those nearest to his heart will betray him. The chant and words of Judas or Peter on Palm Sunday: 'Etsi omnes scandalizata fuerint in te, ego numquam scandaizabor' ('Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” Matthew 26:33) moved him profoundly. He was habitually a very late riser, but wherever he was, alone in Paris or married in Trieste, he never failed to get up in all weathers to go to the early morning Mass on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.'

My Brother's Keeper 117-118 

Joyce described the drama of Good Friday in Stephen Hero:
'— Do you like the services of Holy Week? said Stephen. 
— Yes, said Cranly. 
 — They are wonderful, said Stephen. Tenebrae — it’s so damned childish to frighten us by knocking prayerbooks on a bench. Isn’t it strange to see the Mass of the Presanctified — no lights or vestments, the altar naked, the door of the tabernacle gaping open, the priests lying prostrate on the altar steps? ...Don’t you think the Reader who begins the mass is a strange person. No-one knows where he comes from: he has no connection with the mass. He comes out by himself and opens a book at the right hand side of the altar and when he has read the lesson he closes the book and goes away as he came. Isn’t he strange?'

Renzo Crivelli quotes Joyce's sister, Eileen, who followed him to Trieste:

'He used to go to the Greek Orthodox Church because he liked the ceremonies better there. But in Holy Week he always went to the Catholic Church.' 

Triestine Itineraries

Ellmann has a similar Trieste story.

'During Holy Week he behaved in a way that seemed odd to his sisters. Too fond of the liturgy and music to forgo them, but determined to make clear his indifference, he avoided going with Eileen and Eva or sitting with them. Instead he came by himself and stood in a corner; and when the mass was over left quietly without waiting. He...made clear that his own motive was esthetic, not pious.'

Ellmann p 309-10

Crivelli also quotes a lecture from Stanislaus Joyce on his brother's attitude to Catholicism:

'Something in the pomp and ceremony with which the legend of Jesus is told in the offices of the Church impressed him profoundly, but on almost all the fundamental tenets of belief his attitude to Catholicism was more like that of the gargoyles outside a cathedral than of the saints within it.'

Here's Joyce's clearest statement of his attitude to religion:

'I profess no religion at all. Of the two religions, Protestantism and Catholicism, I prefer the latter. Both are false. The former is cold and colorless. The second-named is constantly associated with art; it is a 'beautifiul lie' – something at least.'

Joyce to Georges Borach, 21 October 1918 ('Conversations with James Joyce')



Joyce loved the music of Holy Week, in particular the processional hymn, Vexilla Regis (Banners of the King). 

In A Portrait of the Artist, discussing the music of Holy Week with Lynch, Stephen praises the Vexilla Regis:

'(Aquinas) wrote a hymn for Maundy Thursday. It begins with the words Pange lingua gloriosi. They say it is the highest glory of the hymnal. It is an intricate and soothing hymn. I like it; but there is no hymn that can be put beside that mournful and majestic processional song, the Vexilla Regis of Venantius Fortunatus. 

Lynch began to sing softly and solemnly in a deep bass voice: 

Inpleta sunt quæ concinit
David fideli carmine
Dicendo nationibus
Regnavit a ligno Deus.

—That’s great! he said, well pleased. Great music'

On Good Friday in 1938, the young Swiss writer Jacques Mercanton visited Joyce in Paris:

"He told me that Good Friday and Holy Saturday were the two days of the year when he went to church, for the liturgies, which represented by their symbolic rituals the oldest mysteries of humanity.
  'I am going to work until 5:00 in the morning.  Then I will go to Saint Francis-Xavier's for the office. if you want to join me you will have to rise early....
  The following day, Holy Saturday, I reached Saint Francis-Xavier's at the moment of the blessing of the baptismal fonts. Joyce was standing among the group of men who had accompanied the priest into the side chapel. He was enveloped in a thick gray cape and carried a cane over his arm. His face was sad under his gray hair.  He was following the ritual from very close.  When the procession regained the altar, he walked slowly as far as one of the lateral aisles of the chrch and rested there, leaning against the grill. I joined him. He looked frightened, recognized me in the shadows by my voice, slipped his frail hand into mine. Then, as soon as the Mass began, he made a nervous impatient gesture and murmured in Englsh, 'I have seen the rebirth of fire and water. Enough until next year. The rest is without interest.'
  And he walked rapidly away, his face set, while the Gloria burst out from the bell-towers.'
'The Hours of James Joyce' in Potts (ed), Portraits of the Artist in Exile p.215 


