Posted by: bluelion | June 16, 2017

Let’s read… Ulysses (yeah, I’m not kidding)

[magyarul itt]

It’s been Bloomsday! A perfect day to start or finish James Joyce’s Ulysses! yes I say yes I did Yes. Today. (Had to wait a few days to be able to finish on Bloomsday. Now, that was harder than any tough part to read.)

This book is everything. I mean, everything. It is poetry, it’s drama, it’s prose, and quite a number of styles of that. You will find bills, sheet music, news with headlines. There’s a birth and there’s a funeral. There’s flirting and there’s sex. Also, babies, children, priests and a sailor(?), science and religion(s), men, women, and gravediggers.

Politics, arts, urinating together, taking a dump while reading a paper, menstrual blood, a man’s body hair, smelling his toe-nails (come on!), analyzing Shakespeare, queuing, sitting in a bar, eating, drinking, a catalogue of books and even catechism (and it works beautifully to tell the story, too).

I was reading a book about a polyglot when I started reading this one, so all the French, German, Latin and Italian text could not frighten me a bit, I was only wondering where the Chinese and Russian sentences went. Anyway, it doesn’t do any harm if you are a bit obsessed with languages when you are to appreciate all the multi-lingual jokes in this book (once I was sitting in the subway, reading Ulysses, trying not to grin too much. Who would have thought?).

(Fun fact: Leopold Bloom is Hungarian – like me. A bunch of historians even found the house in Szombathely, where a family called Blum had lived in the mid-1800s. A member of this family, called Lipot Virag met James Joyce in Trieste.)

Joyce was an absolute master of the English language. I loved when the sound of words was like hearing the waves crashing, when a piece of text consisted of one-syllable words only, when he writes with a lisp, when the words are not only about music but their rhythm and sound is music, or when there was no punctuation whatsoever for forty pages, not even an apostrophe (okay, there is one fullstop at twenty pages and the chapter is divided into eight paragraphs – sentences). I thoroughly enjoyed all the brilliant, playful, original, and funny texts Joyce created. A clever experiment like this one is something I appreciate even if I don’t enjoy reading it, but Ulysses is great and entertaining.

Those infamous forty pages are not even hard to read, at all (they are the inner monologue of a woman – so it is a way easier text than anywhere before, naturally (?)). No need to be afraid of that. The first chapter, in that Tower is pure horror, I admit. But once you get out of that structure, the book starts to become a highly enjoyable one. (Also, I don’t understand why Mrs.Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is the pioneer stream of consciousness novel, when it was published three years after Ulysses.)

The fight at the execution is plain hilarious, but the foreign guests’ names made me laugh out loud (Pokethankertscheff, Commendatore Bacibaci Beninobenone, stb). The brothel scene is crazy and it is hard to enjoy all the parodies but the wtf and the hilarious parts make a splendid whole.

There is everything written in this masterpiece. Everything that could be known at the time, every way of writing, everything that could be said and even those that could not.

It was a wonderful, complex experience.
Thank you, Mr. Joyce!


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