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Finnegans Wake

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A story with no real beginning or end (it ends in the middle of a sentence and begins in the middle of the same sentence), this "book of Doublends Jined" is as remarkable for its prose as for its circular structure.

Written in a fantastic dream-language, forged from polyglot puns and portmanteau words, the Wake features some of Joyce's most hilarious characters: the Irish barkeep Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, Shem the Penman, Shaun the Postman, and Anna Livia Plurabelle.

Joyce's final work, Finnegan's Wake is his masterpiece of the night as Ulysses is of the day. Supreme linguistic virtuosity conjures up the dark underground worlds of sexuality and dream. Joyce undermines traditional storytelling and all official forms of English and confronts the different kinds of betrayal - cultural, political and sexual - that he saw at the heart of Irish history. Dazzlingly inventive, with passages of great lyrical beauty and humour, Finnegans Wake remains one of the most remarkable works of the twentieth century.

628 pages, Paperback

First published May 4, 1939

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About the author

James Joyce

2,059 books7,984 followers
A profound influence of literary innovations of Irish writer James Augustine Aloysius Joyce on modern fiction includes his works, Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939).

People note this novelist for his experimental use of language in these works. Technical innovations of Joyce in the art of the novel include an extensive use of interior monologue; he used a complex network of symbolic parallels, drawn from the mythology, history, and literature, and he created a unique language of invented words, puns, and allusions.

John Stanislaus Joyce, an impoverished gentleman and father of James Joyce, nine younger surviving siblings, and two other siblings who died of typhoid, failed in a distillery business and tried all kinds of other professions, including politics and tax collecting. The Roman Catholic Church dominated life of Mary Jane Murray, an accomplished pianist and his mother. In spite of poverty, the family struggled to maintain a solid middle-class façade.

Jesuits at Clongowes Wood college, Clane, and then Belvedere college in Dublin educated Joyce from the age of six years; he graduated in 1897. In 1898, he entered the University College, Dublin. Joyce published first an essay on When We Dead Awaken , play of Heinrich Ibsen, in the Fortnightly Review in 1900. At this time, he also began writing lyric poems.

After graduation in 1902, the twenty-year-old Joyce went to Paris, where he worked as a journalist, as a teacher, and in other occupations under difficult financial conditions. He spent a year in France, and when a telegram about his dying mother arrived, he returned. Not long after her death, Joyce traveled again. He left Dublin in 1904 with Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid, whom he married in 1931.

Joyce published Dubliners in 1914, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916, a play Exiles in 1918 and Ulysses in 1922. In 1907, Joyce published a collection of poems, Chamber Music .

At the outset of the Great War, Joyce moved with his family to Zürich. In Zürich, Joyce started to develop the early chapters of Ulysses, first published in France because of censorship troubles in the Great Britain and the United States, where the book became legally available only in 1933.

In March 1923, Joyce in Paris started Finnegans Wake, his second major work; glaucoma caused chronic eye troubles that he suffered at the same time. Transatlantic review of Ford Madox Ford in April 1924 carried the first segment of the novel, called part of Work in Progress. He published the final version in 1939.

Some critics considered the work a masterpiece, though many readers found it incomprehensible. After the fall of France in World War II, Joyce returned to Zürich, where he died, still disappointed with the reception of Finnegans Wake.

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5 stars
4,295 (33%)
4 stars
3,409 (26%)
3 stars
2,746 (21%)
2 stars
1,095 (8%)
1 star
1,129 (8%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,180 reviews
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,119 followers
April 20, 2012
Let me explain the five-star rating. When I was teenager I was ludicrously shy. I was the son and heir of a shyness that was criminally vulgar. My all-conquering shyness kept Morrissey in gold-plated ormolu swans for eight years. Any contact with human beings made me mumble in horror and scuttle off to lurk in dark corners. But I developed this automatic writing technique in school to ease my mounting stress whenever teachers were poaching victims to answer questions, perform presentations or generally humiliate. I would start out composing a piece of surrealist free-association prose, usually violently satirical. As the teachers (or pupils or other humans) closed in around me, my prose would lapse into soothing gibberish. Sometimes I wrote a stream of pretty sounding words (I was a rabid sesquipedalian in my teens)—zeugmatic, antediluvian, milquetoast, mugwump. Luscious lovely words! Sometimes language broke down into neologisms or gibberish—boobleplop, artycary, frumpalerp, etc. Nervy, throbbing syllables. I came to associate collapsed language with an inner space where I went to hide from the imagined humiliations of interacting with others. Once I escaped the imprisonment of my inner conscious (over a four-year period known as The Torture Years), I always used nonsense writing as a means of getting through difficult situations—where others might doodle, for example, I would write Joycean Jabberwocky. Still do, usually on the phone. So this book, to me, is The Little Book of Calm. Except it isn’t little, and it makes people shit themselves. Me? I love this magnificent beast. Unless you suffer from similar deep-seated psychological wounds that threaten to gradually consume your entire adult life, don’t read this.
Profile Image for Fernando.
684 reviews1,127 followers
June 14, 2022
Inextricable, inexpugnable, intraducible, interminable, indescifrable, ilegible, insufrible, inabarcable, inescrutable, insostenible, inaccesible, impenetrable, impredecible, inalcanzable, inasequible, incomprensible, incongruente, intimidante, inaceptable, intragable, insoportable, invulnerable, indefinible, inexplicable, imposible.

Estos son algunos de los adjetivos calificativos que podrían aplicarse perfectamente a este obra de arte colosal.
Si con Ulises James Joyce había llegado al límite de todas las variantes posibles con el lenguaje, con el Finnegans Wake lo traspasa para transformarlo en algo con entidad propia y convertirlo en nuevo universo literario.
La complejidad extrema de lo lingüístico introducido en el libro, sumado a decenas de neologismos, creadas por el escritor, se estiran hasta la cantidad de 250.000 palabras a lo largo de un apretadísimo texto de 628 páginas.
Para revolucionar al texto, Joyce incluye vocablos distorsionados, sonidos guturales de bebés, onomatopeyas, creaciones lingüísticas, 3.500 nombres propios reales e inventados e idiomas de todo el planeta, incluyendo dialectos y lenguas muertas. Más de 70 idiomas para ser más precisos.
Jugar con las palabras es otro de sus pasatiempos preferidos y para ello se transforma en un digno sucesor de Lewis Carroll, quien ya en sus libros “Alicia en el país de las maravillas” y “A través del espejo”, ya acuña el sistema de creación híbrida de palabras o inventa nombres totalmente inverosímiles (el del Jabberwocky es un ejemplo claro).
En algunos capítulos como el que cierra el Libro I y atribuido a uno de los personajes principales, Anna Livia Plurabelle descubrimos que por ejemplo Joyce incluye los nombres de más de 600 ríos de todo el mundo.
Cualquier parte del libro que uno lea es innovadora o revolucionaria, de hecho la ambivalencia está inherente en el título mismo de libro, “Finnegans Wake” (así, sin apostrofe), dado que "wake" significa tanto "velatorio" como "despertar", de ahí la naturaleza circular del libro, donde el comienzo del primer capítulo es una frase ya empezada que enlaza con la frase inacabada de la última página, y aunque parezca mentira, este libro tiene también una trama o argumento, pero oculta entre toneladas de palabras inconexas, diálogos oníricos y frases desconcertantes.
Otro aspecto más que interesante es la construcción que Joyce hace con las palabras y la creación de vocablos híbridos. Muchos de ellos a partir de una raíz en común son construidos con dos y hasta tres palabras distintas y demuestra hasta qué punto retorció vocablos para darles un nuevo sentido.
Cito algunos ejemplos de conjunciones de palabras para ser más gráfico: escéano (escena+océano), sordiota (sordo+idiota), literasura (literatura+basura), amornecer (amor+amanecer), obsceñor (obsceno+señor). Estos términos están tomados de la traducción de Marcelo Zabaloy, quien realizó la primera traducción completa al español por primera vez en la historia, pero es algo que voy a comentar más adelante.
Relacionado a este tema y para comprender y compartir que Joyce no escribió este libro sin ningún sentido sino con erudición y en forma meticulosa, tomemos esta palabra de cien letras aparentemente incongruente, que ya en la tercera página nos choca de lleno:
Este término, vocablo o como quiera llamarse no está incluido por que sí. Investigando un poco, me encontré en internet con una explicación del mismo y que es la siguiente. Comienza con “bababadal”, un termino que significa “Torre de Babel” en el Génesis 11:1-9, en el que Dios castiga a todos a hablar en decenas de distintos idiomas (qué casualidad, algo que puebla todas las páginas de este libro), este largo término se desglosa en decir "trueno" en diez idiomas distintos, asociando sus raíces fonéticas a estos idiomas, a saber: gharaghta (hindi/r'ad), kamminarronnkonn (japonés/kaminari), bronn (griego/brontê), tonnerronn (francés/tonerre), tuonn (italiano/tuono), thunn (inglés/thunder), trovarr (portugués/ trovão), hounawnskawn (sueco y irlandés/aska y scán), toohoohoordenen (danés/torden), thurnuk (irish/tórnach).
¿A qué quiero llegar con esto? En primer lugar a afirmar que James Joyce era un genio, le pese a quién le pese, incluso a todos sus detractores y críticos a quienes les advirtió "Puedo justificar cada línea de mi libro". En segundo lugar a comprender que ningún lector normal (como yo) podría descifrar eso nunca sin su ayuda o por gente que se dedica a estudiar el libro y además, que esa palabra está ¡en la tercera página! Imaginen si quisiéramos descubrir cada palabra extraña a lo largo de las 628 páginas. Nos llevaría cientos de años. Me saco el sombrero ante tanta genialidad.
Pasando al argumento del libro en sí, a groso modo, el libro trata, en primer lugar, sobre una referencia a Adán y Eva y la caída del hombre y con el relato mítico del gigante Finn MacCool, quien trastoca su existencia en Finnegans, un albañil de Dublín, quien mientras trabaja en la construcción de un muro, cae de la escalera y se mata. Su esposa Annie dispone el cuerpo del muerto para que sirva de festín en el velatorio, no obstante este desaparece antes de que puedan empezar a devorarlo.
A eso sigue un velatorio lleno de incidentes, hay una pelea dónde accidentalmente se derrama whisky sobre el cadáver de Finnegan, que se levanta de su ataúd suplicando un trago. Pero para acomplejar más el argumento, ese mismo Finnegans puede ser considerado un sueño del gigante Finn y puede que lo que suceda a partir de allí pase a formar parte de lo onírico, donde todo es posible y a la vez es replicado a través del lenguaje críptico en que está escrito el libro.
Por otro lado se narran las peripecias de un tabernero dublinés, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Su nombre irá mutando en decenas de otros que comenzarán con las iniciales HCE, puesto que este personajes se metamorfoseará constantemente, de ahí que las iniciales no están tomadas al azar: HCE es también “Here Comes Everybody”. HCE es un hombre en particular, pero también somos todos nosotros (“Aquí llegan todos”).
Y además de HCE y ALP, nos encontramos con sus hijos gemelos, Shem el escritor y Shaun el cartero quienes se disputan el amor de la joven Iseut con todo el bagaje de lectura que estas instancias generan en el libro.
El Finnegans Wake es un libro que se lee a ciegas y el primer obstáculo con el que el lector de choca en la oscuridad es el del lenguaje. No hay otro modo de explicarlo.
Para ser sincero en esto, sostengo que el personaje principal del libro es el lenguaje. Es la causa, la consecuencia, el medio y el fin. Es el amo total y cuando el lector lo lee, cae fácilmente en el hecho de intentar entender lo que allí se narra generando una parálisis o bloqueo de lectura, y en otros casos ciertos estados de desesperación que desembocan en abandonarlo para no retomarlo más. Si uno piensa que al leer el Ulises Joyce llegó al límite de lo imaginable y soportable, con el Finnegans Wake se cae en un abismo mucho peor y desconcertante.
Y si el Ulises es el libro de lo que sucede en el día, el Finnegans Wake es el libro de la noche y esto se explica con facilidad: en el Ulises, todo transcurre durante el día con los personajes de Leopoldo Bloom y Stephen Dédalus caminándose todo Dublin. En el Finnegans Wake todo lo que se lee en las 628 páginas sucede en una noche.
El supuesto final del libro, o sea de las últimas páginas traza una relación directa con el Ulises, puesto que el monólogo interior de Anna Livia Plurabelle se equipara al de Molly Bloom durante ocho eternas oraciones que ocupan las últimas cuarenta páginas (¡40!) del libro sin freno ni la utilización de una sola coma. La diferencia es que en el Finnegans Wake este monólogo es más corto, pero no por ello menos difícil de leer.
No voy a ser hipócrita y confieso que salteé varias páginas en distintos momentos de la lectura, porque es tanta la abundancia indescifrable del texto que logra un desconcierto exasperante en el lector y uno se anula. Debe cerrar el libro y retomarlo en otra ocasión para no sucumbir, pero me siento tranquilo con el hecho de saber que no es ningún crimen, pues parafraseando a Kafka, si un libro no nos parte la cabeza, ¿para qué leerlo? En mi caso no fue por falta de interés sino que por momentos me sentí ampliamente superado por el texto, puesto que al fin y a cabo soy un simple lector falible.
Respecto de su traductor, Marcelo Zabaloy, es altamente meritorio reconocer que fue el primero que se animó a traducir el libro en forma completa luego de otras traducciones anteriores consideradas en cierto modo deficientes y más meritorio aún porque Zabaloy está completamente fuera de todo circuito literario: tradujo el libro ¡por hobby durante siete largos años y siendo Analista de sistemas!
Ni escritor, ni traductor, ni nada ligado a las letras sino tan sólo un hombre que arregla computadoras en su Bahía Blanca natal, en el centro-sur de Argentina y que además realizó también su propia traducción del Ulises, ambas publicados por la editorial El Cuenco de Plata.
La complicación de la edición de Zabaloy reside en que junto con la editorial decidieron no incluir notas aclaratorias al pie, explicando que la edición del libro se hubiera estirado a 1.500 o 2.000 páginas.
Lo complejo de las palabras en el texto es explicado por Zabaloy cuando dice "en una línea donde hay diez palabras, cuatro de ellas no existen. No están en los diccionarios. Estás obligado a crear neologismos. El Finnegans Wake es acercarse a algo que no tiene entidad real, una suerte de lengua universal, que crea amalgamando elementos tomados de más de ochenta idiomas naturales, con el inglés como sustrato común.
Es como si en tu casa tuvieras un galpón y alguien te trajera una bolsa con cien kilos de rompecabezas, y de los cien kilos tenés treinta kilos de un gris que varía de una punta a otra, en cien escalas. Donde el piso y el techo es lo mismo y tenés que poner cada pieza correctamente para que quede armado."

