A very agreeable read of how joy, is the juice of Joyce.
I agree. But is Malone Dies really amongst the greatest of Irish novels? If it is, how? Asking for a friend.
So enjoyed reading this. Food for thought.
“…There are shopkeepers and taxi drivers in Ireland today who have a go at reading some of his work, just as they may have a stab at reading some Yeats or Seamus Heaney…’
Well yes, of course them shopkeepers and taxi drivers do like to ‘ave a go, and on occasion even a stab, especially in Ireland. But we both know, Terry, that while the occasional ‘go’ can be indulged, the reading of literature is best left to academics with the proper training, from Trinity College. I mean you wouldn’t want an academic to drive a taxi while the taxi driver tried to decipher Joyce every day would you, you would have accidents all over the place in both cases.
‘….There is really no answer to the question “What is Joyce’s style?” …’
No, but there are careers to be had, doing nothing all life long, except attempting to answer that nevertheless, aren’t there?
I did not read Prof. Eagleton the same way that you did, I understood what he said was to point out that in Ireland the ordinary working man (or woman, I suppose) is willing to read difficult texts written by their countryman. He could be right, perhaps the ordinary Englishman doesn’t give Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess a go, or take a stab at Ted Hughs, I don’t know I don’t interview taxi drivers about their reading habits.
It sounded to me like Prashant Kotak was being ironic, or perhaps sarcastic.
But I guarantee that no academic would accept a taxi driver’s reading of Ulysses. Because, what would he know?
Ironically enough, Ulysses is about the taxi driver.
Dear UnHerd team,
I have not given permission for you to use my colourisation of James Joyce from the book Old Ireland in Colour in your Terry Eagleton article above.
As well as permission from the copyright holder, The Rosenbach, you will need mine as creator of the derivative work.
Sincerely, John Breslin
Dear o dear Unherd. Get it together. I’m beginning to think I made a mistake subscribing. But I may hang around just to needle the vapid writers and their stories.
Very interesting take on Joyce but be warned: Ulysses is like wading through dense treacle at times. If you want to dip a toe in, try Dubliners, his book of short stories. The Dead, in particular, is a classic.
I agree! Although, the (unabridged) audiobook read by Jim Norton is highly recommended as an alternative to posing with a pristine print copy under the oxter.
Ulysses is too full of Joyce’s ego. But in Dubliners, in The Dead, his ego was absent and it’s exquisite. Snow falling through the universe (sic)…..
Interesting and thought provoking article…
Interesting, but not convinced of the parallels between Dante and Joyce. Dante embraced his cultural inheritance with creative genius; Joyce seemed to look down upon his.
The inheritance of Dante on Joyce is multi fold – James Robinson has written an excellent book on it – but that aside, even the very notion of an epic road trip through existence as created by Dante is the premise of Ulysses, albeit one which lacked Dante’s faith based certainty of structure.
I have tried twice, in my life, to begin reading Ulysses, and declined to actually undertake the conquest.
Perhaps your description here, of the artist as a discontent man, may spur me on to the grand prospect of comprehending the mind and the feat of this literary troublemaker.
What I find interesting about Ulysses and it’s place in the world, it’s importance, is that the vast majority of people are unaware of it, don’t understand it, and don’t care. It’s important to a number of people who place importance on what he did. It’s a far different work from ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. To me it’s a lot like Picasso’s painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, a radical work for its time, but more the evidence of a moment of disturbance and change in painting. Not the greatest painting, but valued for illuminating the crossroads of modern art.
Ulysses may be one of the great unread books, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not hard to read, it’s just that for the vast majority it’s unsatisfying as a read.
Thank you Dr. Eagleton for a superb article and insights.
I would take issue with Eagleton’s characterisation of Ireland as a ‘colony’. That may be accurate for Ulster, but definitely not for the other provinces. A colony descriptor suggests that there is a distinction between native/invader. But as Bishop Berkeley famously quipped: “we Irish think otherwise.”
Berkeley was a colonizer regardless of place of birth. In every sense of the term Ireland was a colony, and a deeply exploited one wherein the British sharpened their ethnic bigotry, refined their techniques of deprivation and theft, and turned genocide into an imperialist imperative.