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Finnegans Wake (1939)

by James Joyce

Other authors: Cyril Cusack (Narrator), Siobhan McKenna (Narrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,555491,840 (3.88)1 / 397
James Joyce takes the cyclical pattern of fall and resurrection as his theme in this, one of the seminal works of the 20th century.
  1. 00
    James Joyce: Portrait of a Dubliner by Alfonso Zapico (drasvola)
    drasvola: This book is a graphic narration of Joyce's life. It's in Spanish. Very well done and informative about Joyce's troubled relation with society, his work and family relationships.
  2. 01
    Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (TomWaitsTables)

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» See also 397 mentions

English (48)  French (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
a word of encouragement to the readers of finnegans wake: stay awake for the sunrise. it's worth it. ( )
  melanierisch | Oct 25, 2020 |

So, I just asked a GR celebrity if Finnegans Wake is a good book and he said that's a question that can't be answered. My family's antiquarian book business is closing down in a few days. I notice that we have a lovely copy of this Joyce book, first edition, dust-jacket in great condition, which was a fair price at $5000AUD and is now $2500AUD - which as far as I can tell is a steal.

But nobody wants it. Which prompted the question....is it a good book? Not good enough is all I can say. At this rate I'm going to end up having to read it. :(

From much earlier....

Note that I have a 'better written than Harry Potter shelf'.

Praise the lord for Michael Chabon. Note only don't I have to read Joyce, I don't even have to not read him and review him.

  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |

So, I just asked a GR celebrity if Finnegans Wake is a good book and he said that's a question that can't be answered. My family's antiquarian book business is closing down in a few days. I notice that we have a lovely copy of this Joyce book, first edition, dust-jacket in great condition, which was a fair price at $5000AUD and is now $2500AUD - which as far as I can tell is a steal.

But nobody wants it. Which prompted the question....is it a good book? Not good enough is all I can say. At this rate I'm going to end up having to read it. :(

From much earlier....

Note that I have a 'better written than Harry Potter shelf'.

Praise the lord for Michael Chabon. Note only don't I have to read Joyce, I don't even have to not read him and review him.

  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
This has got to be the best, most fantastic, wonderful book ever written to have absolutely freaking defeated me. Not only is the wordplay and freakishly brilliant alliteration such that I want to roll around in it like a dog in autumn leaves, but the language is also so dense and impenetrable I can BARELY get a sense of what the F*** is going on.

Is it brilliant? Yeah, I can see that much. I can also so see that it was specifically written to break modern literature scholars from their dependence on LSD and Heroin. Both used at the same time. And this is the "lite" version of the drug which is much more insidious because it is even MORE addictive and it happens to kill you in about thirty days after reading. It's a socially-transmitted Irish cancer. It's also a mudkiss written by a psychotic who throws readers into the abyss without a parachute. It was written by the Joker. You know, the one that just wanted to watch the world burn.

It's murdercock English. It's being peed on by pearlypets. It's joking around like a hearse on fire. It's a nappywink.

Honestly, I would NOT have DNF'd this at the midpoint if it wasn't so freaking dense. Or if I were completely drunk in a room full of other Irish foks shouting out random lines from this monstrosity. Or if I joined a cult, bringing this book with me to counteract the crazy by a more potent kind of crazy.

But I did none of these things. I was DEFEATED.

But I do it gracefully. I admit I was beaten by this madman. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Why Finnegans Wake's Jokes Aren't Funny

This is an unusual review. It is an excerpt from a novel I'm working on. One character, Joachim, is telling another, Samuel, about Joyce's book. The opening lines describe my own engagement with the book, which has gone on now for nearly thirty years.