De todos modos, Zabaloy no trabajó sin herramientas. Leyó el libro en su idioma original, acumuló ensayos, críticas, enciclopedias, leyó la edición francesa corregida por el mismísimo Joyce, consultó el FWEET (Finnegans Wake Extensible Elucidation Treasury), una página online con más de 80.000 anotaciones desde que se publicó el libro y se apoyó en la mayoría de los los libros que distintos escritores publicaron libros-guia en la lectura, como los de Roland McHugh y conoció a Hervé Michel, quien lo tradujo al francés, entre otras cosas.
Solo tengo palabras de admiración para el esfuerzo titánico, descomunal de Marcelo Zabaloy en el que invirtió siete años de su vida.
Por último y para cerrar esta larga reseña, vuelvo a retomar la figura de James Joyce, eterna, gigante, quien le dedicó 17 años de su vida para crear obra única, publicada dos años antes de su muerte, prácticamente ciego, fuertemente deprimido, con su hija internada en un hospital psiquiátrico y escapando de los nazis que ya habían puesto en marcha su escalofriante máquina de muerte.
Joyce, luego de mostrar a críticos y editores las primeras página del libro supo afirmar:
«Los críticos que tan agradecidos estaban por Ulises se quejan ahora de mi nuevo trabajo. Como son incapaces de entenderlo, sostienen que no tiene sentido. Ahora bien, si no tuviese ningún sentido se habría podido escribir rápidamente, sin pensar, sin dolor, sin erudición, pero te aseguro que estas veinte páginas que tenemos ante nosotros me han costado 1.200 horas y un enorme gasto de espíritu.»
Maestro, qué más puedo agregar. Luego de leer semejante libro, paradójicamente, me quedé sin palabras.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,945 reviews610 followers
July 30, 2023
Well, let's be honest. I'll try not to hurt susceptibilities.

Did you like Joyce's Ulysses? Do you want more? So get around Finnegans Wake!

The object defies all summary; I renounce it. Suffice it to say that the work is deemed untranslatable, even illegible. Of course, we do not ask that of the genius, but it is clear that Joyce does not condescend to leave heaven to put himself a little at our level. The burlesque and iconoclastic puns tearing away a thin smile, the obscure literature references, the autobiographical clues, all this background, this confuses in long meandering prose (600 pages, ouch!) And it inflicts a hermetic reading on us, abstruse, esoteric. The translator seemed tired of seeing the gradual scarcity of footnotes. The text's meaning becomes clearer (weakly) during the last two parts, during illuminations that the author describes as "epiphany" and thanks to individual episodes' periodic return. Such galimatias for such a sordid story! If Joyce is a genius, he is the genius of bewilderment, the prospector of all literature. Finnegans Wake can only arouse eroded scholars' interest (Damn, the Joycian demon is in me!) And exegetes of the work of the Irish author. For the others, no salvation. In evidence, to leave at the limit, to impress the bourgeois or shine in society. Avoid it if you don't want to drip reading (God forbid!) And find yourself after a post-libation depression ("never again!"). "Lasciate Ogni Speranza, voi ch'entrate" (Leave all hope, you who enter. Dante - Hell).
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
August 1, 2017
I take no shame in admitting that I cannot read this book. I was defeated after three paragraphs:

"What clashes here of wills gen wonts, oystrygods gaggin fishy-gods! Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax! Ualu Ualu Ualu! Quaouauh! Where the Baddelaries partisans are still out to mathmaster Malachus Micgranes and the Verdons cata-pelting the camibalistics out of the Whoyteboyce of Hoodie Head. Assiegates and boomeringstroms. Sod’s brood, be me fear! Sanglorians, save! Arms apeal with larms, appalling. Killykill-killy: a toll, a toll. What chance cuddleys, what cashels aired and ventilated! What bidimetoloves sinduced by what tegotetab-solvers!"

I can’t even begin to decipher that nor do I have the patience or will to do so. I see what Joyce is doing; he is fucking around with words and having a blast, but I don’t want any part of it. Is this modernism gone too far?
Profile Image for Geoff.
444 reviews1,232 followers
September 13, 2016
Finnegans Wake is Joyce’s masterpiece, the culmination of his life’s work, the apex of his art, the tremendous final achievement of the 20th century’s greatest prose stylist. To ignore Joyce’s masterpiece is to miss out on one of a handful of great events in literary history. Dubliners anticipated A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A Portrait of the Artist… anticipated Ulysses, Ulysses anticipated Finnegans Wake. Joyce’s individual works are particularly momentous set side by side, as the trajectory of his craft's transfiguration can be clearly traced. For Joyce, all roads led to the Wake. We cannot consider the snow “faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead”, we cannot consider “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo”, we cannot consider “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed”, without considering “A way a lone a last a loved a long the 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.” To accept Joyce’s place in the history of literature is to accept Finnegans Wake as his greatest contribution. To ignore or dismiss it is to leave a gaping hole in your understanding of the progress of literary aesthetics in the modern age. As William Gass said: "FW is the high-water mark of Modernism, and not to have been fundamentally influenced by it as a writer is not to have lived in your time. Not to live in your time is a serious moral flaw."

Finnegans Wake, at first blush, might seem the most uninviting literary relic imaginable. It begins in the middle of a fragment of a sentence and immediately immerses the reader in a floodtide of its Wakelanguage without any ado- no lamp, lantern, or quickflickering guidepost torches to ease one’s way in and through. And, to be sure, this is a very difficult book, perhaps the most difficult book you or I will ever read. But let me here briefly comment on what the Wake is not: it is not gibberish, it is not “the product of a diseased mind”, it is not “an elaborate prank” to make fools of readers and academia. To be a proponent of any of these claims is to have not spent time with the text. It is to not trust that Joyce, after having perfected and exhausted the potentialities of the form of the novel with Ulysses, was capable of going beyond that achievement, to forge for himself and for us an utterly new way- to push the idea of the novel, and the language of the novel, past itself and into a new mode or form. What more would one person have to accomplish than write Ulysses to earn an audience’s confidence? Finnegans Wake is not only not unreadababble, it is perhaps the most carefully, minutely, complexly composed work of art the modern era has produced. A third of Joyce’s life was spent rendering the Wake into the form in which we have it now. Might we, as readers, not allow ourselves to be a fraction of a percent as generous with our time, to try to understand what he was attempting, on his terms?

