PETIT MADELEINES & WHISKY: JOYCE AND PROUST
She had to go away, a trip for work. As was our tradition I was making her a home cooked meal to tide her taste memory over. Like the serving of soup upon her return, it was one of our rituals. No longer new with the company, there was no need to go out and socialize with her peers over drinks after the day's seminars, besides that everyone on the trip was in a lower position than her and it would be bad form to do so. With no one else in management on the trip, she would find herself with some down time.
"What should I bring with me to read? Recommend something."
There was only one stipulation, it had to be something fairly long as she did not want an enjoyable book that was so absorbing it would be devoured quickly then making the airport novel she would have to buy to eat up the rest of the time found to be even more lacking. I was mulling it over. I myself had all kinds of criteria for what I read when traveling. As much as I enjoyed poetry and my ancient Romans and Greeks I could not read that type of thing and become absorbed when on a plane. Less important to her I am sure but one of my rules, I liked to read an author or place which was location wise in sympathy with where I was. Possibly length aside, Zola's works met the criteria.
"Let me think about it a little. Put on some Zoot."
I only had the carrots left for the matignon. While I had been away on my last trip Margeau brought the knives to the Sunday market for sharpening. That combined with the perfect music allowed me to get a good rhythm going. Everything was in near studious little cubes with which I could have made a mosaic or perhaps a cutting board relief map with. Standing in the door way, she looked over my shoulder trying to gleam some of my culinary secrets. I looked down, an orange and green map, leading to where? Aspirations? No it was too abstract I knew what I wanted, I always had. The past, yes the map was just vague enough. She had said something I was still looking down at the map. I snapped my fingers;
Even though she was well read she had never tackled his work. Like a lot of people it was a combination of intimidation of such an undertaking, combined with a fact that in surveys on modern literature both Joyce and Proust have had so much ink devoted to them that if you read enough essays or biographies on their era there is almost a sense of having read the works deriving from a familiarity with the short hand of their public personas.
"I do not know, will I like it?"
To strip away some of the half truths and sensationalized anecdotes surrounding Proust and his opus takes away both the distraction and intimidation. To the casual reader or burgeoning bibliophile a book's difficulty is often gauged by its size. There are plenty of doorstop novels which I have read whose enjoyment becomes almost hypnotic, allowing one to breeze on through while some of the densest ones idea wise have just cleared two hundred pages.
Marcel Proust's (1871-1922) massive cycle is sometimes considered the first great modern novel. This is somewhat of a misnomer as the book is the last great novel (cycle) of its age, which also casts its gaze towards the future. A literary herald, it avoids being trapped in the past that it encapsulates by drawing forth from the new possibilities which were in the air while not rejecting its literary antecedents.
Not even artists necessarily understand the mechanics of inspiration. So for an audience/reader it is easier to believe in a sort of divine lightening strike eureka moment. This also prevents the emotional detachment from occurring as the seemingly less abstract eureka moment is something everyone experiences at some point. But the gestation of the cycle would prove to be long and meticulously thought out, going through several sea-changes from its initial inception.
Like a lot of his immediate great literary predecessors, Proust wrote journalistic articles and essays along with a first (unpublished) novel Jean Santeuil. The cycle had ideas and passages cannibalized from articles and half started sketches. In the first volume (Swann's Way) the famous evocation of seeing the steeples pierce the treetops in Martinville had originally been part of a travel article.
The initial structure of the first part of the cycle was originally to be essays disputing the theories of socio-literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte Beuve (1804-1869) framed around the device of a mother talking to her son as she puts him to bed. Proust abandoned this device for the novelistic approach keeping some of the key elements of mother-son bedtime rituals.
Proust came from an upper middle class family and was comfortable his whole life. His financial security was a blessing and curse in that it allowed for most of his adult life to be dedicated to his great work without distraction yet it also probably allowed for eccentricities such as hypochondria and a sort of agoraphobia to take root. He had bohemian leanings not in lifestyle but in his occasional choice of entertainment. He spent equal if not more of his free time in the company of society's upper crust. His cycle draws from childhood memories of Combray as well as all he saw in salons and from his voyeur's perch at various private clubs and parties. By his own admission, some of the characters are an amalgam of several real people but the cycle is no mere roman a clef nor is it only biographical recollections reconstituted. Proof of the unimportance of what is biographical or not lies in the fact that one can enjoy the novel fully without the least bit of knowledge of the Proustian legends of cork lined rooms and pillars of blue school exercise notebooks.