"So then I read Joyce,” Joachim told me, "not Ulysses, for heaven’s sake, but Finnegans Wake, I read that book all day most days for months, and then some days most months for years. I covered each page in notes, I read his letters, I bought books and books about the book, I read introductions, summaries, annotations, concordances, and indices, I read the pages he translated into French and Italian, I read his first scribbled ideas, really you can’t read them, but I read them, they are just pages of words, like ‘floods reveal,’ ‘why bridge things,’ ‘winding roads,’ ‘swollen stream,’ ‘spudfed pigs,’ ‘angel in the house,’ ‘thought himself sick,’ ‘doubtful points,’ ‘a dark spirit came in,’ ‘what answer did you get,’ ‘dear little girl in Boston, you fill a big hole in my heart,’ ‘amber route,’ ‘lying spirit in heaven / spirit lying in heaven,’ ‘pyjamas redden the bed,’ ‘deafness from a damp pillow,’ ‘not even churches are sacred,’ ‘glegg,’ ‘mental nerve,’ ‘gossipaceous,’ ‘inkpot upset foretold,’ ‘gloompourers,’ ‘wail of wind,’ ‘drip of noise,’ ‘better betray with pleasure,’ ‘scowl,’ ‘maniac,’ ‘semi demented,’ ‘deadened walls,’ ‘inspissated obscurities,’ ‘longueurs,’ ‘border on insane,’ ‘dark clouds and mud,’ ‘mouthless streams,’ ‘vertical rivers,’ ‘melodious cave,’ ‘where he ended his life.’ I read his drafts and typescripts, I read the Buffalo notebooks, those are notes he made when he was nearly blind, they look like they were written by a bear with a crayon. I read his proofs and galleys, I looked up every single one of his thousands of made-up words, ‘ournhisn,’ ‘dororrhea,’ ‘hogpew,’ ‘sossad,’ ‘henayearn,’ ‘pappap poppopcuddle,’ ‘commonknounest,’ ‘speleostoical,’ ‘inflorflorence,’ ‘megageg,’ ‘soswhitchoverswetch,’ ‘conflingent,’ ‘antiproresurrectionism,’ ‘dumpsydiddle,’ ‘ragingoo,’ ‘bombossities,’ I studied every single one of those invented words, they’re are supposed to be jokes, or not exactly jokes, but more like little chuckles, or delights, or just amusements, although many of them are puzzles, and in general they are meant to be entertainments, they are supposed to be brief moments of levity, or no, not levity, that’s an old-fashioned word, they are wee delights or mischievous pleasantries or drolleries or bonbons or whatever, you can tell he thought his invented words are infused with infectious glee. I did not laugh even once. That book has everything I am afraid of. It is written for no one, Samuel, because no one can ever sit back, after months and years reading and studying and annotating, after years and months struggling through the swarms of squeaking scholars, no one can ever sit back, close the back cover with a satisfying snap, and say, Okay, I get that. Finnegans Wake is everything I fear, it is an enormous mistake the size of an entire country, the size of a third of Joyce’s life. The book is only six hundred pages, that is half of Burton or a sixth of Proust, but it took Joyce seventeen years to write. It would be as if I had stopped writing when I got to page six hundred, and then gone back to the beginning and put the pages into a typewriter and typed over them, and did that over and again for seventeen years, until I had six hundred pages of thick black text with only a few legible words surviving among the language detritus and throngs of palimpsestic puns. The first drafts the Finnegans Wake are easy enough to read. They are as clear as you would expect from any ill-mannered modernist writer. But Joyce kept going back, pestering his sentences, scratching and pecking at them, inserting Danish words, Irish words, Serbo-Croatian words, medieval Latin words, pulling apart perfectly good lines and inserting the names of Babylonian gods, Siberian rivers, or Byzantine patriarchs, returning again and again, like a hyena at a carcass, it pulls off a strip of gristle and lopes off, but in a minute it’s back, slobbering for one more scrap. He asphyxiated his English with x’s and q’s from Basque, Albanian, and Chinese, he tied his own writing in knots, he twisted it hard by the wrists, and they were his own wrists he was twisting, I mean he wrote the book to begin with, and then he teased and tortured it, he crushed words into each other, he muddled, muddied, and meddled until his story was gasping for breath, until there was no air or light left in it and it was nearly extinct. The lines are beautiful, I admit that, but so is an old loaf of bread with a flower of bright pink mould, it’s not edible, it’s just not edible. ‘For we, we have taken our sheet upon her stones where we have hanged our hearts in her trees; and we list, as she bibs us, by the waters of babalong,’ I love that, I admit it, but it is primped. He patted poked and fiddled with his book, he rubbed and fondled it, he spat and polished it until it was coated in language bacteria. There is a character in the book, Shem, he’s a writer. He writes all the time, and he never finishes, just like Joyce. When Shem writes it’s like Joyce writing his book. There’s a page where Shem is sitting in his squalid apartment and he runs out of paper and ink. He shits into his hands, puts the shit in a bowl, pisses into the bowl, mixes up a black concoction, bakes it, dries it, and uses it as ink. He writes all over his own body, turning himself black, writing and writing until he records all of human history, just like the book Finnegans Wake. It is a soiled and blackened book, supposedly comic but actually not funny at all.”
“No, not especially funny.”
“So,” Joachim continued, “I spent several years reading, and I learned that the world’s longest and most complicated books are also the most nearly hopeless books. That is what I discovered. They are the most despairing, the most nearly insane, they are the closest to insanity. Joyce knew his book was written in shit, it was spoiled and getting worse and yet he kept going for seventeen years, plugging up the last beams of light, making it deliciously fetid. He knew what it means to labor by yourself, over the same manuscript, as your eyes get worse and your daughter’s insanity deepens and your reviews stay bad and your life spills out. He describes the reek of Shem’s apartment, stains on the floor and walls, bowl of shit ink, heaps of dirty underwear, discolored curtains, dried ejaculations, dregs of wine, gleet, that’s an unbelievable word to find in a book like Finnegans Wake, but there it is. Supposedly Shem is working on a letter, but really of course he is writing the book Finnegans Wake. Joyce says Shem explains things with a meticulousness that borders on the insane, just like Joyce, he never grasps the beauty of restraint, neither does Joyce, the balance of his mind was disturbed, well obviously, he hides in his book like a field mouse in a nest of colored ribbons, a sweet idea, he has immovable doubts about the sense of the whole, how could he not, or the sense of the strange words that run, wander, march, halt, walk, or stumble along the barriers of the lines, those too, he must have doubted each and every one and also all of them at once. Shem calls his writing a flood, a jungle, a relic, a ruin, a scrape, a crust, a heap of steaming refuse, a thicket, an avalanche. He looks at his book as a stranger and wonders who wrote it. That is not just a sentence to me, Samuel, I understand what it means. No one can have an experiences like that and be happy. If anyone laughs at something in Finnegans Wake they are forgetting why its author needed so desperately to laugh, how he needed hundreds and endless thousands of those little laughs, how each laugh was like a drowning man gulping another lungful of seawater. The book is everything I am afraid of, it is the diary of a man who becomes compost.”
“Thanks, I’ll skip it.”
5 vote JimElkins | Feb 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
E' formidabile! Ma chi lo legge?