Enough of what the Wake isn’t, on to what it is. First of all, it is music. Second, it is an experimental prose work, a work whose form and content are one and the same, where there is no boundary between style and substance. Thirdly and onward, it is an occurrence of language. It is a vast palimpsest, a layering and weaving of etyms. It is the realization and perfection of the work of static art that Joyce was approaching his entire career- art, literature, that does not progress from point to point as in traditional narrative, but exists and is experienced in cycles, circles, reverberations, (re)generations, iterations, emergences, divested of the encumbrances of space and time. It is Flaubert’s ideal “book about nothing.”* It is the density and obscurity of night rendered into waterfall rainbow river language. “A permanent member of the avant-garde.” “An unpopularizable book.” A great riddle or maze. An amalgamation of gods. Obscure pun-drenched birdtongue, strangest little song you’ll ever damn hear. Hen scratchings on the magazine wall, typographically rendered, a polyvocal defence of the great shame and guilt of man. The tonguetwister of allhumanity dreamingwaking together, it was uncovered in a burial mound. Vico’s four horsemen of the arkpokalypse. Mamalujo broadcasting from the hill of Shaun and a donkey brayayaying over radio waves intercepted telling strange advertisements out of Carthage and burning Roam. It is the Egyptian Book of the Dead within the Book of Kells within the Old Testament and the New within Dante and Shakespeare and Milton and Goethe and Swift et Sterne et al. and Wilde’s trial to boot. It is a motley chorus composed of all of Ireland’s saints and sinners. “Then’s now with now’s then in tense continuant. Heard.” It is Finn MacCool’s salmon flitting in the deep well and Tristan and Isolde’s marriage ship sailing out under the cry of gulls (forewaves whisping whshhpwshpshp) and at the same time it is their opera made prose, mild und leise. It is the excrement ink writ on the foolscap flesh of Shem the Penman, thus it is Shemdean spawn. It is Anna Livia Plurabelle’s missive to the antagonistic greater world of chitterchattererflitterflatterers (how loathe they have become to me!) and little Issy star cloud sister’s spilled milk across the great nightspan, bababbling brooks about the laying mountainous mass of sleepman. Treacling trickling trickster tome, laplapping gossip and news, soundbites and screams and dieatribes from Lucifer’s caindom, enabler of murtherer, and also song of the cockcrowcoolicolala! Noman’s humming in the valley of the wal. Shaft of light pierce o'reillying the mourning mist. A confuscation of mystification by utteration and ululation with confabulation and iteration of vocalization of a Wake in Preegress! Hush! Caution! Echoland! What a funferall! The last lief on the stonetree. “The untireties of livesliving being the one substrance of a streamsbecoming. Totalled in toldteld and teldtold in tittletell tattle.” Mind your hats goan in!

Lastly, Finnegans Wake is the least pessimistic book I know. After one has accustomed oneself to the night language, after one is acquainted with Joyce’s modes and methods, this book is pure joy. One begins to anticipate the moments and emergence of themes, iterations of characters in different guises, developments and repetitions of rhythms, word and sound groupings that recur in exact placement, much as one listens to a beloved symphony or opera. The music of the Wake, like a true Irish wake, is a rejoicing at the deathbed, rounds of songs rollicking the departed soul into the next cycle of existence. What is more optimistic than Joyce’s interpretation of Vico’s historical cycles? That as we approach our non-being the clock resets, time ticks ahead again for us among the shades of history, the sun rises as it always will, the night dissipates, the fog of this dream-life clears and mankind emerges again, to suffer it all, sing it all, weep through it all, live it all again. That these ages resound again and again not through great men only but through everyman, that the resurrection of the meaning of man comes in the simplest of assemblages- husband, wife, son, daughter. This affirmation is a mainstay throughout all of Joyce’s work- that the universal erupts through the banal, that the commonplace is the point where the cosmos enacts its drama. What could be a more joyous celebration and confirmation, not only of human life as it emerges from the darkness of meaninglessness in the only possible way it can, through language, but of the creative life in particular, the life whose purpose is to make new forms out of the fragments of the old, to anticipate the new, to instill a beautiful renewal of purpose for each emerging epoch, that it might know its own language, make its own music?

Nathan's review is a fount of information, please do visit the museyroom. Tip!

And if you are abcedminded, when you set out on your own reeding of the Wake, please to be joining and contributing to the Wake Grappa. We're all of us over there at different points on the turning of the widening gyre, so feel free to hop on at any time.

*The entire plot of Finnegans Wake can be summed up essentially in that classic cliched opening phrase “It was a dark and stormy night…”
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
792 reviews
December 28, 2022
The Slalom of Joyledge

Howto scaledown this Beschova finntail
This filletov beginnings that sings of all endings,
This pest of a pal in jest
And bad cess to you, Joyking
For the reeding is tufftuff
And the prize is the laffing
Tho low in the belly
It sores with the learning
Of finnglish and jinglish
Pigeon linguish and djoytisch

Ten stories tall
And twenty the deepings
Some to the writeoff
And Moore to the leftings
Finn’s houseful of hawsers
And hods and their spilling
Give Humpty his tallwall
And role in all fallings
Atomnal, Printernal
Summerian, Hibernial

Story forth into bygones
O Joyking of spieling
Ewe raddle us with riddles
Till we’re red in the blushers
Veins vulging in temples
And grey matter smarting
We reed in the rushes
Of joycfull mehinding
Seepon, seepunder,
pong of pondyman

Thru hart strings and wordlings
And lingo lang twanging
Ewe bleat all the sorrel
Of wars evel waging
In valleys, on hillsides
In shore water rising
Tho miss chiefs and piss takes
Give rest from sorratelling
spoofon, spoofonder,
sham of shemyman.

Futurepresent pastperfect
As the river at her rising
The trees bend to bog
From the turf seeds fresh reedlings
Men breed new wars
As old wars reseeding
Bodies for battles
Procreation creating
Weepon, weeponder,
Song of sorrowman

Atom, Eve and their childer
The first family feuding
Cain abling his sister
Edem for all triblings
In cest and in jest
The story ewer spouring
By yon labious banks
And by perchypole sarding
thru noughty times ever
And foriver insemenating

O Batterfull of codlogicals
O Senchus Mór pranKing
Exagminating yore glosses
Yore musikers and blarneying
French rhymes, Moore's chimes
Jack's house ever building
Alicetella's fun essay
Swift Sternley past teaching
Reminding this scribbler
To finnish vociferating
Now's nunc or nimmer!
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,729 followers
January 4, 2016
"Wipe your glosses with what you know."


I tend never to retread the same book twice. I finish a novel or a book, digest it, then move on. Having just finished 'Finnegans Wake' I'm not sure that approach is even possible. This is a book that is simply impossible to really finish. Yes, I read from the beginning to end. Yes, I listened to it while reading. Yes, I spoke sentences out loud. Yes, I shouted words. Yes, I underlined phrases that tickled and rhymes that ringed. But, I feel like I've scratched the semantic surface of a great field. I'm not sure when I'll return, but I'm pretty certain that the gravity is there. I feel it even as I gladly set this book aside. This is a novel that demands attention. It frustrates and confuses the most diligent seeker. I never felt in control. I never felt in command. I was in the river, and floated for a time and am just happy I didn't drown. It is world I will return to like a dream-filled sleep when the day is done and night returns.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
April 5, 2020
The other day we saw The Ghost, the rather fine new movie by Polanski. Ewan McGregor plays a ghostwriter, who's been brought in to fix up the memoirs of a British ex-Prime Minister who absolutely isn't Tony Blair. He's given the manuscript, and groans in pain.

"That bad?" asks the woman who isn't Cherie Blair.

"Well it's got all the words," says McGregor. "They're just not in the right order."

This suggested to me the following simple experiment with Finnegans Wake, one of the greatest etc etc in the English language. I downloaded an electronic version from the Web and wrote a little script. It calculates statistics for the frequencies of each letter conditioned on the three preceding ones, then produces random text using that model. And here's a sample of what comes out:
rivin's Fleperumpholature, puirel from the going beamstroki, genes aultealsion! Captermidcauting. Allfishe'll theiresendt all, andfall the blisation (for of ally witnes of coulminus. Blugger, wher nutbrings my los oned? Mch? What sting up funnies! Huddamsome Bankata, the keter soother sets the beloomostes, sable us in duallects neupon, wholy not does! Exceed in siltop as taned mucheepiworder aflute. While store your bred welchups we kitch oxbell, old som! Curly vale. The scenty view (the our civisierengracles was dupshua milisquewing bransisterrand the knobo, prise fall knacordy) and picky karu? Yip! I sait is, worts fore fassoo thath they speechappy inted that bit thall kning to thehry. For the like fing of the untill Buggedy Acreside? Bygmour flatehaun sore! But a cal, them doland up (and you, perfor virging of the Gachind lilt and supping's the that the saint, him my brade rainpleave you abothe king Jerospears forews wer's vitrodalths vitation abou remen thorly wated bease, there lit is like the Lucat wattern-his in thing hone: he willwho it bynemberumphs, faraden, here they sail nought of the sweet-puls temple of are whirk and eld not and Palm aro! This evers, Exmoonanture, thead fied and too tron the lanagain ther! Marre! Kevitutterod. Shaughter of Eons, Potter rud of thin collow. One to beehights headlos he gue. Dalilitopspes hers and a Noho. All to evers scan night!

Juva: Sod the thurch he breated! And the ming's my schlucises lausan the coy Brael mudder Sever, a his nakewdy feat Bashoweriful and it feet to mire blowsome, thems bis!
OK, I admit it's not as accomplished as the original. But if you brought in a competent ghostwriter and gave him a month to improve it, who knows? The random generator has created some promising lines. I quite like "For the like fing of the untill Buggedy Acreside?", and "Juva: Sod the thurch he breated!" seems interestingly blasphemous...
Profile Image for Kelly McCubbin.
310 reviews11 followers
November 20, 2007
The easiest book in the world... seriously. With scholars unable to ever reach consensus on what the book is or how it should be read or even if it actually has value, you can simply ignore them. Your opinions are just as valid. Add to this the wads of cultural ephemera that Joyce has packed the book with and you find yourself in the rare position to occasionally be BETTER qualified to interpret parts of the text than academics.
Try this, get some friends together, pop the cork on a few bottles of wine and, in your most twee Irish accents read it to each other. A whole new world of dirty jokes, awful puns, barbed insults and musical references will suddenly pop out of this previously "impenetrable" text.
And don't be afraid to get sidetracked, it's part of the point.
Profile Image for Kenny.
507 reviews936 followers
September 30, 2022
We may come, touch and go, from atoms and ifs but we’re presurely destined to be odd’s without ends.
Finnegans Wake ~~ James Joyce

Selected by ME for July 2021 Big Book Read

How do I review Finnegans Wake???

I spent two weeks in Joyce's Universe, reading Finnegans Wake. I could think of nothing else but the Wake during those two weeks. I was so consumed by the Wake it felt like an intense, short term love affair ~~ ending, as it began ~~ A way a lone a last a loved a long the 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 only thing I'm sure of is Finnegans Wake is the Strangest Dream that was ever Halfdreamt .


While following the path Joyce set out for me I explored Catholicism, Thor, Euclid, Don Juan, the Kabbalah, Hinduism, intrapsychic states and forces, hen and eggs, Guinness beer, elves, the River Liffey, resurrection and creation myths, Humpty Dumpty & the Cosmic Egg, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, William Blake’s Albion & the Four Zoas, all things Irish and Celtic, and an estimated sixty to seventy languages ~~ everything from Armenian, to Latin, to Swahili.

I was fascinated by the words coined by Joyce as he foreshadowed the future ~~ iSpace, batman, fast and furious, twitter, Harley Quinn, hogwarts, Wheel of Fortune, and émail. As Joyce states, All that has been done has yet to be done and done again.

Whether you like it or not, Finnegans Wake is a tour de force of writing. Every page is brilliant.

We’re back to this ~~ How do I review Finnegans Wake???

You don't, Kenny McCool~~ Kenny McCool can't review this book ~~ which is like no other book. Nor can Kenny McCool even try and tell you what the Wake is about.

He will say reading Finnegans Wake was exhilarating. Often times he found himself reading this aloud ~~ Kenny McCool caught more of the puns when read aloud. Also, Joyce is a musical writer ~~ reading the the Wake aloud helped him to find the rhythm of Joyce's writing.


