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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
5,161551,955 (3.88)1 / 419
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

'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...'

So starts Finnegans Wake, the greatest challenge in 20th-century literature. Who is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker? And what did he get up to in Phoenix Park? And what did Anna Livia Plurabelle have to say about it? In the rich nighttime and the language of dreams, here are history, anecdote, myth, folk tale and, above all, a wondrous sense of humour, coloured by a clear sense of humanity. In this exceptional reading by the Irish actor Barry McGovern, with Marcella Riordan, the world of the Wake is more accessible than ever before.

.… (more)
  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. 00
    Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation by Umberto Eco (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Deciphers some of the Wake.
  3. 01
    Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (TomWaitsTables)

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Group TopicMessagesLast Message 
 Folio Society Devotees: Finnegans Wake168 unread / 168Jayked, August 2018

» See also 419 mentions

English (54)  French (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
I tried to read this more than once and never got far. It worked best just dipping into it here and there, but nevertheless it was just too much work, much as I liked everything else I read of Joyce. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 13, 2023 |
Earlier in my life, I read Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses, all by James Joyce. This year I decided to read Finnegans Wake, a novel notorious for its inaccessibility. Like The Cantos by Ezra Pound, it is a text many know, few read, and less understand.

While the Wake is difficult, this shouldn’t be seen as a deterrent to actually reading it. It is a singular creative artifact, overflowing with meaning. A cornucopia of languages, puns, and parody, the Wake will probably never be fully understood, at least not in any conventional sense.

Unlike my reading of Ulysses – a version heavily annotated – I decided to read the Wake without any guides, skeletons, and such. As noted Joyce scholar John Bishop states in the Penguin edition, “There is no agreement as to what Finnegans Wake is about, whether or not it is ‘about’ anything, or even whether it is, in any ordinary sense of the word, ‘readable’.” Perhaps reading the Wake isn’t about “getting it.” Without resorting to the trope, “All art is incomprehensible,” Bishop asserts the rather obvious point that the text will mean different things to different people. I’m a bit of a language nerd, collecting foreign language dictionaries, slang dictionaries, subculture- and/or industry-specific dictionaries (gay slang, soldier slang, etc.). The only real prerequisite for reading the Wake is a love for language. Language in and of itself. (Something I picked up reading Anthony Burgess and watching Monty Python.)

Conceived in a circular form – the last sentence of the novel begins the first sentence at the beginning of the novel – allows the reader to pick up and leave at any point. This circular form reinforces the works character as polyvocal, polysemic, and polymorphous.

Choice passages like:

“Male partly masking female. Man looking round, beastly expression, fishy eyes, paralleliped homoplatts, ghazometron pondus, exhibits rage.”

What does it mean? I don’t know. Not sure what Joyce meant either, although ghazometron sounds like a mashup of Arabic and Hebrew (ghazal = the poetic form + metron … could be based on Metatron the angel and/or the word metronome, the device that keeps the beat). Pondus relates to weight. Even within this sentence, chosen at random, meanings abound.

The Wake represents a gleeful effrontery against the reader’s desire to be told what a passage means. Meanings literally flood from the book, a logorrheaic gushing, and a smack to the face for those seeking to master a text. Like an ancient mystical text (The Zohar) or visionary art works (William Blake’s large-scale prophetic works), critics, specialists, and readers alike will be parsing and dissecting the work for years to come. While Samuel Beckett’s work plumbed the depths of the human experience through a merciless linguistic subtraction, the Wake represents the pinnacle of an encyclopedic intellect, the work of two decades, an orgy of obscurantist obfuscation.

