MYLES NA GOPALEEN'S IRISH TIMES

BLOOMSDAY COLUMN 1954


J-DAY

THIS IS A SMALL, shy and simple article. It can be written only within the week or so in which a number of courageous men made off with about 200 rifles and a lesser amount of other lethal gear.

Every man concerned could have been shot dead. Why did they risk so much for so little?

***

THIS SHEER impulse to rebel, without regard to reason or results, is likely to be commemorated on this day. It is June 16th--and James Joyce wrote half a million words about what happened in Dublin on June 16th, 1904. The book is called "Ulysses" and is really the record of what happened to a bona-fide traveller of that day,

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CRUISKEEN LAWN

By

MYLES NA GOPALEEN

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with, impaled in the text, an enormity of "philosophical material."

In this task Joyce did not go into someone's workshop and choose the tools he needed: he took the whole lot. Thus does one find side by side monasticism and brothelism. St Augustine himself perceived and recorded the "polarity" of virtue and vice, how one is integrally part of the other, and cannot exist without it. But not until James Joyce came along has anybody so considerably evoked depravity to establish the unextinguishable goodness of what is good.

***

I DO NOT WISH to provoke still another world war by invading America's monopoly of comment on the value of Joyce's work. People who insist that there is a junction of Cuffe street and Grafton street are clearly persons with whom not to argue. But I think I will risk a few remarks about Joyce, on the understanding that criticism without censure is intended.

Joyce was in no way what he is internationally claimed to be--a Dubliner. In fact there has been no more spectacular non-Dubliner. Not once did he tire of saying that he was never at home. This absence may have been a necessity of his literary method, but it has often occurred to my irreverent self

that maybe he hadn't the fare. Joyce was a bad writer. He was too skilled in some departments of writing, and could not resist the tour de force. Parts of "Ulysses" are of unreadable boredom. One thinks of a violinist corrupting with "cadenza" a work wherein the composing master had in the text practised masterly abstention from fireworks. Beethoven had a big row with the violinist Kreutzer on this very point.

Joyce was illiterate. He had a fabulously developed jackdaw talent of picking up bits and pieces, but it seems his net was too wide to justify getting a few kids' schoolbooks and learning the rudiments of a new language correctly. every foreign-language quotation in any of his works known to me are wrong. His few sallies at Greek are wrong, and his few attempts at a Gaelic phrase are absolutely monstrous. anybody could have told him the right thing. Why did he not bother to ask?

***

THAT LAST QUESTION evokes a complementary question, of which there is no mention on the horizonless bog of American exegesis. Was the man a leg-puller? Was "Finnegans Wake" the ultimate fantasy in cod? Did he seek to evolve for himself, chiefly by talking in strict confidence to stooges, mostly American, a mythical personality? Did...(pardon me while I swallow this yellow capsule)...did...James Joyce ever exist?

***

It seems he did, and that he done what he done. There is something intimidatingly authentic about print. My own first contact with the man in a literary collision was a quotation fired at me. This: "I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race."

Many a time had I read that piece with admiration. In recent years I have asked a few wise men what the words mean. They mean nothing.

But are they intended to mean nothing, in the sense of meaning something exact? Or are they intended to suggest an imponderable theme for reflection, as night--day--life-- death--are used in various patterns in "Finnegans Wake?"

***

JOYCE'S MAIN WORK, "Ulysses," is "not banned" in Ireland, which means simply that any person asking for it in a bookshop would probably be lynched. Parts of it are pornographic, though the motive seems to have been of the best; Bernard Shaw acknowledged the purity of Joyce's mind, and his skill and courage in presenting a portrait of fin de siècle brutality and horrors are evident in a letter which Miss Patricia Hutchens quotes in her interesting book, "James Joyce's Dublin." I ask--though no Bowdler I--is it not a great pity that an expurgated edition of "Ulysses" is not published, virginibus puerisque ?

It would surely establish the utterly ignored fact that Joyce was among the most comic writers who have ever lived. Every time I get influenza I read about The Citizen and his Dog; penicillin has nothing on them.

***

IT IS NOT EASY to close up satisfactorily this unpremeditated note. A number of ideas come to the surface.

Here is one. would it appear blanshardish for a committee of Dublin citizens, in Mansion House assembled, to petition the Holy Father to do what a distinguished predecessor did, and suppress the Jesuit Order,and turn Clongowes Wood College into something else?

Who can be answerable for James Joyce if it not be the Jesuits?

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