Is there anything else to say? Well. I bow before you James Joyce. Whatever gibberish those naysayers may spout, Finnegans Wake is definitely worth reading. In fact, I plan on taking this whole mad journey again someday.

Profile Image for Nicholas Karpuk.
Author 4 books65 followers
March 29, 2009
This is not a fair score, I'll admit it right up front. This book affirms my reasoning for reading the first few pages of a book before buying it. This I bought because I've been trying to read more classics, but my experience has shown me that classics shouldn't be exempted from the first few page practice.

Here's the second paragraph of the book:

"Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen-core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wilderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyers rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens county's gogios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to taugtaug thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathondjoe. Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface."

I've read a few books with a confusing intro. It's a common practice in sci-fi, where you throw the reader in head first with mysterious nouns and let them work it out as they go. This is not the case, because after a few pages I realized Mr. Joyce wasn't going to start making anymore sense than he already was. Here's a quote from page 311, when I skipped ahead to see if it was all like this:

"It was long after once there was a lealand in the luffing ore it was less after lives thor a toyler in the tawn at all ohr it was note before he drew out the moddle of Kersse by jerkin his dressing but and or it was not before athwartships he buttonhaled the Norweeger's capstan."

I considered this might be a phonetic thing, similar to what Twain used, but no matter how I tried with the first few pages I could not parse it into anything comprehensible. Even Canterbury Tales has the decency to make sense when read aloud. If I can not comprehend a book on a sentence level, a paragraph level, or a chapter level I'm just going to give up.

Here's the first sentence of the intro, which I went back to look at after throwing the book in the trash, feeling bad, and retrieving it:

"There is no agreement as to what Finnegans Wake is about, whether or not it is "about" anything, or even whether it is, in any sense of the word, "readable".

Oh good. That's very encouraging. Here's the thing, I don't read as a challenge. I read for ideas, or to be entertained. I like to read books with ideas I might struggle with, it's fun to think about it. I do not like fighting to choke down the words themselves. Joyce makes up words, uses dialect, and god knows what else in the first few chapters, it's like he's trying to be obtuse to make a game out of it.

That might be fun in a short story, but this is 600-some pages.

If someone can suggest a good method for consuming this damn thing, the Rosetta Stone for why I should care, I'm open to ideas, but otherwise, it's getting put away
Profile Image for Mark André .
117 reviews249 followers
February 2, 2021
Only after you have read Dubliners & Portrait & Ulysses a half a dozen times each, and your mind still demands more Joyce, are you ready to read Finnegans Wake.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
November 11, 2012
Looks daunting, unintelligible and incomprehensible at first. However, read it aloud and with open mind and the meaning might come down on you. I said "might" because no matter how much thinking I put on some of the paragraphs or lines, some meanings seemed so obscure and I had no choice but to let them stay that way.

Still I found this book amazing. It is one of its kind. What amazed me really was its play of words. Unmatched. Never seen before. Close to it so far is Anthony Burgess's Clockwork but it seems like kindergarten level to Joyce's masteral degree. Joyce used what they call as "portmanteau" or the fusing together of two or more words in the same or different languages. Thus "kissmiss" is both the festive season and something that might happen during it, with a suggestion of fatefulness; the Holy Father becomes a "hoary frother"; and an old photo is a "fadograph." Reading this book requires Job's patience but in the end, it is rewarding for the fact that this is another testimony to James Joyce's brilliance as a writer. Finnegans Wake is the playful luminous moon to Ulysses' serious bright sun. One complement the other like flaunting to the world that James Joyce could be funny after writing the very profound retelling of Homer's classic epic poem, Odyssey.

I admit that at some point, I thought I would not be able to finish this. I thought of giving up after two chapters and I did not understanding ANYTHING. I felt like I was just wasting my time. However, a GR friend advised me to read write ups in the internet and it helped. I referred to the internet after reading each chapter or part of it. There were times when I could not correlate the two so I let that pass too. That approach of reading a chapter of the book then refer to the internet helped because at least I was picking up the basic plot. Still, it was confusing. The stories in it seemed not connected to each other and there was no main plot. It was only towards the end when I realized that James Joyce was not telling one story but many, as many as 17 according to Wiki. The most ubiquitous, among the 17, is a story of a fall that turns out not to be entirely negative, including the Fall of Man; an indiscretion in Phoenix Park, Dublin, a sex scandal involving an older man and two girls; and a tumble (Humpty Dumpty, yes that children's song) from a ladder by an Irish builder, Tim Finnegan.

This book offers just a different kind of reading experience. One of its kind. It is amazing how James Joyce put together this book and wrote all those verses that are so funny. Definitely brilliant.

And oh I love that unfinished sentence in the end that goes back to the first sentence. When I started reading and saw the first sentence that looked truncated, I was thrown off immediately and shrieked "What is this?" but I said if I was able to finish Ulysses, I should be able to read this one too. Of course, the big encouragement of my GR friends motivated me to continue reading just in time for my daughter to ask this library copy back.

(I now see some of those GR friends liking this review, so I better stop now.) Thank you so much, GR friends!
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,990 followers
December 31, 2020
It is not possible to write a review for Finnegan’s Wake like I normally write my reviews. Instead, I will do a list of bullet point thoughts I had along the way and after finishing.

- First, I can already tell this is one of those books that some are going to be really into for its classic cultural impact and relevancy. Because of this, my two stars might “offend” or cause some to reply “you just don’t get it!”. Well, that’s true . . . I didn’t get it and I don’t mean to irritate fans of the book. This is all just based on my experience.
- The book is completely unreadable. See my various status updates.
- I consumed every word in this book. I understood very few.
- The first, and maybe only fully cohesive and meaningful sentences were on page 614. I did a double take because I understood all the sentences!
“What has gone? How it ends?
Begin to forget it. It will remember itself from every sides[sic], with all gestures, in each our word. Today’s truth, tomorrow’s trend.
Forget, remember!”

- Occasionally during the book, some parts would kind of make sense and then I would stop and look in the sentences around them for context – I could never find it.
- My auto-correct and spell check hate me after all the status updates I did. Almost every word I had to tell it to ignore autocorrect so that I could quote the actual “words” from the book. Also, since Auto-correct and predictive text use machine learning, I now get some pretty odd suggestions when typing!
- I get the impression that maybe if I had a grasp of some Irish dialects, I would have understood parts of the book more
- Why not 1 star? 1) I am impressed that Joyce managed to convince someone to publish this 2) I am impressed with the amount of dedication he put into this book and making something that at least made sense to him.
- I cannot imagine what editors thought when they first saw this. I also wonder what happened every time this had to be put into print or transcribed into a new format.
- If I turned in this exact same manuscript for publishing, I would be laughed right out of the publisher’s office.
- I see there is an audiobook version – I am not sure how that is even possible.
- At first, I tried to read online study guides along with my progress. When I have done that with other books, I was able to correlate the two. With Finnegan’s Wake, nothing in the study guides looked even remotely familiar – it was like I was reading a completely different story.
- I do plan some follow-up research on this to see if I can figure out “why?” and make some sense of this book.
- Part of me really thinks that this was a big joke by Joyce – i.e. “I bet I can give them this load of nonsense and they will publish it!”
- I only recommend this book if you are on some sort of mission to complete a must-read list or to just be able to say “I READ ALL OF FINNEGAN’S WAKE!” I am kind of in both of these categories.
Profile Image for Edward.
419 reviews404 followers
December 25, 2017
Everybody knows the plot of Finnegans Wake. Rich, old man Finnegan has died, leaving behind no will and no direct heirs. A riotous comedy of errors ensues at his wake (an open-casket affair), where his extended family and business associates (a collection of colourful, conniving characters to say the least), vie for supremacy, each one plotting and scheming to inherit Finnegan’s vast business empire and considerable real estate portfolio, which features amongst numerous holdings the grand and opulent Howth castle and environs, whose grounds so wonderfully brought to life by Joyce’s vivid descriptions, form the setting of the novel. But it’s the characters in Finnegans Wake that really stand out. Who can forget cruel Mr Snood, whose Machiavellian machinations can be seen beneath each interaction, or doddering old Mrs Buttercup, whose innocent bumbling antics serve to hilariously thwart his plans at every step. The uproarious hijinks come to a head with the famous twist in the final act, whereupon Finnegan arises from his casket before stunned guests, proclaiming the words, “Finnegan wakes!”, revealing the whole thing to have been nothing more than an elaborate ruse. Finnegan, having lain conscious in state the entire time, and having witnessed the appalling behaviour of his associates and potential heirs, decides to leave the entire estate to a previously unmentioned boy named Billy, the simpleminded child of a village milk-maid, who having some months ago touched Finnegan’s heart with a simple unassuming gesture of kindness (this act, which is recounted by Finnegan at this point in the narrative – Billy’s offering to a parched and lonely Finnegan of a glass of milk and a kind shoulder - has been variously analysed and interpreted by critics since the novel’s publication, being a particularly poignant moment, rich in symbolism and moral significance), has revealed to Finnegan - an otherwise stingy and curmudgeonly man - the importance of kindness and friendship, a lesson upon which Finnegan now intends to reform his own life, beginning this very moment, by expelling each and every parasitic so-called friend directly from the castle, “beyond a swerve of shore and bend of bay, past Eve and Adam’s, and back along riverrun whence they came!” The novel’s cathartic climax and its heart-warming closing scene in which Billy and his mother Daisy, upon arriving at the castle, realise their life of hard poverty is finally at an end – their tearful embrace, and Daisy’s brief monologue which concludes the novel, spoken in endearing and authentic local dialect (“Ooer Billy, I reckon I’ve tugged me last teat” ) – are some of the most powerful and enduring moments in all of literature.

Finnegans Wake was published in 1939 to a confused and divided critical reception, its uncomplicated and light-hearted comedic tone representing a surprising departure from the author’s earlier, far more serious works. Rumour has it that Joyce had for some time been working on an alternative version of the novel, one almost entirely concerned with puns and wordplay, filled with obscure and esoteric references, and devoid of any persistent characters or coherent plot. But fortunately Joyce was moved by close friends to abandon that enterprise, it all being quite silly and pretentious really, and who would want to read a book like that anyway.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,217 reviews9,903 followers
Shelved as 'reviews-of-books-i-didnt-read'
October 8, 2017
Stealing an idea from Manny's review, here's part of the (British) Highway Code if it was written by James Joyce any time during the last 17 years of his life. This is the section called


Swarn and inform other roadusers aminxt that nombre of evelings, including pedestrigirls and jumbleboys (see 'and twinglings of twitchbells in rondel’ section twoozle para fleeph), of your inbended actions. You should have a kelchy chose and clayblade and at all times make prayses to the three of clubs always, having checked it is not misleading to tuss like a whoopy anisine, whipping your eyesoult and gnatsching your teats over the brividdy road users before changing course or direction, stopping or moving off (djowl there, longfoot here, and bejesus back again) and the doctor's bill for Joe McJohn and all his catholic lemony heathens.