The cycle's structure is more straightforward than is usually assumed. A lot of the complexity is actually derived from the rhythm employed throughout by Proust. The plot actually lends itself to easily enough to summation. The narrator, a middle aged man reflects back on his childhood and his family's friend Swann who, despite his important connections in society, presents himself to them humbly for years; coloring how they regard him and his cache within the family. Prior to the narrator Marcel's birth is Swann's pursuit and eventual entanglement with Odette. The narrative begins to split between the narrator's recollections and things that he overheard and scenes of what happens with Swann when not visiting the narrator and what occurred during Swann's courtship years earlier.
There enters into the story the narrator's own tortured childhood passion for Gilberte who we slowly learn is Swann's daughter with Odette. Building off of the naturalist and realism movements in literature (Honore de Balzac 1799-1850, Emile Zola 1840-1902 et al), Proust showed the inner workings of various characters, although unlike Zola he confined himself more to one strata of society. In the second part of the first volume Swann in Love the events which are portrayed occur before the narrator was born, with him making only a cursory appearance. When the thread of the narrator's story is taken up again his youthful infatuation with Gilberte is reflected back upon. It serves to subtly echo and counter balance Swann's experience with Odette, as both contain a sort of desperate fatalism. It is in comparing these two courtships that a greater complexity than is the norm in regards to a stories linear progression begins to take place. Not the first great modern novel but the culmination of a passing age there are subtle clues that this cycle was not the first of a kind but the last such as comparisons of different things from the narrator's childhood to his "now" being the most obvious, a theme upon which he riffs variations throughout the cycle. From the start of relating the two courtships, the story then jumps forward to the narrator's "now" after reminiscing, as he compares "beauty" from his youth to the present.
Stimulation of the different senses serve to expedite recollections, traveling both ways down the corridor of time only slightly emotionally detached by the passage of years, tinged with melancholy as the "now" is often found wanting in comparison to the over earnest, youthful "then".
The whole cycle is told via a handful of first person "I"'s . A modernistic approach, logic is defied in that the "I" relates scenes he had not been present to witness yet conveys to the reader. Part of what bolsters and allows this technique to not feel clunky is that the cycle is a linear narrative but the rhythm was unique. With its episodic decade jumps, only bits of a place's scenery would be described initially to be fleshed out in greater detail in later sections. Some of the characters' stories are begun in the first volume and then stopped only to have the thread picked up and continued in later volumes. The sense of narrative sprawl is artistically linked in familial way to Balzac, Flaubert (1821-1880) and Stendhal (1783-1842) but the method of tension and release were new, pointing towards the horizon of a new oncoming modernism.
The power of the cycle is not merely that of remembrance, nostalgia even for the bad times, which is of interest once one is out of the other end of it and regarding it once again from a safe distance. There is an elegiac component to the work. For youth, for a way of life and the type of people who inhabited that specific time and places whose physical attributes like most are doomed to change if not in any other way than in how we remember them.
Subtly, a key to the work is to realize that you are not reading of people and places but of one character's memories of them, oblique and with the narrator's own slanted emotional agenda tempering them. The narrator as a child daydreams of The Duchess de Guermantes, his inner life building elaborate fantasy scenarios around her, her title. Eventually he sees her in the flesh at the village church, with a pimple besides her nose and a face no different than anyone else's. He re-sculpts her image to once again inspire. This is a minor underscoring of the volume itself, reality, a past as recreated, transfigured to give events a desired meaning and logic according to their author. It furthers too the rhythmic complexity with the subtle echoing of events not always portrayed in their chronological order. Just as the narrator remade the Duchess's visage to once again captivate him Swann had done the same thing a decade before with Odette whose plebian ways and mercenary streak is glossed over as similarities to a favorite painting are "found", the incident being conveyed after the narrator's first glimpse of the Duchess although having occurred chronologically before that.
Surface story aside, all the volumes serve as a sort of requiem for people and places very much of their time forever lost but recreated as an inner landscape for the author to traverse. Not merely a retelling but a birth, like all art, imperfect in mirroring the true reality but no less powerful.