Esce negli Oscar l'opera più ardua
di Joyce: un'impresa insormontabile sviscerarlo e tradurlo, esempio massimo di capolavori tanto citati quanto sconosciuti

Esistono grandi libri illeggibili, e grandi libri non molto letti. Una sera da Rosati, nella via Veneto di Flaiano, primi Anni Cinquanta, due giovani giornalisti, uno calabrese uno toscano, fingevano di conoscere La recherche, e di averla trovata noiosa. «Si ripete...» dicevano. A un tavolo vicino il critico teatrale Sandro De Feo, un proustiano doc, drizzò le orecchie. «Non sapete di cosa state parlando» si inserì. E cominciò a fare loro domande. «Vediamo un po’, come si chiama la duchessa de Guermantes?», «Chi è la zia del baron de Charlus?». I due farfugliarono, si impappinarono. Alla fine il toscano, che era il più sincero, confessò: «O Sandro... ’un s’ebbe tempo!»

Be’, non tutti hanno letto Proust, ma oggi non esiste lettore acculturato che non abbia perlomeno gli strumenti onde fingere convincentemente di averlo fatto. Lo stesso si può dire per il più famoso libro di James Joyce, altro pilastro del rinnovo del romanzo nel Novecento. Quando Ulisse uscì con enorme risonanza fu anche un successo di scandalo, e la sua pubblicazione negli Stati Uniti (se è per questo, anche nell’Irlanda patria dell’autore) fu severamente proibita. Molti intellettuali protestarono, e in prima fila si distinse il giovane ma già celebre Hemingway, che ne importò personalmente di contrabbando e diffuse molte copie. Peccato che la sua, ritrovata dopo la morte, fosse rimasta intonsa tranne le prime poche pagine.

Anche Ulisse può essere una lettura ardua, e forse la maggior parte degli acquirenti del romanzo si arrende durante il percorso, salvo saltare al fatidico finale col monologo di Molly Bloom. Diverso il discorso per Finnegans Wake, alla stesura del quale Joyce dedicò sedici anni, dichiarando che sarebbe stata l’ultima impresa della sua vita artistica. Rispetto ai pur ardui libri appena citati - Ulisse per la tortuosità, la Recherche per la mole - Finnegans Wake presenta l’ostacolo ulteriore e pressoché insormontabile della lingua in cui fu scritto, lingua che pur partendo dall’inglese, sia pure con accento irlandese, è poi un impasto di neologismi inventati da Joyce attingendo sia alla sua insaziabilità di autodidatta, sia al suo talento di poliglotta. Joyce sapeva infatti moltissime lingue. Prima dei vent’anni, per esempio, si era studiato da solo il norvegese allo scopo di comprendere meglio Ibsen, e in quella lingua aveva scritto una lettera ammirata al grande drammaturgo, il quale gli aveva risposto scambiandolo per un vecchio accademico. Nella Trieste asburgica si era trovato a contatto con un crogiolo di etnie dal quale aveva appreso una moltitudine di idiomi.

Ora, esistono in letteratura libri scritti in lingue segrete, o addirittura inventate. Al tempo in cui nell’Iran regnava lo scià e si promuovevano festival internazionali, il poeta Ted Hughes scrisse per Peter Brook un testo intitolato Orghast da rappresentare sulle rovine di Persepoli, appunto in una lingua fatta solo di sonorità; il pubblico doveva capire l’azione come quando si va a teatro all’estero, riconoscendo i significati dalla musicalità dei fonemi. Non veniva fornita, né esisteva, una spiegazione.