Later that year, Mercanton met Joyce in Montreux, where they talked about a mysterious sentence in Finnegans Wake:

'I remembered a phrase Joyce had commented upon the day before in a voice full of nostalgia: 'Forth from his pierced part came the woman of his dreams, blood thicker than water, last trade overseas.' (FW 130.31-3)  Anna Livia, the river, the woman born of man's rib, and, through the proverb, the blood mixed with water that spurted from Christ's side at the blow of the spear, 'fluxit unda cum sanguine'. Last voyage and last return over the sea where every life comes to an end. There is the art of fancy for you, one that stirs the imagination in its most secret and intimate recesses.
   'I am very fond of that sentence,' said Joyce.'

'The Hours of James Joyce' in Potts (ed), Portraits of the Artist in Exile p.228

The sentence, written in the early 30s, is one of the epithets of HCE in the Questions and Answers chapter. Mercanton has slightly misquoted the line, which should say, 'forth of his pierced part came the woman of his dreams, blood thicker then water last trade overseas'. So blood flowed followed by water.

The Wake sentence echoes this verse in the Vexilla hymn:

Quae vulnerata lanceae
Mucrone diro, criminum,
ut nos lavaret sordibus,
Manavit unda et sanguine

*'Whereon wounded beside by the sharp point of the cruel spear that he might cleanse us from sin he shed forth water and blood'

Anna as the blood and water flowing from the wounded HCE shows her redemptive, cleansing role in the book. As a river, she carries away the waterborn rubbish of Dublin. The shirt brought back clean to HCE in the final monologue has been washed in the Liffey.

They met again in Paris, on Holy Thursday in 1939, when Joyce recited the closing pages of the Wake to Mercanton. On Good Friday, Joyce, reminded of the Wake line by Mercanton, sang that verse from the Vexilla Regis:

'We walked the Terrace of the Invalides in the vernal gloom of a Parisian Good Friday.... Prompted by the night wind, both of us buttoned up our overcoats and, to comfort us in the cold weather, I imagined the Oriental warmth of the first Good Friday.

'Warm? On no,' he said, 'they lighted a fire in the courtyard of the praetorium, quia frigus erat.'

Stretching out his hands, he bent over an invisible fire. And I repeated that consecrated phrase: 'Forth from his pierced part came the woman of his dreams, blood thicker than water, last trade overseas.' ' That's true,' he said, 'today...' and, as in A Portrait of the Artist, he began to sing softly in a deep slow voice:

Quae vulnerata lanceae
Mucrone diro, criminum,
ut nos lavaret sordibus,
Manavit unda et sanguine'

I listened to that wonderful chant, the most distressing, the most consoling in the whole liturgy, for it celebrates the grief of God himself. It was the last time I was to hear Joyce sing.'

'The Hours of James Joyce' in Potts (ed), Portraits of the Artist in Exile p.245-246 


Wednesday, 11 March 2020

James Joyce and Adolf Hitler: 'heal helper! one gob, one gap, one gulp and gorger of all!'

Hitler was on Time's cover many times, Joyce just twice

'The weather is not good, and worst of all the newsboys keep careering round the streets shouting out about 'L'Autriche'. I am afraid poor Mr Hitler-Missler will soon have few admirers in Europe apart from your nieces and my nephews, masters W. Lewis and E. Pound' 

28 July 1934 Letters III, 311

That's a letter from Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver from Spa in Belgium. Four days before, the Austrian Nazis had staged an unsuccessful coup in which they assassinated Chancellor Dolfuss. So Joyce calls Hitler 'Hitler-Missler' - a play on hit or miss.