If death is the undiscovered country then (day) dreams and memories can serve as a sort of way station. The overall flavor of Proust's cycle was helped by his work habit of sleeping by day and when not meeting social obligations, working at night; akin to Balzac who in a monk like costume worn for comfort followed a similar cycle. He had started his great work in 1909, it would come out to seven volumes, some 3,200 pages (4,300 Modern Library translation) with some 2,000 characters. Proust died before being able to make revisions to draft on the final volume which would be done by his brother Robert and lessens credence that a major factor in Proust's psychological make up was a feeling of resentment towards his younger brother for taking familial focus off of him. Proust had the ending of the entire cycle before putting pen to paper for middle section. Often he would be working concurrently on different parts which occurred within the story at opposites ends of the narrative.
While it does not lapse into stream of conscious technique it does add a modernism to the rhythm in that each section derives strength from its own being rather than needing the reader to journey through them all to appreciate the power as is often the case in the traditional tension and release "what happens next" rhythm of novels up to this point.
The newspaper Le Figaro published some extracts (1912) which had a more stand alone feel to them. Proust's first publisher Eugene Fasquelle balked at what he felt was too dense a work. Proust would not make cuts but offered to split it into two volumes (contemplating an unrealized third):
Le Temps Perdu (Time Lost) and Le Temps Retrouve (Time Found)
The entire cycle initially was to be called Les Intermitences du Coeur (The Intermittences of the Heart) but came to be re-titled Du Cote de Chez Swann. His publisher did not respond to his proposal, so he queried Nouvelle Revue Françoise, a publisher which sprang from the same named intellectually tinged journal founded by Andre Gide (1869-1951) and directed by Gaston Gallimard whose name the company would eventually take, becoming one of the most important publishers of modern French literature.
In December of 1912 both Gallimard and Fasquelle both returned the manuscript passing on it. Fasquelle was too nervous as it was "So different from what the public was used to reading." After the fact, Gide told Proust;
"The rejection of this book will remain the most serious mistake ever made by the NRF and since, to my shame, I was largely responsible for it, one of the bitterest regrets of my life."
Proust tried the publisher Ollendorff, offering them the sweetheart deal of paying for the cost of publication and to share any profits. They too rejected it, sending back the manuscript along with a note:
"I do not see why a man should take 30 pages to describe how he turns over in bed before he goes to sleep."
Finally Bernard Grasset (1881-1951) took the cycle with the stipulation that Proust pay publishing and promotional expenses. As Proust worked on proofs (1913) whole paragraphs were crossed out and new sections glued on the manuscript pages tops, sides and bottoms. Proust just wanted to title the cycle A la Recherche du Temps Perdu with a "Vol 1 & 2" but the publisher felt it important for sale's sake to have individual titles for each part of the cycle. The first French edition came out in November of 1915 (1,750 copies). The book was submitted for the prestigious Prix Goncourt which was won instead by the largely forgotten Le Peuple de la Mar by Marc Elder.
Slowly the cycle's brilliance began to be recognized. In 1919 Gallimard published it, in 1954 adding it to their Pleiade Series. Proust never compromised his artistic vision, yet he did not have the outward appearance of struggling against more populist trends, this was in part from the already established comfort derived by his inheritance, he could afford to wait it out so to speak. There seems to never to have been any angst about his artistic legacy, he sometimes because of health factors felt at pains to finish the cycle but there were none of the major battles against the then established norm as Zola had been forced to wage. Eventually Proust would be awarded the Prix Goncourt (1919 for the section A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs) and a year later The Legion of Honor.
For people reading the cycle in English more difficult than the plot and structure is getting the correct translation as this will make all the difference in the world in regards to one's ability to enjoy it. Initially it was translated by C.K Moncrieff as Remembrance of Things Past from 1922-1931. He only got to volumes 1-6 before passing away, the last volume being translated over time by several different translators. The Moncrief version suffers from his mis-readings and embellishments. Often he would over guild the lilly weighing down the prose which in its native language was more compact. Later Terence Kilmartin and then D.J Enright revised the translation, re-titling it to In Search of Lost Time. Kilmartin did not eliminate all the redundancies and actually introduced the new mistakes of mixed metaphors and grammatical mistakes. However, he did use the French edition as a guide which allowed him to get rid of a lot of Moncrieff's errors. D.J Enright did the Pleiades edition but relied strongly on the Moncrieff translation as source material which allowed for a "clean up" to go only so far.