Cancel them after use, the rancid old patootsies. Make sure your signals will not unblade your corsets forswooth and let the loobully moons aloose to confuse the caboose and grake the speens of the urgier others. This is not allowed. If, for instance, you want to stop adilly and look adolly, as we do, as we done and as we will, do not blooger the whooger untill you pass the galoshes of Mrs Minchum Birny Kirny and the little jeepy twins. Yes! Kadiddly! Your brake lights will warn kachooth and your broken lights will foghorn willikins my billikins, or you can use an arm to signal to emphasise or pomphesise or undersize the loof of the lamplight lillyjoggings in all their creamy birny underthings which you can quite see if you stand on a chair. And o lord groggins, remember that signalling does not give you priority.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
874 reviews2,265 followers
April 25, 2017
Prelured to a Nocturnal Pleasure

"It isn't a matter of submitting uncritically to a difficult work; it's about trusting that the artist knows what he/she is doing, even if you don't apprehend it right away. Just keep reading: even the most difficult novel will eventually make some sense, and if you realise you've missed things, you can always go back for a second try if still curious...some people like a challenge...some people are open to new, initially puzzling experiences...": Steven Moore

Thirst Daft from the Keg (Only Later in the Can)

Allkey Dalkey. A quest for you! How and where should we dear readers start this vollhuminorous opus tome that is belabelled "Funny Gunsmoke"?

Are you the typeface who wants to read a Wake? Or better still to hold its heft until and while yore fast a Schlep?

The meaning ist all betweed the last and first one or two hemidemisentences of this nonomonograph:

"Put off the old man at the very font and get right on with the nutty sparker round the back:...A way a lone a lost a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle & Environs."

To here or where do we return? Howth Castle & Environs. HCE! Did you see that? What and hoodoo these letters stand for? Is it a code? Please sir, can I have some morse or semaphor?

Is this the first of many mansions of real currency? Will we find the unity of people and place in time in these environs? Here? Down by the river? Recirculating? At night? In your dreams! Whether or not you're sleeping.

Trust Joyce to resuscitate these ancient and wise abreathiations.

Plus there's lots more to seacombe, if you feel encurrieged to go-on!

The Loneliest Sphere Amonkst Us

And so we start at the bigending and return to the beginning. We come full sphericircle via the roundabout or “O” in Vico Road.

At wristwatchtime and to whichwhatend? The qwestian is regardless!

This revolution is not revolting or odious, just kummftibbly commodious.

You could advocake more communionist than communist or unionist, though bewhere if an onion ist made of many lawyers, becoz each one is set inside and upagainst annutter. Too!


And We're Off a Way Alone a Lost Astray

Lost? Astray? A loan? At what interest rate?

Howth else could you find a way, aweigh, that’s worth its wait in geldings?

Watch your steppe, or euchred be waylaid. Respect the Bellowtrystic Massterboston Choosit Oilrich-Ammerricunstables and Diasporlastic Paddies. Heed acadamnic Doctorates and your Masters and/or Mistresses, hair weather they might hail from. Though observe that some tend to bury H.C.E.Z.R., when they say they come to praise him.

Neertheless, hoefully you'll find the riteway to reed this book for you.

Deftkneely beeknot misled by any Ashtraylian or hippopotantipodean of lettuce, french, inkwizitive or other whys.

Annalytical Parabbelais

This could be James Joyce's second best book, if it's not deterred.

They're all good, if you like this kind offering.

It's a big wander oliver the world why he was neverwarded a Noble Surprise.

Pearheaps because, like a lot of other civillillians and armoured worriers, he disceased during the World War Too and that made him ineligible. Never mind. The books are still availabellegible, so you can read them if you don't think they're too liffeycult.

Joyce gnu all the words in the dickshunnery and moor B-sides that he made up from the manniplurabold languages of the whirled. He recreated them espeshfully fornication like this, youzing them for the very first and ownly time in this belaboured werk and wurterbuch. Howzat!

Unlikewise, take note of Joyce's punkchewashuns, Oxford commanists, parents' theses, dashful hyphenates, apocraphyl apostropheats, semicolonial Manutians from afaraway, kissed ellipses lipglossy, penultimate fullstoppers and sentences high above suspended.

It's very hard to fellow him, partickly even though he's dead. Still, he's proof that preservering with our ancestuous tends to keep our minds alife.

Sum total lots of readers are put off "Finnegan's Wank", because they thank it's too long and too hard. Well, if you don't want to exhurt the mental musculiterature of your mind, you can still please yourself another way . There are lots of other books for ewes.

Someone somewhere over the regenbocean said that James Joyce is the top man in the langwage department. Dispose that's better than the sandwich department. Haha! Lollgoll!

In case this is an eggsample of what seven lindquists might call typographical eros, it's best that each reader be left to their erogenous own devices. A bout with witch and broom, more bryter layter.


James Joyce, Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier at the Maison des Amis des Livres, Paris, 1938 © Photo Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC via www.fondation-pb-ysl.net

The Polyguous Diversity of the Multivurst

There are manny strangerous words in this book, some olden new, others single-minded, some double-malted, otherskwite polyguous, all of them all in all beeclaws unvacant lots of things happen in your dreams.

It is a whole universe of words and images, that the awefer wrote down as they hopened in the night.

You could say that all his words seem like they were relatively unedificated. However, you know that it would be untrue. You know that it would be a lyre. Ha! Good one, that's Awefeus, off course!

This novel is spacifically inntended for any reader who adores perception and heaven and hell (not to mention Dandy Alligator).

Mind you, some readers can be very tempting to overunderstand everything what goes on in the velvet underground belowcated down the rabbit hole.

You could abcess about all of the contributaries of the River Liffey, all of the leaves on the Tree of Life and all of the ingreedients in the Sausage of Love. Irvinghowever, there is a chance that this might be a wursted effort.

It is a nuff that yore first reading concentrate on the undiluted pleasesirs of the wurstplay on display.

Afterwords, you can attend a jimjim and work-out the meaning of all detales, if six kneed bees, with an ingenerous glass of mead or a bitter class of grappa.

The first and most imported object of the subject is that you enjoyce your shelf.

Four for the Price of Three (or Three for the Price of Two?)

The novel is diffided into fork quartets, but reely it's a tryst, a three yak worldplay, followed by the red currants of the myth as predicated vicoriously by an inflewential phallusupher who moonlights as a sham barrista.

Buttfirst and befleur they are fourgotten, rejoyce in these words of the righter that have been reserved and reet petited:

"God jests and Man mimics."

If you are righteous enough, you can read Joyce in Gourd's sway. Or vice versa, if you're obwronxious.

Then again, Joyce might have made it all up himself with no helpatall. According to this highpothesis, he was his own venquillotrist. Sounds good! Move on, Big Sir.

Here you can find infinite jest that ascience to us readers the task of comprehension, aorbemusement and humble mimicry.

There are many threories about the content of the tryst. You could adam and even write a nude science bookabetit. One will suffice for these porpoises.

It sounds like the name of an album by the Red Hot Silly Meaufuckers:

Birth! Sex! Death!

Press enter and return. See! Magik!!! Complete with three Exhumation Marx!!!

Hegelian Babel-bashers may well arks: Is this lettery structure opposed to the dielectrickal or is it just trialectrickery? Is it revolutionary or just gimmicky?

Is this inturpretation reliarble or just untrystworthy? Is it jest or mimicry?

Genuinelyflecked if eiderorpheus knows dancer!


James Joyce and Philippe Soupault with a manuscript of "Finnegans Wake" in 1931

The Beginning of Life

So witch came first: the chicken or the yegg?

Or as rural farmersists say: the fucken' or the clucken'?

Itz a good christian, izn't it? It could be the clowndation of a "scienze of new ova". And that's just the beginning! What about the yend? How will it all stop? Or does it just go round and round like a one-armed canudist?

James Joyce is just a belieber of the proposition that there's one big cyclist in hot pursuit of a circuitous root.

He won't stop until he's had a nuff. Sex. A parently. And there is more than a nuff sex to go around of drinks. Round and round, in and out, round after round, in private homes and public houses, homewood or innward bound. It will go on forever and never stop. It will never be orgone. Good news for modem men and women. Hey?

So this is why "Finnegan's Wake" begins with the ladder half of a sentence and ends with the foremast hoff.

It's a circle of liff, a liffcycyle, a circle of life, a lifecycle.

Another way of pitching and putting the same goffball into a different hole, is it's a Liffeycycle, a river, the river Liffey ("An Life," not "A Life" in Irish).

The river waters start in the mountains and flow towards the ocean, where they turn into clouds that ascend the mountains and regen down upon the urth, thus starting the river again.

It's a good analogy. An even better allegory. What the Florentines called an "Alighieri". And Polymathematricians, an "Algorithm".

Women, mothers, are responsibubble for our birth. They are on all fours with it. Or all floors. Blowing up their bellies like a rubadubblebubble.

They are the source and cause, the saucy cause of conception and labour, of production and reproduction, of creation and procreation, of all types of activity and recreation, of all verbal words and wordal verbs:

"They war loving, they love laughing, they laugh weeping, they weep smelling, they smell smiling, they smile hating, they hate thinking, they think feeling, they feel tempting, they tempt daring, they dare waiting, they wait taking, they take thanking, they thank seeking, as born for lorn in lore of love to live and wive by wile and rile by rule of ruse ’reathed rose and hose hol’d home, yeth cometh elope year, coach and four, Sweet Peck-at-my-Heart picks one man more."

Birth entails and entales "the ensuance of existentiality."

Birth is the dawn, the origin, the start of all things fantastic and funtastic.

There is nothing more vital or important than women in da reddish-blonde red riding hood.


Livia Veneziani Svevo

"They say I have immortalised [Italo] Svevo, but I've also immortalised the tresses of Signora Svevo. These are long and reddish-blond. My sister who used to see them let down told me about them. There is a river near Dublin which passes dye-houses and its waters are reddish, so I've enjoyed comparing these two things in the book I'm writing. A lady in it will have the tresses which are really Signora Svevo's." - James Joyce

Onward Trysting Sodjers, Marching as to Whores

Offcourse, it's not enough for a woman to be chaste. She must be chased about. And this is the role created epsexually for men.

If women are the rock upon which socxiety is built, then men are the roll. You need both for birthing.

Men have only a minor role at the outset, akindle to a Big Bang, only infinitesimorely smaller.

If he pleases, he is invited to come again, to come on baby light my fire, he to be the flame that comes to light her Feuerabends, and keep her company and shareholders late into the night until the early mourning sickness becomes electriffic.

Women have an infinite capacity for love, men a limitless appetryit for sex, "the natural bestness of pleisure."

They are the nuts and bolts of sex and parenthood and fambily.

After conception, men think their task is done, and that it is their right and obligation to bolt.

This mythconception has a semantic horrorgen, obvoriously. Women must be nuts to put up with men. Men blame the sinductive powers of women.

Men never fall so much for these powers of sinduction as when they are dupelicated or denied.

If a man has trouble resisting the temptation of a woman, his temptatious plight is doubled by the prospect of a threesome:

"Woman will water the wild world over. And the maid of the folley will go where glory. Sure I thought it was larking in the trefoll of the furry glans with two stripping baremaids..."

Again, it seems to be a matter of semantics. The word "tryst" bears a greater etymanological resemblance to the number three than two, right back to the Lithuanian word "trys".