Anche nella sua operazione matta e disperatissima Joyce vuole che il lettore capisca; ma a costo di risalire all’origine di tutte le sue invenzioni, parola per parola. Il primo a corredare di chiose puntuali anche se non esaurienti quello che veniva scrivendo, fu proprio lui. Dante - mettiamo - espone il suo sistema - la sua cultura, la sua cosmologia, la sua religione - per così dire, li porge. Va verso il lettore. Joyce fa il contrario. Il lettore deve andare da lui, e sviscerare quanto lui gli fa solo balenare.

Intendiamoci, la sua creazione non si esaurisce nella lingua. Nell’introduzione al primo volume della traduzione di Luigi Schenoni, uscito nell’ormai lontano 1982, Giorgio Melchiori sintetizzò mirabilmente le pazienti esplorazioni di molti esegeti, mostrando la complicata eppur limpida simmetria che organizza gli innumerevoli episodi della vicenda (questa di per sé sarebbe semplice, la notte e i sogni del protagonista H.C.Earwicker), con un fittissimo tessuto di simboli e allusioni e richiami.

Pesante come svago, poco utile come oggetto di studio (quale allievo è in grado di leggerlo, quale docente di spiegarlo adeguatamente?), Finnegans Wake ha tuttavia sempre trovato appassionati che non si sono stancati di interrogarlo. Tra questi in Italia spicca Luigi Schenoni, venuto purtroppo a mancare senza terminare l’eroica fatica di tradurlo, oggi giunta a un quarto volume. Ma non di tradurlo in una lingua «normale», così da consentire di leggerlo come con una versione interlineare. Schenoni ha voluto riprodurre per il lettore italiano l’effetto che Finnegans Wake produce sul lettore anglofono. Lì l’inglese, come si diceva sopra, è la base, ma ci sono richiami ad altre lingue (ne sono state individuate 47), più innumerevoli parole composte, come la sempre citata «meanderthale», dove convivono i significati di meandro più «tale», storia - storia-labirinto - ma anche di Neandertal, con richiamo alle origini della lingua stessa. Schenoni dunque reinventa, sulla traccia dell’originale, arrivando a frasi come «Halloggio di chiamata è tutto il loro evenpane, sebbene la sua cartomanza abbia un’hallucinazione come un’erezione di notte...», che poi spiega in un corpo di note lungo il triplo del testo stesso. Come Joyce, non pensa tanto al fruitore, quanto a cimentarsi con la propria ossessione. Joyce ha eretto un monumento all’impossibilità di procedere oltre nella strada del romanzo, costruendo un romanzo totale e definitivo, in cui tutto lo scibile e la stessa favella sono rielaborati come in una nuova Babele di unione anziché di disgregazione. Condividendo la sua orgogliosa solitudine, Schenoni la fa sentire meno arrogante e più umana.

added by cf66 | editTuttolibri, La Stampa, Masolino D'Amico (Jan 29, 2011)

» Add other authors (50 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Joyceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cusack, CyrilNarratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKenna, SiobhanNarratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abin, CésarCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bindervoet, ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henkes, Robbert-JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janssen, JacquesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
John, Augustus EdwinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilcock, J. RodolfoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
.. riverrun
Cry not yet! There's many a smile to Nondum, with sytty maids per man, sir, and the park's so dark by kindlelight. But look what you have in your handself!
Then, pious Eneas, conformant to the fulminant firman which enjoins on the tremylose terrian that, when the call comes, he shall produce nichthemerically from his unheavenly body a no uncertain quantity of obscene matter not protected by copriright in the United States of Ourania or bedeed and bedood and bedang and bedung to him, with his double dye, brought to blood heat, gallic acid on iron ore, through the bowels of his misery, flashly, nastily, appropriately, this Esuan Menschavik and the first till last alshemist wrote over every square inch of the only foolscap available, his own body, till by its corrosive sublimation one continuous present tense integumented slowly unfolded in all marryvoising moodmoulded cyclewheeling history ...
Prettimaid tints may try their taunts: apple, bacchante, custard, dove, eskimo, feldgrau, hematite, isingglass, jet, kipper, lucile, mimosa, nut, oysterette, prune, quasimodo, royal, sago, tango, umber, vanilla, wisteria, xray, yesplease, zaza, philomel, theerose. What are they all by? Shee.
But tellusit allasif wellasits end.
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James Joyce takes the cyclical pattern of fall and resurrection as his theme in this, one of the seminal works of the 20th century.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014118311X, 0141192291


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