{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Joycean, Dulights and Cunfuisions, Trials and Errors.

I am posting this for basically two reasons, one is quite obvious, that I have nothing else to post or say. And there is no second reason. If there would have been some second reason, it is generally formulated on the fly, to fit in some borrowed view that there are generally many reasons for something. The second reason can be easily constructed from the fact that I issued a book from a local library (which has lots of films too), its called Critical Views on James Joyce, its edited by Harold Bloom with critical essays on Joyce by lot of other writers and academics. I was pretty sure that I wont read it. But I was sure too that I would try to. I was right. I tried and I failed. But there are few things I was so puzzled by, that I would like to put here. Here is the the starting of Samuel Beckett's essay titled Dante... Bruno. Vico.. Joyce. Without delay, here is the beginning which has nothing very special, as you can take any other paragraph and feel similarly confused. One more point before we go, confusing is not derogatory for the subject matter, but it can be for the observer, the reader, the interpreter. Here we go:

The danger is in the neatness of identifications. The conception of Philosophy, and Philology as a pair of nigger minstrels out of the Teatro dei Piccoli is soothing, like the contemplation of a carefully folded ham-sandwich. Giambattiata Vico himself could not resist the attractiveness of such coincidence of gesture. He insisted on complete identification between the philosophical abstraction and the empirical illustration, thereby annulling the absolutism of each conception - hoisting the real unjustifiably clear of its dimensional limits, temporalising that which is extratemporal. And now here am I, with my handful of abstractions, among which notably : a mountain, the coincidence of contraries, the inevitability of cyclic evolution, a system of Poetics, and the prospect of self-extension in the world of Mr. Joyce's Work in Progress. There is the temptation to treat every concept like "a bass dropt neck fust in till a bung crate", and make a really tidy job of it. Unfortunately such an exactitude of application would imply distortion in one of two directions. Must we wring the neck of a certain system in order to stuff it into a contemporary pigeon-hole, or modify the dimensions of that pigeon-hole for the satisfaction of the analogymongers? Literary criticism is not book keeping.

Now that I type it word to word, I do get some of it (may be a delayed attempt to save the soul). Actually, there is one essay in the book that I was able to read and fairly understand, but it falls in the space which Beckett describes as "Exactitude of Application". The essay on Finnegans Wake by Roland McHugh. It takes samples ( author of the essay has divided the whole FW into 4 parts and claims that the samples are fairly representative of the tone and distinct atmosphere of that part of opus). That essay is as helpful as the clues of the cryptic crossword for a person who has recently decided to try harder. It helps, but at times, helps a lot. I will give one line and its "de-complification", done by McHugh here. These lines are used to describe tailor's daughter to Norwegian Captain in such a way that we are continually obliged to construe her in both human and aquatic terms. McHugh describes this as "...but Joyce treat both attitudes as cliche and instead spotlights fortuitous parallelism with a consequent split image and throwaway humor."

... with the grit as hard as trent of the thimes but a touch as saft as the dee in flooing and never a Hyderow Jenny the like of her lightness at look and you leap...

Commentory: On the aquatic plane, the grit of the river bed is as hard as that found in river the river Trent and the river Thames, but the touch of its water is as soft (Norwegian, Saft, Juice) as that of the river Dee in flooding. On the human plane, the anger ( Rhaeto-Romanic, gritta) of the daughter is as hard as the trend of time demands, yet she has a touch as imperceptible as the letter d which has been removed in the word "flooing". Both the water and the girl are light, and they are, therefore, compared with Hydrogen, the lightest element, impetuously failing to look before they leap.

I know that this type of translation, becomes one dimensional after some time, but for beginners, its both necessary and amusing, and above all, inviting to read the original text and try to interpret ourselves.

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