Eau contraire, a man's passion is often more greatly fanned by the absence of reciprostity or the denile of passion by the female. In this way, many a man who imagines a tryst ends up trystless or in tristesse.

It is liffycult to describe a man's reaction to denial inwards. Iwronically, it turns many a man to one to one correspondence.

What a man cannot describe orally, he must inscribe literally. Hence, litterature has its origents in men's love letters.

A love affair carried on exclusively on the papers is called a quillotryst. Such a man must content himself with his quill, until other options arise, arouse and present themselves.

When finally a woman commands a man's attention, then it is his swollen duty to respond with an appropriate degree of erectitude.

Finnegan's Wake-Up Call

"What has gone? How it ends?"

Inevitabaldly, the human physique deterrorates and one day, as is the way of all fleshes, our time onnurth will come to an end, leaving us inert.

Joyce speculates that the end need not be so bitter, but maybe even better: the big end will one day be a new beginning.

All nights come to an end, but they are followed by another dawn. Our ancestors live on in our genes, even if our children don't innherod our belle bottoms.

That's the way it's been since levis and devlins first loved livvy. But it's the same every wear.

And so, the Liffey goes on, liff goes on, life goes on, and love goes on. We all go on to gather.

We are each of us a small part of a great cycle. However, there would be no cycle without us. And there would be no remembery of us, unless we wrote it down in allforbettercal letters, if not order.

The experience of life can be rich and diverse and rewarding, without necessarily being in order.

So how to write a last line? A suitable end. A moment at which it's true, it's said, it's written down, inscribed, it's all been said and done, and there's nothing more to do, nothing more to say, nothing more to tell, like finis, finn, then, well...fools stop!

Anna Livia Plurabelle

Anna Livia Plurabelle

"Aye aye, she was lithe and pleasable."

"You will always call me Leafiest, won’t you, dowling?"

James Joyce, "Finnegans Wake"

[Weiver a Gnidnep Nettirw]

Professor Stephen Knight

"Read it? I haven't even lectured on it!"

Vroom the Beltholes

Candice Postlebee
Liviup tooplural belle

A Game for Those Throne Open Doubleyous

Riverrun where
Tumblestone and Redfork meet
Howth and House Tully.

Profile Image for Leo Robertson.
Author 36 books446 followers
March 15, 2015
Why you will read Finnegans Wake:

The short of it is this: have a think about all your greatest achievements, the accomplishments you’re most proud of. What they have in common is hard work and originality. Read Finnegans Wake. Fine, you know what? If you’re even in this review for the short term, chances are you won’t read it. If anyone’s still interested, please let me convince you further.

Michael Chabon, Pulitzer-prize winning author, wrote a big article for The New York Review of Books on why he wasn’t going to try and read Finnegans Wake any more, and quite frankly it’s the proudest I’ve ever heard someone sound for not having read a book. If that strikes you as odd too, maybe it’s time you too picked up a copy of Joyce’s 17-year distilled puntastic masterpiece. No sooner do you enter the book that you realise you’ll be here for a while. Your reading slows down every time you hit an unfamiliar word: perhaps it’s in one of the sixty to seventy languages that appear in the Wake, or maybe it’s a Joycean triple-pun, but when whatever they are is every second word in the book, it can feel like you’re reading treacle.

Yes, a lot of it is nonsense, and if I wrote a 600+ page book consisting mostly of words that were invented, I would judge anyone who wanted to read it, but you and I didn’t write it, the greatest author of the 20th century wrote it, so don’t worry: it comes preapproved. It’s like that third Bloc Party album that made you turn your nose up the first listen, but somehow you knew you’d get into it if you persevered, the only difference is that with the Wake you’d be right.

Also, Finnegans Wake is the ace up the sleeve of a surprising number of authors. After a few months spent with the Finnegans, maybe you’ll pick up Lolita and say “Hang on a minute: that pun’s a bit familiar”(1) , perhaps it’s Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things that makes you think “Hm, language as rhythm… Not her idea!” , or you could find yourself raising your eyebrow knowingly at the latest Zadie Smith. It has been said that nobody reads FW any more, and it’s absolutely true. As a result, a lot of writers are having an “originality” field day with it.But you and I will know their secret!

Finnegans Wake, not Finnegan’s, the wake of many a Finnegan, Finnagain and Finnomore, is a cyclical hallucination of a book.Let Joyce himself tell you the story of two washerwoman having a chat, one slowly turning to stone and the other to an elm tree as night approaches, read the longest story ever written about a man passing out drunk in his own bar, feel characters blending and dissolving then budding off from each other once again in a dark rainy dream, hear the thunder in Joyce’s 100 letter words.
Our hapless hero H.C. Earwicker, also known as Heinz cans everywhere and most appropriately Here Comes Everybody, is everyone. He’s ready to be you, too, even after all this time, if you give the Wake a chance. So pick it up, take it slowly, read it aloud, forget what you know about the novel and enjoy the music of the words. What does it mean? Three answers: nothing, we’ll never know, and whatever you want.

(1) Incidentally, Vladimir Nabokov said that Finnegans Wake was "nothing but a formless and dull mass of phony folklore, a cold pudding of a book, a persistent snore in the next room [...] and only the infrequent snatches of heavenly intonations redeem it from utter insipidity.” Oh please! Could he be more jealous?
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,372 followers
June 1, 2016
Was bin you? ::
Ein luger ; faelscher ; Father of ; flibber flabber ; Miss MacLeader ; desimulate ; hazug ; trick a her stir ; leogere ; false wit ; phonitical ; cheet a puma ; con ; equal vadar ; story hearer ; promotorcross ; mensoganto ; rascal ; hṛṣi ; hyper cryter ; Hair Pseudo ; mwongo ; path and logical ; dish o nest and storter ; libel and label ; not a squarestraight shooter ; counterfèting ; defamé ; calumniacator ; ;

Porce? Vava Varoom? Howso? ::
I say I confirm I assert I am truthtosay Allalivia Finnegans Wake durchaus and straight through and Whole Thing to have geread I claim. Hand on heart!

Juan? ::
Juan the Second, anni dom twenty und twelve bisunto gesters this our lawd’s year of twenty eat foreteens, a certain day of a month of showers the very tens and ones of onehundredelv. Zwar. None and sept weeks of wakes in the woche.

ού; ::
Outsea dorsea mostlich. In char. Avec avis and kittehs.

V ::
Meet McPugh and McQue. Con Campbell. Wort by wort, healthy yeasties.

Quant? ::
Fourmal mahlzeit meistlich.

Qual odor? :: Yes well donkey shay! I furt her make of a claim to have been being udder stooding of a it. Maistro! And am therefore and thuswhy dubbel accused as.

Who? ::
Finn MacCool!!!!!

Otter stuff from primeval daze. Donnerwetter!
The final four pages of the Anna Livia chapter (I, 8) were rendered into Basic English by C.K. Ogden with the cooperation of Joyce. McHugh’s Annotations incorporate some of the notes made by Joyce for Ogden. See Ogden’s book, The General Basic English Dictionary. I have not been able to track down Ogden’s rendering. See also the article “Universalizing Languages: Finnegans Wake Meets Basic English,” by Susan Shaw Sailer: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307...

One might suspect that some remarks made regarding The Wake are in reality directed toward the 15th century Voynich Manuscript. Here’s the slowdown-lowdown:

“Despite their skills, not one of the above was able to read the manuscript, leading to the growing suspicion that the text does not involve any encryption, because that would have been broken by now. And it may not even involve any actual language, either: In 2004, the aforementioned Gordon Rugg declared that the text was just gibberish — an ancient hoax possibly assembled through a non-functional version of a Renaissance coding technique called the “Cardan grille.” Rugg could not, however, explain why anyone in the Renaissance would do such a thing, nor did he address the amazing effort that went into the hundreds of illustrations. After a century of study, the Voynich Manuscript still mocks us.”

and the manuscript itself has been webbified:

How does Finneganian work? Allow Data to explain. Joyce tends to keep his words to "ten or fewer" at a time. Curious that one of Data's pieces is from Mozart, albeit a symphony, because one is reminded of the scene from Amadeus in which Mozart explicates the possibilities contained within the operatic genre of writing multiple voices singing simultaneously, something which, in ordinary circumstances, is impossible when one word must follow its prior word. In Finneganian we can have them all at once. And not only do we have "ten or fewer words" at a time, we also have ten or more characters and stories at a time. The figures of our human history are all here, all at once: Here Comes Everybody!!!!

Does anyone still believe that the English language is a monolingual language? Is English not already a Finneganian?

A video in which a few words of Joseph Campbell regarding The Wake are read over pretty images. [thanks to Friend Nick for bringing this to my attention).

Thoughts on Joyce from Slavoj Žižek’s [book:The Indivisible Remainder: On Schelling and Related Matters|90563], Verso, 2007. p 202.

“This is also what Lacan’s thesis on ‘Joyce-the-symptom’ aims at: Joyce’s famous statement that he wrote Finnegans Wake in order to keep literary historians busy for the next four hundred years has to be read against the background of Lacan’s assertion that within a psychoanalytic cure a symptom is always addressed to the analyst and, as such, points forward towards its interpretation. The ‘modernism’ of Joyce resides in the fact that his works--at least Ulysses and Finnegans Wake--are not simply external to their interpretation but, as it were, take into account in advance their possible interpretations, and enter into dialogue with them. In so far as an interpretation or a theoretical explanation of a work of art endeavours to ‘frame’ its object, one can say that this modernist dialectics provides another example of how the frame is always included in, is a part of, the framed content: in modernism, a theory about the work is comprised in the work, the work is a kind of pre-emptive strike at possible theories about itself.

“On that account, it is inappropriate to criticize Joyce for no longer writing for a naive reader capable of an immediate consumption of his works but for a reflected reader who is able to read only with an eye on possible theoretical interpretations of what he is reading--in short, for a literary scientist: such a ‘reflected’ approach in no way diminishes our enjoyment of the work--on the contrary, it supplements our reading with a surplus-enjoyment which is one of the trademarks of true modernism.”

Further precedence for Finnegans Wake.

From Rabelais’ second book, Gargantua, chapter two, we find the following Antidoted Bubbles, apparently a satirical poem known as a coq-à-l’âne (“*” represents the bits of manuscript eaten by mice):

********arrived the Cimbrian conqueror,
*******in through air for fear of all that dew,
******e arrives, the tubs can take no more
****resh butter pouring down like stew.
**bespattered grandma in full view:
She cried aloud: ‘Herren. Fish him right out!
His beard cow-patted is as if by glue;
Or hold him a ladder, better ‘tis than nowt.’

To lick his slipper some said was true bliss,
Better indeed than pardoners to pay;
But an affected rascal came amiss
Up from the dip where roaches swim and play,
And said, ‘My Lords, for God’s sake, your hands stay!
The eel is in that booth quite unrevealed.
There you shall find, if you would look that way,
Deep in his amice a great fault concealed.’

He was about that Chapter to intone
But found, within, the horns of a young cow.
‘My mitre’s depth,’ he said, ‘is cold as stone.
It chills my freezing brain, I know not how.’
With turnips’ reek they warm his icy brow:
He’d stay at home quite happily and glad
If they should find new harnesses somehow
For all those folk whose brains have turned quite mad.