In 1931, Wyndham Lewis had written sympathetically about Hitler before he came to power, even describing him as a  'Man of Peace'!  As for Ezra Pound, he told Yeats that all modern statesmen were scoundrels 'except Mussolini and that hysterical imitator of his, Hitler.'

Here's another letter, written in 1935 when the Joyce children were away from Paris, Giorgio in the USA and Lucia in Ireland:

'What can I honestly ask them to come back to? Paris is like myself a haughty ruin or if you like a decayed reveller. And any time I turn on the radio I hear some British politician mumbling inanities or his German cousin shouting and yelling like a madman. Perhaps Ireland and the U.S. are the safe places. And perhaps this is where the gas is really going to be turned on. Well so be it. The motto under my coat of arms, however, is: Mors aut honorabilis vita.'

To Harriet Shaw Weaver, 1 May 1935, Letters I, 376 

'Death or an honourable life' really is on the Joyce Coat of Arms.

Though Hitler missed toppling the Austrian government in 1934, he succeeded in 1938. 
On 17 March, four days after German troops marched into Austria, the Joyces were at a St Patrick's night party at Paul Léon's in Paris. Carola Giedion-Welcker described the conversation:

'The political sky in Europe seemed to be growing steadily darker, and so the discusion touched, of course, on National Socialist Germany, whereupon fears, suspicions, and curses were voiced by several of those present.  James Joyce had assumed a calm, pensive attitude, but suddenly he began to talk and declared in his objective and cool manner that Hitler was surely a historical phenomenon of colossal force that wouldn't be easy to cope with. The detached and emotionless way in which he spoke, as though referring to a personal adversary, particularly bothered the women present. Nora Joyce, who had listened to him intently, now suddenly jumped up, and while Joyce continued his calm, interested analysis of Hitler's personalty from the point of view of its immense force and drive, she grabbed her knife, which she had just been using on a poulet de bresse, rushed forward to him, and shouted, 'Jim, another word about that devil and I will murder you!''  

'Meetings with Joyce', Portraits of the Artist in Exile, p270

Ellmann gives some extra detail: 

'For some years he had referred to Nazi Germany as 'Hitlerland', and no-one could have been less attracted than he to the frenzied personality of the Fuehrer. But he cultivated disengagement and remarked one night at dinner at Paul Léon's. 'Isn't this Hitler a phenomenon? Think of getting a whole people behind you.' Nora picked up a knife and said, 'You stop that Jim.''

Ellmann, p708

Austrian Anschluss left Czechoslovakia like a helpless animal, waiting to be gobbled up by German jaws.

Germany prepares to gulp down Czechoslovakia

It's easy to think that James Joyce, who spent the whole of World War One living in his imagination in Dublin in 1904, had no interest in contemporary events. But Finnegans Wake was not like Ulysses. Its material came from stories in the daily newspapers, radio news and conversations. Joyce said, 'Really it is not I who am writing this crazy book. It is you, and you, and you, and that man over there, and that girl at the next table.'  

In 1938, everybody was talking about Adolf Hitler, and this fed into the book Joyce was writing. So let's go Nazi hunting in Finnegans Wake.


In May 1938, Joyce revising the Shem the Penman chapter, added a reference to Hitler. The speaker is Shaun, partly based on Wyndham Lewis:

our liege, tilyet a stranger in the frontyard of his happiness, is taking, (heal helper! one gob, one gap, one gulp and gorger of all!) his refreshment 191.07

That's based on the Nazi salute, 'Heil Hitler! Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer' (Hail Hitler! One people, one empire, one leader)

Adaline Glasheen, discussing this line in her 3rd Census, found Ezra Pound here too: 'the name Ezra means 'helper''.

Hitler would be 'the gorger of all'. 

Elsewhere Joyce gives us versions of another Nazi salute, 'Sieg Heil!' ('Hail Victory'):

'Seek hells' 228.06

People who hail victory in war are seekers of hells.