In regards to methodology, James Grieve a professor of French Literature in Australia did not go for literal grammatical translation but one of capturing the meaning and intent of Proust's work. Not necessarily more or less accurate this method sometimes turns people off as it is felt a second voice, that of the translator, becomes injected into the work although at times, this technique has been effectively used.
Books being translated into English were still a specialized market and then as now there is much debate on the proper methodology, should a translator navigate via, literal versus emphasizing the intent of the author. These issues combined with controversial scenes throughout the cycle which English publishers either altered or shied away from publishing made it hard to nail down a "definitive" translation until 1995, when Penguin editor Christopher Prendergast and seven editors in three countries used the authoritative text (French) to create a six volume (all seven of Proust's in French) English versions which utilized notes and the intents of Proust which were conveyed too late to the printers in his lifetime or kept out for other reasons in later editions.
The new version first came out in Britain under the Allen Lane imprint (2002) Because of U.S copyright law, the first four volumes reverted to public domain and were published in America under a Viking imprint and in paperback, Penguin Classic imprint.
As is true with all literature regardless of genre, translation can make the difference between enjoyment, revelation and boredom. With the breadth of its body and complexity of structure, the wrong translation like a budget classical CD of a hackneyed orchestra attempting a Mahler symphony can turn a reader off for life or at least make one wonder what all the excitement is about.
Proust is a totem to many authors and readers alike. From the time of its initial release, the cycle's brilliance and controversy has been discussed and written about at length. In English, even when all that was available were the faulty translations, it garnered the same reverence and attention. A benefit of what is now available is that while there are still subtleties to the action, they are now Proust's chops and not merely an attempt to cover up some of the risqué factors which when they appear are so an integral part of the plot.
Even in a work's native tongue printing was an expensive venture and time consuming. Once the galley copy was proofed and the plates set, Proust continued to make changes. Proust furthered the difficulty of ferreting out the "definitive" manuscript with his modern device of long sentences which managed to maintain muscle, never feeling bloated for artifice's sake. Not every sentence was long but with them was captured the rhythm of how Proust actually spoke. His desire was "to encircle the truth with a single-even if long, sinuous stroke." The punctuation in these cases obeyed its own rules and shocked some.
With the near compulsive manuscript sculpting even once the work was done and following of his own sentence structure star Proust had a lot in common with his peer James Joyce (1882-1941). On May 18, 1922 Proust whose fame and power by this time was in ascent met Joyce who had the chops but none of the accolades he so deserved at a party at the Majestic thrown by important modern art patrons Violet and Sydney Schiff. While the Schiff's were important in the support they lent many artists there was something ingratiating about them. They had set up a sort of big game list of artists they wanted to obtain for their party with Proust being on the top of their list. Despite the fact that the Schiff's made inserting themselves into the lives of modern art's crème de la crème their art, it is impressive and must be admired that their party managed to be the only time that every progenitor of modern art's many mediums were present from Diaghilev to Stravinsky, Picasso to Joyce and Proust. The attendees list reads like a dream but the actual interaction especially between Joyce and Proust, who did not show up until 2:30 AM was lacking. At this point Joyce's reputation was mixed; he was still negated to the category of being "an artist's artist". As excerpts from his work began to appear the press started creating an artificial rivalry between the two authors which caught fire from resentment of Proust's financial success and the two artist's own temperament. More insightful critics would have seen some of the common bounds. It is highly doubtful that Joyce drew inspiration for his own long sentence syntax from Proust but Joyce was surely freed up indirectly by Proust's contribution of strength to the overall feeling of experimentation in the air. They were in each other's orbit not socially but in the fertile soil of Paris during this time. One, the forward thinking but still end embodiment of 19th century literature, the other the start of a modernism, that like a great river would see many tributaries branching off.
We seem to be reaching a point in history where Ulysses (1922) is talked or written about more than read. The effect is made worse by the habit of comparing or labeling any author who writes a thick tome with word play as the new Ulysses. If anything the Oulipo group (1960-?, Raymond Queneau 1903-1976, Italo Calvino 1923-1985, Georges Perec 1936-1982 et al) come closest and even they are more artistic descendants than heirs apparent.