Eleven stanzas follow. Also, one things of Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss in relation to the playfulness of Finnegans Wake.

If you can stomach the insipid, cloying prose, Michael Chabon has a piece in the NYRB reflecting on a year of reading the Wake: What to Make of Finnegans Wake?. (Thank you, MJ, for the link).

Donald Barthelme, that master of postmodern minimalism, said "After all, we are all realists." How does that apply to Joyces Wake? The first hypothesis would be that it is a realism relating to the experience of language, night(marre)-time language, or, in accordance with the 21st being the century of the Wake, the experience of being in between language(s). Joyce lived between English and Gaelic. We are in a globalized world in which English appears as the contemporary monolithic Latin. But isn't Joyce's work suggesting an alternative experience against English-as-monolith? that what our multi-cultural, multi-lingual global experience implies is a betweenness? Languages have always existed as a betweenness of official, universalizable Sprache and local, particularistic Dialekt; witness Spanglish or Ebonics. Can we locate the language wars between prescriptivists and descriptivists in this same betweenness? that we should, rather than prescribe how Joyce should have written his book, take him as describing a possibility of our being between language(s)? between knowing the rules and at the same time knowing that (guilty!) we break them and how those rules are always the possibility of their own trespass?

A precedent for the Wake discovered in ancient India, a Sanskrit novella, Subandhu's Vasavadatta, from the 5th or 6th century, a.d. Take the sentence from the Wake, "they were yung and easily freudened," and imagine translating it into a non-European language and culture. Compare the result with this passage, rendered by two translators, an American and an Indian:

From Louis Gray (1913):
"Thus, even though a [Bhīma], he is [[no foe of Baka]], for he is [horrible] and a [[foe of them that praise him]]; though a [fire], he is a [[wind]], for he is a [devourer of his own place of refuge] and a [[dog in his mother]]". (Single brackets represent single puns, double double.)

From Harinath De (1908, published 1994):
"The wicked man combines the incompatible appellations of being Bhīma and yet no foe to the demon Baka in the sense that he is terrible and hostile to those worthy of praise; of being āśrayāśa fire, yet Matariśvā in the sense of being a destroyer of shelters and adopting a canine behaviour towards his own mother."

(Taken from Steven Moore's The Novel: An Alternate History volume 1: Beginnings to 1600, pp424-425.)

What does this suggest about the Wake? On the other hand, how is it possible for a reader to believe that any author could write a novel which contains nothing but univocal semantic content? Irony, metaphor, pun, ambiguity and ambivalence are the constituents, the conditions of possibility, of the novel. Isn't this what the Wake carries out to a degree of genius beyond the capacity of a merely single natural language?

Several artificial languages are woven into The Wake. Here's something more recent:
from The New Yorker:
"Utopian for Beginners: An amateur linguist loses control of the language he invented."
by Joshua Foer
[Of course, Wakian is in no way to be construed as 'artificial,' only 'artful.'

The Restored Finnegans Wake. Eds. Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon. London: Penguin Classics, 2012.

This is a clear reading text produced out of 30 years labor upon Joyce's various versions of and notebooks for his Work in Progress/Finnegans Wake. Forth coming is a hypertext edition of the Wake which will include all of the pre-Wake drafts as well as the entirety of the extant notebooks. This hypertext edition underlies the recently published restored Wake. For more information see the Houyhnhnm Press .

My intention is to read one to two pages of the Wake per day. This oughta keep me reading for 491 days. I will also regularly push a status update in order to increase my status in the literary world as One Who Reads the Wake, or perhaps so that one may observe my failure to get past page 20, to have all that pretentiousness rubbed back in my own face. I do not intend to write a review. That would seem a bit obscene. But I have 491 days to decide about that.

My reading, at the beginning is untethered, but, being bookish as I am, I will likely accumulate some kind of bookish reading partner, if anything insightful presents itself.

Annutter Review of mine of Wake, wherein is out=line’d our Wake wit chapter first-lines ::
Profile Image for Laura.
338 reviews
March 8, 2012
In What Is Art? Tolstoy unleashes criticism on all things artistic, sparing no one. His main argument is that art--whether literature, paintings, music, or drama--should be accessible to everyone. He says anything that the common man cannot understand or that does not represent the common man is actually a form of war on the common man. All art must teach; all art must be accessible; all art must tell the common man's story. Else, it is not art but an elitist manipulation--a dangerous one, at that. The main target of his anger is art that is enigmatic solely for the sake of being enigmatic. He even spends an entire chapter on Wagner to prove his point. While one could argue that this kind of critique is a signal of the Stalinist suppression of anything not "for the people," (the Bolsheviks actually praised Tolstoy and suppressed Dostoevsky) I do think that Tolstoy has a valid point--especially with regards to Joycean Modernism.

I'll be honest, Modernism does annoy me. I understand the idea behind using style to comment on, well, style, but I really can't stand this pompous approach to art. It's boring and kind of defeats the point of publishing for the masses. This obviously does not apply to all Modernists; Hemingway and Fitzgerald are both very accessible. But Joyce is definitely an author who delights in name dropping and pretentious ramblings. Not my cup of tea.

I had to read Finnegans Wake for a Modernist British literature class in undergrad and couldn't finish it. I suppose I'm a lesser English major for criticizing the inimitable James Joyce, but I found this novel pretentious and, frankly, stupid. As far as I can tell, there's no plot and really no characters. Every word in every sentence is a combination of three or more languages. This may sound interesting, but it's really painful to read and a ridiculous way to address linguistic issues. If you have something so profound to say, why the hell can't you make your writing accessible? Are you trying to keep it a secret? What is the point of combining 30+ languages to create linguistic garbage? I learned nothing from this novel other than language itself can be a kind of prison. I think D.H. Lawrence makes this argument much more powerfully in Lady Chatterly's Lover--anther Modernist novel, yes, but one whose acclaim does not exist just because the author was able to reference every piece of literature written before the Common Era.

I guess I do understand the acclaim this novel receives: it references everything and Joyce DID have to be rather brilliant to know all of these languages. You can also see the coming of Post-Modernism here with Joyce's total disregard for anything (and I mean ANYTHING) traditional. Perhaps that is why I hated it.

Moreover, going back to Tolstoy, I think there are political and biased reasons for this novel's godlike status. There are countless books that attempt to find Wake's meaning and many a floundering grad student struggling to grasp Joyce's points. The pretentiousness of this novel ensures there will never be a shortage of criticism about it, and, having the ability to make sense of nonsense allows one to appear cultured and genius-like. This does create a problem when you think about it. Only a few books out of the zillions that have been written are included in the canon, and mostly for their reinforcing our own racial, classist, gendered, and sexual prejudices. Finnegans Wake certainly fits this criteria by being accessible to only, say, 5 people on the planet. This isn't necessarily because of racism or sexism, but because of this idea that the best literature is NOT understood by the lowly masses. "They want John Grisham or Stephenie Meyer? Let them have Joyce!" is probably the best way to put it.

All in all, I can't stand this book. If you want a good post-modern novel, read Kundera or Vonnegut. Finnegans Wake is waste of time (and brain power).

Profile Image for Emily.
3 reviews16 followers
October 22, 2007
Many people find this book perplexing, but I find it’s something like a magic hat crossed with a hall of mirrors. You can pull almost anything out of it, but usually you'll get a twisted reflection of your own ideas, obsessions, or hidden fantasies. Perhaps that's the cause for perplexion, but I think its good to dig all that stuff up.
I love this book for its tangled etymologies, and the way these pieces of words delve so deeply into a common mystical, lingual history that spans nations and cultures. When Joyce ventured through the tortured decade it took write this monstrous masterpiece, he was both graced and plagued by so many coincidences that came out of the language and myths he was integrating. He wanted to write an epic using 'dream language'; he's trying to take the modernist 'stream of consciousness' one step further, with this artistic expression of the consciousness of dreams. The book thrives on paradox: it’s the waking stream of consciousness of sleep.
The story is simply one man's dream, but that dream seeps into the consciousness, language, and archetypes of all humanity, and hundreds of mystical traditions. These ideas sound Jungian, and actually Jung was a contemporary of Joyce's, who thought Joyce was insane. Actually, this relationship becomes one of the coincidences that manifests itself in the text. As I mentioned, Jung thought Joyce was arrogant and ridiculous. However, Joyce respected Jung and wanted, desperately, for Jung treat his daughter Lucia, who had Paranoid Schizophrenia. Jung did treat Lucia, and he and Joyce became friends through a common care for Joyce's daughter. There is a famous quote where Jung compares Joyce to his daughter saying, "They are two people going to the bottom of a river--one falling, the other diving."
Jung, Joyce, and Lucia, all become characters woven into the dream language of Finnegans Wake. You can find this story hiding in crumbled phrases such as this:
"How glad you'll be I waked you! My! How well you'll feel! For ever after... I only hope whole heavens sees us. For I feel I could near faint away. Into the deeps. Annamores leep. Let me lean, just a lea, if you le, bowldstrong bigtider. Allgearls is wea. At times. So. While you're adamant evar. Wrhps, that wind as if out of norewere! As on the night of Apophanypes. Jumpst shootst throbbst into me mouth like bogue and arrohs. Ludegude of Lashlanns, how he whips me cheeks! Sea, sea! Here, weir, reach, island, bridge. Where you meet I."
As you can see I love this book, and would recommend it to a variety of people. The magic hall of mirrors becomes quite fascinating, you just need a proper entry point.
Profile Image for Warwick.
844 reviews14.6k followers
December 20, 2012
A sort of triumph, a sort of failure.

It's impossible to rate, really, but it's not remotely like anything else in English literature so in that way it's certainly impressive.

On one hand it's outrageously pretentious. But even if you want to hate it, there's no denying you can get enormous enjoyment from going through some of the passages here. A sentence can be read in as much detail as some entire books. You can reread the whole thing and it'll be completely different. Some bits are very funny, some are very sexy, many parts are jaw-droppingly beautiful, all of it is completely insane.

It drives me crazy. I think I love it.
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
766 reviews659 followers
March 16, 2021
88th book of 2020.

My previous review of this was jejune, and I’ve wanted to write something more formal ever since. I’ve realised recently that even in my long-winded reviews of books I either love or hate, I’m never really telling the truth. I find review writing difficult because it is superficial; it is only one distilled moment of insight into a novel. I’ve written very warm reviews for books that are not very good novels and I’ve attacked books that are, really, very good novels. This bothers me greatly, and also makes me stand by my point that you could read most of my reviews on here and learn perhaps nothing about what I truly think of the books I’ve read. A glass of whiskey in the pub with me would dislodge all true feelings of literature.

I feel as if I must say firstly that, yes, I read this entire novel. You may say “read”; the act of reading this novel needs its own verb, but, as far as reading goes, I read every word in this book from the first page to the last, usually in giant bouts of either mumbling under my breath in the library or performing aloud in my attic-room, with a glass of rum and coke (my preferred drink) in one hand and the book in the other. Finnegans Wake is known as being the most difficult book in the Western canon. It is hardly written in English. “Joyce invented a unique polyglot-language or idioglossia solely for the purpose of this work. This language is composed of composite words from some sixty to seventy world languages, combined to form puns, or portmanteau words and phrases intended to convey several layers of meaning at once.” You open the book and are immediately faced with incomprehensible language. The first page stands as:
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.
Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen-core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.
The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since dev- linsfirst loved livvy.

