James Joyce’s last and – some say mostly impenetrable – novel is being republished in illustrated form. The book has been reimagined by artist John Vernon Lord for the Folio Society.
Joyce, born in Dublin in 1882, moved to Paris in 1902, where he devoted himself to writing. Much of the rest of his life was spent living on the continent — in Paris, Trieste and Zurich — with his wife, Nora. His first published work was Chamber Music in 1907, a book of poems. This was followed by Dubliners (1914) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). International fame came with the publication in Paris of Ulysses in 1922. Ulysses achieved notoriety through its literary innovations – as well as its banning in certain parts of the world, including the US.
In 1922 Joyce began work on Finnegans Wake, which took 17 years to write. It was finally published in 1939. Reception was mixed, to say the least. Even Joyce’s long-term supporter Ezra Pound – a modernist experimenter himself – found it an experiment too far.
Novelist Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, however, called it “A great comic vision, one of the few books of the world that can make us laugh aloud on nearly every page.”
Today, it still has a reputation as one of the most “difficult” literary texts, with Joyce more or less inventing a new language within it. The first line of the book is: “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” The novel continues in the same manner throughout, resembling poetic language rather than novelistic.
Now, it is hoped readers will be further enlightened by an illustrated version. Lord has created 12 collages, as well as an introduction in which he outlines the thought process behind each image.