Ulysses is a touchstone for modern literature not necessarily the last word but for sure one of the important starting points. It is not, with the passage of time, the perfect work of art but such is often the case with firsts.
Ulysses showed the non-linear way people's thoughts fly from one emotion or subject to another. Entering into the modern age, there was a desire for greater complexity in character's make up. Concurrently in Austria Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) was exploring character's psychological make up, what a character thought and why it shaded their actions. It was two sides of a coin plumbing the depths of the human psyche as a way of adding greater coloration to their works. Not everyone appreciated new technique nor insights as both authors over the course of their careers would be at different points labeled pornographers.
Of course there are some biographical elements if nowhere else than in the artist's aesthetical sensibilities within a work. With Joyce's work there was less fine lines of gradation than that of Proust. Joyce spent his life writing about Dublin and to varying degrees, himself.
Joyce's earlier works could be seen almost as a preamble to Ulysses. The naturalistic collection Dubliners (1914) contained fifteen short stories whose characters appeared on the periphery later in Ulysses. The stories start off being told by children with older narrators taking over as the stories progress. An idea which would be expanded upon inthe Ulysses delivery room scene which seeks to portray through stylistic word play in the manner of Latinate prose, Anglo Saxon alliteration and parodies of Malory, King James Bible, Bunyan, Dafoe, Sterne, Gibbon, Dickens, Carlyle and contemporary vernacular slang the literary history of the English language From A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)with its factotum of Stephen Dedalus, he would continue his autobiographical trajectory by setting the whole of Ulysses on the day that he first went out with his future wife, Nora (June 16, 1904).
The most basic plot synopsis is one day in the life of Dubliners Leopold Bloom (Odysseus), Molly Bloom (Penelope) and Stephen Dedalus (Telemachus),enmeshed upon the template of Homer's Odyssey. There are eighteen episodes which stylistically widely vary. With this book, one either loves or hates it with no middle ground. What is interesting is discussing with fellow acolytes their favorite sections.
I have found that my favorites change with my mindset, where I am.
Proteus (episode 3) Finding himself at the Sandymount Strand beach, Stephen voyeurs a couple with a dog, his flow of thoughts is illustrated by stream of conscious writing. An intellectual bent and slight feeling of alienation are exemplified by obscure references and foreign phrases, something Joyce's good friend and walking companion would lapse into to illustrate his intellectual prowess.
Aeolus (episode 7) At the office of Freeman's Journal, Bloom unsuccessfully tries to place an ad. Stephen Dedalus and the editor go to a pub. To mirror the motif of a journal/newspaper office the episode is broken up into short sections like newspaper headlines. The offspring of this section could be said to be Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style (1947) which is 99 retellings in different styles of the same instance of a Parisian man seeing the same long necked stranger twice in one day, first on the "S" bus and then later at Gare St-Lazare. Among the styles are official letter and telegraphic.
Cyclops (episode 12) Told largely from point of view of an unnamed character called "Citizen" who is a Fenian and anti-Semite there are long digressions of mythology, legal jargon and biblical passages all done outside of any defined narrators voice. Bloom tries to defend himself from the berating of The Citizen only to have a biscuit tin thrown at him. There is a frenetic feel to this section; it manages to feel heavy, weighed down with words whose dense presence also lends an air of claustrophobia.
Circe (episode 15.) The main thrust of the episode is broken up by hallucinations of both Stephen and Bloom. Circe is written as a play script, complete with stage directions taking place in the red light district where Bloom had followed Stephen, finally catching up as they enter Bella Cohen's brothel. Post coital, Stephen sees nightmarish visions of his mother's corpse causing him to break the chandelier with his walking stick. Using Stephen's money, Bloom pays for the damage, himself having hallucinated seeing his own dead son Rudy.
Eumaeus (episode 16) Bloom with Stephen and D.B Murphy (a drunken sailor) ride in a cab. Stephen sings a work, the composer's name an alliteration for Joyce's lyrical sensibilities and a word puzzle of the song's German title Von der Sirenen Listigkeit ( Of Siren's Cunning Johannes Jeep 1582-1644) which manages to once again tie back into Homer. The fatigue of the characters is mirrored by the stylistic confusion of who is who in this part of the narrative. There is the novel device of rather than saying "He is drunk" having the text mirror the emotions and semi coherence of such a state.
