Louis Gillet, ‘The Living Joyce’, in Willard Potts, Portraits of the Artist in Exile: Recollection of James Joyce by Europeans (Washington UP 1979)

‘[…] Dedalus entering the [172] musico of Bella Cohen while singing the Introit of Easter […] As for the atheism of the young man, it is a misfortune; wehre the clergy is king, as in Ireland, where it makes the sun rise and set, the jacobinism of Joyce seems natural. Oppression engenders revolt. One shoud admit, moreover, that in this presumptuous duel the rash young man showed himself more discerning than his friends of the Irish Revival. The question of Home Rule might be a tiny detail in the total of world affairs; […] But to declare war on Heaven meant stepppng out of local intrigues; it meant giving this enterprise a titanic character and placing oneself on a level with the universe. [173]

These words seem quite big for a merry ne’er-do-well emancipating himself; but I doubt that they were actually bigger than the boy’s thoughts. He placed himself at once among the descendants of the greatest master of his race, the immortal Dean Swift. Swift’s superiority when dealing with dogmas is due to the fact that he belonged to the clergy; it is as a theologian that he maltreats theology […] to apply to all things the system of Gulliver and The Tale of a Tub, to dislocate the forms of logic and reasoning, to demolish the edifice of our representations upon which our conventions rest - our ideas of order, consequence, continuation, conformity, even of space and time - to dissolve at last the language itself and the words by which we designate all things, this was to shake the columns of the universe and make the Temple quiver to its base, it was to substitute a new creation, the world of consciousness and dream for the reality of things and gods. […] as an act of liberation and enfranchisement it is far more than a vague charter of independence for the Republic of Eire: a prodigious Walpurgis Nacht, an immense Gotterdammerung.’ (p.172-74.)

Joyce was willing to explain to me the scheme of his book. He spoke in a most simple tone, without any sort of pretention. He gave me the clue to his work. He explained to me the mystery of the immense H.C.E., this unrivalled hero, thick-textured, of boundless embodiments, whose master-key character lends itself to all kinds of metamorphoses and is up to every role, like a kind of universal Fregoli. He spoke of the language he had used in order to give to vocabulary the elasticity of sleep, multiplying the meaning of words, playing with glisterings and iridescences, making the sentence a rainbow where each drop is a prism assuming a thousand colours. […; 178]

What facilitated the system was the fact that Joyce possessed an unerring memory. He knew his book by heart. In his mind the text was written in an indelible way. I believe that he even used to do most of his corrections by memory. Nevertheless, I would have been pleased to see his manuscripts. We shall really understand Joyce’s thoughts only on the day when we can have it in its first state, before all the retouches with whch he complicated it - after the fashion of Mallarmé […]. He was aiming deliberately for extreme consequences, like the heroic discoverers of new elements who first leaped into the void. “Am I mad?” he said at the end. It was not an affected remark.’ (pp.178-79.)

Also - Jan Parandowski: ‘Ulysses is more an epic of the body than of the human spirit’ [159]


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