'Hide! Seek! Hide! Seek! Because number one lived at Bothersby North and he was trying to. Hide! Seek! Hide! Seek! And number two digged up Poors Coort, Soother, trying to. Hide! Seek! Hide! Seek! And nomber three he sleeped with Lilly Tekkles at The Eats and he was trying to. Hide! Seek! Hide! Seek!'  372.35

And here's a reference to goose stepping.

'Such was the act of goth stepping' 332.10

The Goths were one of the Germanic peoples who overwhelmed the Roman Empire. It would have made more sense to nickname Germans Goths rather than Huns (an Asiatic people).



For much of 1938, Joyce was writing the final book of Finnegans Wake. Rereading this recently with fwread, the online reading group, I've been struck by repeated ominous shadows of encroaching war.  

On page 598 there's a menacing reference to Nazi Germany's 'Strength through Joy'.

'And your last words todate in camparative accoustomology are going to tell stretch of a fancy through strength towards joyance, adyatants, where he gets up. Allay for allay, a threat for a throat.' 598.23

'allay for alley' is 'an eye for an eye' - the principle of retribution, and a play on the German für alle (for all) so a threat for every throat. This was added to the text in the second typescript, spring-summer 1938.

Strength through Joy
On the next page we have gathering clouds, panicstricken humanity, 'the fog of the cloud in which we toil'  and 'bomb the thing's to be domb about it':

'Cumulonubulocirrhonimbant heaven electing, the dart of desire has gored the heart of secret watersthe poplarest wood in the entire district is being grown at present, eminently adapted for the requirements of pacnincstricken humanity and, between all the goings up and the whole of the comings down and the fog of the cloud in which we toil and the cloud of the fog under which we labour, bomb the thing’s to be domb about it' 599.27

The 'fog of war' is a phrase associated with Carl von Clausewitz: 'War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.'

A few pages on, we greet the arrival of Shaun the Post:

'Here's heering you in a guessmasque, latterman!' 603.02

He's got a gasmask!  During the Munich crisis, in September 1938, 38 million gas masks were distributed to the British public. Joyce added this phrase to the text in November 1938.

'In the summer of 1938 we felt an anxious awareness of Hitler on one side and Mussolini on the other....Paris was no longer the City of Light.  The festive times were over.  The dimness in the streets made us feel the dispiritedness of the citizens. Our concierge gave us a list of things were were to take to the basement with us in case of bombardment, and the municipality was advising people who did not have to stay in the city to go elsewhere during the emergency. Simple people were asking, 'Where is Czechoslovakia? Do we have to go to war for people there?'
    To Joyce, disturbed by thunderstorms and timid of dogs, the menace of war must have been hardly endurable. He and Nora decided to leave Paris....
    Then came Munich, and a shamefaced relief was evident, at least at first, among the sojourners in Paris. The Joyces came back to the city. When Joyce telephoned me he mentioned the settlement. 'Give him Europe!' he said angrily.'

Padraic Colum Our Friend James Joyce p226-230



When we reached page 610, introducing the Patrick and the Druid section, Philip Franklin pointed out Joyce's use of the word 'appeasement' in this description of cycles of history:

'So that when we shall have acquired unification we shall pass on to diversity and when we shall have passed on to diversity we shall have acquired the instinct to combat and when we shall have acquired the instinct of combat we shall pass back to the spirit of appeasement?'  610.33

I had a look at the Digital Archive and discovered that this sentence – the only clear English one on the page – was added to the Galleys between November 1938 and January 1939.
At that stage, the Germans, with the agreement of Britain and France, had occupied the Sudetenland - the area of Czechoslovakia with a large German population – but they hadn't yet broken the Munich agreement. It was only in March 1939, when Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia, that appeasement was discredited. Britain and France gave a guarantee that they would fight if Hitler invaded his next target, Poland.

Before March 1939 appeasement was a positive word - it meant 'making peace'.  From the OED:

1920 W. S. Churchill Let. 24 Mar. in World Crisis (1929) IV. xvii. 378 Here again I counsel prudence and appeasement. Try to secure a really representative Turkish governing authority, and come to terms with it.
1936 A. Eden in Hansard Commons 5th Ser. CCCX. 1446 I assure the House that it is the appeasement of Europe as a whole that we have constantly before us.
1938 Times 3 Oct. 13/2 The policy of international appeasement must of course be pressed forward... There must be appeasement not only of the strong but of the weak... With the policy of appeasement must go the policy of preparation—preparation not so much for war as against war. 