Don’t think of the Wake as a literary Everest, an epic one slogs through to get an achievement badge. Read it because it is fun. Remember fun? See parsing the language and the multilingual puns not as an attempt to master the meaning, but as literary spelunking, exploring an infinite rabbit hole / Moebius strip / ouroboros. Finnegans Wake is a novel that encompasses everything, about the night and sleep and dreams written in a dream-language and embracing a punny dream-logic all its own. It is understandable only in the way dreams are. In the end, we will find meaning(s) in the text even Joyce never dreamed of.

https://driftlessareareview.com/2022/10/23/__trashed/ ( )
2 vote kswolff | Nov 13, 2022 |
Ah, James Joyce! ( )
  Windyone1 | May 10, 2022 |
'We annew. Our shades of minglings mengle them and help help horizons. A flasch and, rasch, it shall come to pasch, as hearth by hearth leaps live.'
Finnegans Wake has been book of continuous inspiration over the two years that I spent reading it. I remember that when I started it, quite fresh after Ulysses , that I was both appalled and attracted by it. Appalled by the unashamed intellectualism, attracted by the churning depth of the writing. In one sentence Joyce can lift you along three millenniums, connected by certain myths or tales and throw you back in the corner of a pub, drunk and in your own vomit. In Joyce is connected the very high and low of human nature.
The 'Story'
Finnegans Wake is a tale of HCE, or Here Comes Everybody , who is a husband to ALP, or Anna Livia Plurabella . During the rambling of the story, there are references made to a certain sin HCE is supposed to have undergone in a park, with another woman. ALP writes a letter to HCE, which is written down by one of their sons Shem the Penman, and delivered by Shaun the Postman. They both fight for who will replace their dad in the end. The books is famously written so that the last line continues in the first line, suggesting a circular movement. The story is about a fall of sin, both in every day life and myths. It is about life itself, in all its protean, weird movements which we humans have to try and keep up with.

The style
The story is told in a very loose manner, which moves beyond stream of consciousness in the sense that one never gets as close to the characters as one does in Ulysses. Rather, the reader keeps a large distance throughout the story of the plot, always losing the thread one is following and ending up around other weird corners in Joyce's universe.
What is so genius about it?
The Wake is a book of genius in my opinion, because it is a book that celebrates life while respecting its mysteries. It is a book which is intended to be misread; there does not exist one right reading, it is about what the reader makes of it. In this sense, it is like life itself: always hiding its treasure right around the corner. The reader is allowed to suppose an ultimate intention, or truth, just as we try to do in real life, but just as in real life, what we get reflected back are always our own efforts and hopes. The Wake is a book which is open and closed at the same time, hiding and revealing. It reveals more than most books do, because when it does get close to a character, it absorbs it. We can read fragments of thoughts more personal than regular literature displays. However, it is also more closed, emphasizing questions of epistemology and truth. Meaning is always just out of reach: reading Finnegans Wake is a continuous reaching and stretching of the arms, never being able to finally grasp it. It is a humiliating experience, which threatens and stretches our modes of understanding.
The ultimate glory is that it is a book of empowerment . It is something that must be overcome and undergone at the same time. Spinoza readers might recognize that this how he looks at life: it something that overpowers and that can give us infinite power if we find a way to act in the right way. Joyce's book is a book of life in the Nietzschean and Spinozist way. It asks of us ultimate activity, while being passive. It asks of us to try and at the same time accept our own limits. Because there exists so heavy a burden before the reader, it has the power to open the reader's reality itself. It is a text, stretching far beyond the limits of its cover. It grabs and wrestles and opens and breathes into our lives. With Finnegans Wake Joyce wrote a book so rich, so dense, so wonderful and funny that he proves to have overcome himself.
( )
  Boreque | Feb 7, 2022 |
that some books you can read until you die, and hope to understand afterwards. ( )
  AnnKlefstad | Feb 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (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 (49 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
Bishop, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Falk, BertilTranslatorsecondary 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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

'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...'

So starts Finnegans Wake, the greatest challenge in 20th-century literature. Who is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker? And what did he get up to in Phoenix Park? And what did Anna Livia Plurabelle have to say about it? In the rich nighttime and the language of dreams, here are history, anecdote, myth, folk tale and, above all, a wondrous sense of humour, coloured by a clear sense of humanity. In this exceptional reading by the Irish actor Barry McGovern, with Marcella Riordan, the world of the Wake is more accessible than ever before.


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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014118311X, 0141192291


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