Penelope (episode 18). Although episode 17, Ithaca was said to be Joyce's personal favorite this is perhaps the most famous. It is the stream of conscious soliloquy of Molly Bloom. It is "told" from bed as she lay next to her husband who is fast asleep. It is comprised of eight huge run on sentences bereft of punctuation. As she lay there she contemplates her husband's strengths and weaknesses. Her romantic options, childhood, loneliness and possible pasts and other of life's missed opportunities are gone over. The day of her engagement is recollected, the question of which she was asked answered with a resounding yes which ends the book.
This stream of consciousness was shocking and picked up by the avant-garde and surrealists with their "automatic writing" which was in the same spirit but not as meticulously sculpted. It shows that while Joyce may not be the artistic father to Dadaist, Surrealist and authors like Celine, they were all at least blood relatives.
Although Joyce did not receive the financial rewards as easily or quickly as Proust, he was helped out and supported over the course of his career by an inner circle of devoted friends and a handful of journals. The novel took Joyce seven years to write (1914-1921) and even as he was doing so, pieces of it were serialized in the journal The Little Review (1914-1929) which Joyce's friend and fellow Ezra Pound (1885-1972) served as foreign editor with the main editorial work being done by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap. This journal specialized in international modernist experimental and avant-garde writing, being one of the first non-creators of Dada and Surrealism to publish the genres. They carried a serialization of the excerpts (1918-1921) until the U.S post office seized copies deeming them obscene. There was an actual trial which the editors lost and had to pay $50 each along with the loss of the seized issue whose cost was considerably more. In 1923 the two editors traveled to Paris to meet all the vanguard of new artists whom they had been writing about and lending their moral support. By this time publication of the journal had become erratic and in 1925 they dissolve their partnership with Jane retaining the journal's name and going to New York City while Margaret stayed in Europe. Back stateside Jane would add art to the review and organized two expositions connected with the journal;
The Machine Age Exposition
The International Theater Exposition
These were important to Joyce and many other artists indirectly in that slowly European modernism was making its way stateside, expanding the palettes of readers and gallery attendees and what they would seek out and accept in new works. They had sought to bring back a rigorous intellectual component to the American Zeitgeist via criticisms, prompting new writing and later art; all the while hoping too for a sort of cultural cross pollination with Europe. They had furthered the idea of "Do it yourself" promotion for artists who could not find exposure through the established traditional routes which also lent them an aspect of fearlessness that made them the perfect supporters of Joyce's work. The last issue was in 1929 and was comprised of questionnaires and answers from past contributors.
The literary world during this time was not out-right competitive, as with any group working and living in close proximity to one another there were feuds, petty jealousies and lot of gossip but also mutual support systems. Joyce had sections of his novel picked up by the London based journal The Egoist (1914-1929). This journal was edited by Harriet Shaw Weaver with the manifesto "Recognize No Taboo." Ezra Pound also helped this journal which had started as an offspring of founder Dora Mardsen's New Free Woman. One of Pound's patrons was modern art sympathizer John Quinn, who had been the lawyer defending The Little Review, now lending his support to this journal too.
The Egoist published poetry, criticism and fiction including D.H Lawrence and T.S Eliot. The editorial board grew to include Richard Adlington, Leonard Compton-Rickett and H.D. The war (1917) saw Adlington drafted with T.S Eliot taking over editorial duties while working on his own Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock. Both journals had political roots in feminism and anarchism, Emma Goldman being a prime mover for Little Review during its anarchy phase which gave them courage of conviction to publish not just Joyce but all artists whom they believed in.
As modern literature was still so specialized all the editors and publishers knew of each other's work if not personally. There would be twenty different versions of Ulysses but the first was the one calling for the most bravery on the part of the publisher. Sylvia Beach (1887-1962) was an American who in her youth traveled abroad in Europe. She kept returning to Paris where she discovered Adrienne Monnier (1892-1955) whose bookstore La Maison des Amis des Livres also put out a journal Le Navire d'Argent which helped promote modern American writers. Of importance was the interaction she had with many of the day's intellectuals and writers (Guillaume Apollinaire, Louis Aragon, Paul Valery, Jules Romains et al) there was a sort of salon set up to premier works of literature and occasionally painting or music. There was never any aspect of the artists, many of whom had yet to achieve financial success, singing for their supper nor was there any whiff of normal people coming to view exotic bohemian animals. Adrienne did not collect a menagerie of talented artists, dangling patronage before them as was sometimes the case with Gertrude Stein (1874-1946). This way of interacting with the artists and promoting their works served as a blue print for Sylvia.