My favourite contribution to the online discussion came from Jack Pacer, who shared a dream:

'I'm not sure how seriously to take this, but years ago, after seeing a page from the manuscript of ALP at the British Museum, I had a dream about James Joyce. He had a fat pink face and wore no glasses. He said to me: "The key to Finnegans Wake is in the last chapter, based on something Hitler said. Of course I despise him but one must use what comes to hand."'  



Richard Ellmann has a wonderful story of Joyce in La Baule, just days after war broke out in September 1939:

'During these shattering days when La Baule was filling up...with refugees, Joyce renewed his friendship with Dr Daniel O'Brien....One night, they went together to a large restaurant with dancing at La Baule. It was close to where the French and British soldiers were encamped and two or three hundred of them having crowded into the place, they began to sing the 'Marseillaise'. Joyce joined in the singing, and gradually his voice caught the soldiers' attention. They turned and stared at him, and then a group hoisted him onto a table so he might sing it all over again. As O'Brien later recalled, 'You never saw such an exhibition of one man dominating and thrilling a whole audience. He stood there and sang the 'Marseillaise' and they sang it again afterwards with him, and if a whole German regiment had attacked at that moment, they would never have got through. That was the feeling. Oh Joyce and his voice dominated them all!''

(from a 1958 interview with O'Brien by Adeline Glasheen)

Wouldn't we all love to have seen that?! It reminds me of the famous Marseillaise scene from Casablanca.

Ellmann also discovered that Joyce, using contacts in the French Foreign Office, helped around 16 people escape from Nazi territory to Ireland and America.  Like Rick in Casablanca, he joined the struggle.

After I posted this, John Coyle told me that there is a precedent to the scene in Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937). 

This makes me sad to have the turgid 'God save the Queen' as my country's national anthem.



After posting this yesterday, I found a great article by Sean Ledwith, posted on the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2.  He argues that Finnegans Wake, which was also 80 last year, is an anti-fascist masterwork:

Bernard Benstock persuasively makes the case that Joyce regarded himself as the equivalent of the Irish monks who, at the onset of the Dark Ages of the early medieval period, sought to preserve the culture of the classical world as the forces of barbarism and darkness, in their eyes, closed in on civilisation. The astonishing breadth of allusions and references from the cultures of the world that Joyce draws on in the Wake is testament to his conviction that diversity and pluralism are essential to the flourishing of human beings and, implicitly, that the intolerance and racism of the far right represent a modern barbarism which must be resisted....Phrases and vocabulary from some seventy languages have been identified in the book, along with a cornucopia of references to virtually all the major world religions, including Confucianism, Hinduism, Taoism and the Eddas of Scandinavia....The fact that Joyce, who was practically blind by 1939, chose to deploy his encyclopaedic and labyrinthine knowledge of the varieties of human belief in such a gargantuan exercise can be seen as a heroic act of defiance in the face of an oncoming nightmare. It is not unreasonable to argue that Finnegans Wake is the ultimate literary clarion call for what we now call multiculturalism..... As fascism rears in hideous head again in our time, with its visceral politics of hate, the message of the Wake about the essential unity of the human race is emphatically worth another look.'

'Finnegans Wake, fascism, and the essential unity of the human race ' Culture Matters 

3 September 2019

This point was first made in 1967 by James Atherton:

'Joyce is saying that mankind is one. We are “humble indivisibles in this grand continuum” (472.30). It is customary, or was until a year or so ago, to speak of Joyce as entirely uninterested in politics. He was an ardent pacifist; he saw the world as a single family. Can we not also see it as one in which it is time the boys grew up and stopped fighting? If so the Wake is not a “crazy book” but a work of importance for all of us.'

'The Identity of the Sleeper' A Wake Newslitter Vol IV no 5, October 1967