Originally she wanted to open a branch of Adrienne's book store stateside but this proved to be too cost prohibitive. Using $3,000 given to her by her mother from her savings she opened an English bookstore/lending library called Shakespeare and Company (1919) in Paris. Immediately there was a cross current of all the artist whom Adrienne had worked with plus an influx of American artists new to France and still getting their sea legs with the language. People like Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) would go in to warm themselves and read one the English language novels to be had. Sylvia also had readings and events.
In 1922 Sylvia was the first publisher to publish Joyce's work in its entirety. There were only one thousand copies printed and the first edition had some 2,000 errors due to type-set technology and Joyce's habit of adding and subtracting whole passages post proof and the sheer intricate density of Joyce's verbiage. This 1922 version is often considered closest to what Joyce intended as every version that made corrections after where not always able to discern was Joycean word play and out right errors, a literary game of Telephone as editors began substituting some of their intuitive logic in regards to word placement and punctuation.
One thing which was improved upon was that the initial version did not make as clear the inspirational template of Homer. Joyce had in correspondence always referred to the episodes by their Homeric titles which were added in later editions to help protect Joyce from obscenity charges and show the link to the episodes of The Odyssey. To further tie it in, post publication Stuart Gilbert and Herbert Gorman release a Schema to show the links (Gilbert Schema 1921 was largely by Joyce, created for same named friend during this time frame there were two other schemas also at least partially done with Joyce's participation, The Linati Schema, The Gorman Schema)
As both the artist's and the books reputation began to rise, Joyce would jump ship leaving Sylvia financially way in the red as the book began coming out from other publishers. It was a move lacking in class but according to interviews she gave later in life, having spent most of his life living on other's good will as he worked she understood and was happy that he could finally start to see some money coming in.
Joyce would take an entire year off from writing upon completion of Ulysses. He would then surprise himself by starting what was to be his last novel Finnegan's Wake (1939). This novel about 300 pages shorter than Ulysses took him seventeen years to write. With this novel he went even further out, embracing some of the techniques and devices birthed by other authors' post-Ulysses plus his own innate abilities to forge further ahead of the now established modernism. The book is considered one of the densest in the English language. It is non-linear and peppered with words from Joyce's own private lexicon and free associations. With this work which has retained its controversy, Joyce lost even some of his staunchest supporters. This work was viewed as borderline nonsensical and obtuse. He left no cipher behind and even today it evokes strong reactions. Jacques Derrida inspired by Finnegan's Wake developed the theory of deconstruction, writing the essay Two Words for Joyce. H.G Wells, Ezra Pound, Vladimir Nabokov and even the author's own brother hated it.
The term avant-garde now calls forth in music squeals of noise, in painting splotches of paint or slashes of lines and in writing words stitched together almost free of meaning. The dawn of the 20th century it stood more for people forging new ground, out ahead of the established mode of things. Those of these pilgrims whose careers had longevity sometimes shot too far ahead in their explorations but the work waits for us to catch up and discover.
It is the rainy season. The night table has a column of books taking up all the space, so my glass of water rests on the windowsill. With the rain are the spiders coming in from the cold drawn by the ambient warmth. They are slow moving and big enough that one can see their eyes shining like tiny flecks of black coal.
One particularly large and obstinate one refused to go around the glass, scaling its side instead, the journey ending with it accidentally falling into the water to drown, tiny silver blue air bubbles clinging to the underside of its hairy legs.
She is coming home tomorrow. I will make the soup with pancetta that she likes, even stopping to get her flowers if I do not forget while sweating in the record store as I backstroke among the bins.
Image above "Happened Here" by Wayne Wolfson (Paris, France)
CULTURE BUNKER ARCHIVE
- At Witz End
- Edwyn Collins rocks Double Denim at the Moseley Folk Festival
- Zen and the Art of Roy Keane
- All Things Raf and O
- Trying to Say Something Negative About Brian Eno...
- Lou: Velvet Underground
- Drained by the Dish Doctor
- Happy Shopper #27 - The Real Tuesday Weld
- Talking About Dan Breen
- Take it from the Bridge