This continues for 700 pages with no lapse in its arduousness; any belief that Joyce will allow the clouds to part for a moment and allow meaning to fall on the prose of this novel is naïve. Martin Amis once said, “Finnegans Wake is a 700 page crossword clue, and the answer is ‘the’”—‘the’ being the final word of the novel.

The general question that attacks Finnegans Wake is a simple one-word question: Why? It took Joyce seventeen years to write this novel and Why? Joyce said to William Bird:
”About my new work – do you know, Bird, I confess I can’t understand some of my critics, like Pound or Miss Weaver, for instance. They say it’s obscure. They compare it, of course, with Ulysses. But the action of Ulysses was chiefly in the daytime, and the action of my new work takes place chiefly at night. It’s natural things should not be so clear at night, isn’t it now?”

He replied to criticism from Jacques Mercanton about the difficulty and obscurity of his work by saying “It is night. It is dark. You can hardly see. You sense rather.” This defence of Joyce’s is the closest I’ve ever felt to a true answer to that question: Why? There are countless essays on “Meaning” in fiction, on “The Defence of Plotless Novels”, etc., and Joyce stands at the end of that long road littered with corpses.

Finnegans Wake must be read aloud; I learnt that. There is nothing for the reader who reads it in their head. The rhythm, the puns, the rhyme and the cadence of this tiny universe come forth when one reads it aloud. After all, if nothing else, if we can find nothing else in answer to that Why? then we must accept that it is an experiment, a linguistic explosion, a man who had written Ulysses and wondered where to go next. Amis was right when he said, “At what cost? We may have had two more Ulysses”, had he not written this. In the introduction to my edition Seamus Deane calls the book, “…a miniaturised form of the whole western literary tradition.”

If we ignore the question of Why? then we come to the question of Is it worth reading? The answer is probably No. In fact, I never set out to read it. I do believe that Ulysses is a brilliant novel and even with a glass of whiskey in a pub I would say that I think Ulysses is a brilliant novel; the worst bits, the most crude and juvenile bits of that book are handled with great wit and beauty, and for all its flaws it excels. I also think The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a fantastic book and would say that with a glass of whiskey in a pub too. There is no defending Finnegans Wake—there is no answer, true answer, to any of the questions one can pose it and perhaps that was Joyce’s ambition. What did he say about ensuing his immortality by keeping literary critics busy forever. Well, he’s still being read today, though Finnegans Wake is “largely unread by the general public”; and who is surprised?

I have saved some of the quotes I gathered from my reading of this and want to keep them alive again, so here is a small selection of things I have underlined in my copy of the novel:
Nettled before nibbling, can scarce turn a scale but, grossed after meals, weighs a town himself.
the sudden spluttered petulance of some capjtaljsed mIddle
Words weigh no no more to him than raindrops to Rethfernhim. Which we all like. Rain. When we sleep. Drops. But wait until our sleeping. Drain. Sdops.
in presence of whole landslots; forebe all the rassias; sire of leery subs a dub; the Diggis, Woodenhage, as to hang out at; with spawnish oel full his angalach; the sousenugh; gnomeosulphidosalamermauderman
Gnug of old Gnig. Ni, gnid mig brawly! I bag your burden.

And here are singular words pulled from all over the text again strung together:
petrifake, allaboardshoops, meathewersoftened, konditiens, ferroconcrete, Sygstryggs, liealoud, gohellt, forkenpootsies, zootzaks, comeundermends, Erievikkingr, ouishguss, miklamanded, whulesalesolde, clansakiltic, Spickinusand, aaherra, godhsbattaring, Oscarvaughther, trixiestrail, womanahoussy, Luxuumburgher, quiverlipe, ninya-nanya, finnoc, hedcosycasket, konyglik, cettehis, vixendevolment…

For all its worth addressing the novel’s characters and plot, I won’t. I probably stand with Ezra Pound when he gave instructions for reading Finnegans Wake:
"Hold the book upside down; drink half a bottle of absinthe before beginning; pay someone else to translate it into readable English while you chug-a-lug that absinthe; skip every second word; invent your own back-story for the characters of Earwicker and Anna Livia, possibly involving futuristic cloning techniques; read something else."

Read something else is his closing sentiment. My closing sentiment is read what inspires you to read. If you have enough time, enough rum, enough intrigue, to carry you through the 700 page crossword clue to find the answer is “the”, then read Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.
Profile Image for Evan.
1,071 reviews753 followers
May 15, 2021
Update, 2021:
OK guys, gals, and others.
I'm repenting, a bit. What is written below is the representation of my head from bygone days. It's an amusing rant, and maybe I still feel marginally the same as those ways stated therein. At the same time, I am open to the challenge of the toughies of the canon. I may yet attempt a completion of this. Some people have nudge-nudged me along a bit on the virtues of modernism/post-modernism, and one of those people is myself, having engaged some taunting and daunting thingies to my actual delight. I don't think Joyce himself would begrudge me this, very much. So, maybe in short order a new reading, a full reading, will follow on the morrow. The morrow being like a geological-interpretation-of-the-Bible morrow, but still ... obviously sooner. Cheerio.

OLD STUFF that Philistines like me have liked, below:

-- "He spillyspilled the javagroundsdowndown down on the dillyportportmanteau dallyrig and spiedeyed the bigbuggered werdybirdys tome and glazed himself cataractous and craniallyabled himself away along the ruttedroad to the pubbubbly where Evesapples temptation restor'd his senseandsensibility."
-- Evan Gilling, from a never-to-be written opus

That is my answer to Finnegans Wake -- a book I've sampled and thereupon decided to not spend further precious minutes of my fleeting life on.

Before I say more, let me share an episode, wrought from the dramatic pages of Goodreads.

I had a Goodreads friend for a brief wink in time last year, who went by the name of Caitlyn. She was an English major I believe. She was the one who friended me; this is an important point to isolate and emphasize. I say "friend" because that's the word ascribed to and proscribed by online social networking circles and sites such as this one to delineate those who mutually agree to some tenuous linkage that sets them apart from the great unwashed avatar-uploaders otherwise not selected. For those imbued with a high degree of optimism and naivete, these pseudo friendships might actually morph into what the concept originally meant.

In any case, we seemed to be getting along famously, liking each others' reads and so on, when, lo and behold, she marks Finnegans Wake as "to read."

I -- being the impudent imp I am and having, as I said, sampled bits of this Joycean tome to my chagrin -- simply wrote a comment in her review box that read: "No way!" To which she replied: "What?" To which I replied: "Huh?" To which she replied by deleting me from her friends' list.

I think part of the point of this aside is that people who take Finnegans Wake or literature in general this dogmatically and seriously are pretentious boors who I probably don't want to know, and thus my deletion from her friends' list was a good thing; a tenuous linkage nipped in the bud early and to my relief.

So, what I have to say about Finnegans Wake is as follows, in no particular order.

* Literature is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. People love their Danielle Steel and their Dan Brown and their sword-wielding hero fantasies and similarly story-driven fare and then there are those, like me, who are a tad more esoteric in taste, who enjoy mood and analysis and angsty ruminations on the human condition, stuff trafficked in by Roth and Updike and the like. And there are experimental flights of fancy, such as this Finnegans Wake which can be read as some kind of abstract, musical, alliterative poem with little concern for plot or conventional literary form. This category of book, quite simply, interests me little. However, having said that, I do appreciate experimentation within a more conventional context; for instance, the odd and disturbing tangents in Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts.

* I am not bilingual. I read, write and speak in English only, and, despite brief stabs at trying to ingrain some lovely Portuguese via the Pimsleur language course, I will probably remain thusly limited. Therefore, when I read a book, it sort of has to be in English, English that I understand from experience to be English, not a collection of made-up words. English is sort of a basic requirement for me to read a work of English lit.

* If I want portmanteau words, I'll get them from better writers such as Dr. Seuss or Lewis Carroll or A.A. Milne, who have the added decency to not outstay their welcomes.

* I think there is something inherently wrong with a book that takes people years to tackle and which they can never fully understand, and which generates its own lucrative industry devoted to producing study guides to decode it.

* Those who probe this book too deeply become frustrated because they can't fully decode it; and those who counter by saying it should not be probed deeply but skimmed (because, they contend, it is not really that difficult a book after all) seem to be suggesting to me that it is not worth probing deeply into. I can't quite parse this out.

* In the time it would have taken for me to read this book, I could have read and enjoyed the wisdom contained in 200 other books.

* If -- unlike all the four- and five-star raters here who won't fess up and admit they've never finished a book they are rating so highly -- you desire to be truthful and really say that you have read "Finnegan's Wake" and not be a liar about it, you can go read the original same-named ballad that inspired Joyce's opus, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnegan...

* There's a story called, "The Emperor's New Clothes." Go back and read it and think on it a tad.

* The 20th century was an eventful century, but it was interesting mostly for its wars, not for its arts, or at least, not in the sense of its so-called "high" arts which were traditionally thought of as representing the finest creations of an era: painting, literature, classical music, etc.. It was the so-called "low" arts that defined what was best about the century: the movies, pop musics (jazz, rock, etc.), and popular literature. Esoteric experimental nonsense like Finnegans Wake was perhaps part of a necessary deconstructionist tangent that art had to inevitably follow -- and it followed it heedlessly right to a dead end.

* I expect an author to do the work for me -- or at least, meet me halfway. No, I don't want to be a passive reader, yet neither do I want to have to engage in work. I have an hourly rate I expect to be paid for that. An artist can be as artistically uncompromising as he or she wishes; I am under no obligation to read the results.

* I read one-fifth of Joyce's Ulysses and gave the novel five stars because, even though I don't understand about two-thirds of it, the passages in it that are good are among the most thoughtful, profound, and beautifully stated in all of English -- and, yes, it still deigns to be written in something that is recognizably the English language.

* I think that spending one precious second of one's life on this book as opposed to, say, going out and getting a good fuck indicates misplaced priorities. And I think the author of Finnegans Wake himself would have agreed.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,493 reviews2,374 followers
May 11, 2021

I came, I saw, I conquered!

I huffed, I puffed, I quit.

How I even managed to get to 200 pages I will never know. Might treat myself to a cream horn or two just for getting that far!
Profile Image for Geoff.
444 reviews1,232 followers
October 8, 2014
Did I finish reading The Restored Finnegans Wake? Nope. I read this one. Am I going to finish The Restored Finnegans Wake? Yep. I pick up the Wake at odd moments invisibly lapsing between other moments, and flip to random pages, and one would be surprised how detailed one's recollections can be of specific passages within this vortext. This thing only grows and expands and whirls about its own gyre, creating itself always while I look away, for weeks at a time it sits there generating itself silently on my bookshelf, some kind of bound chrysalis that never breaks open and frees itself- it waits for me to peel back the cottony veil of its covers. It sings in my dreams, don't doubt that. Often I feel I am living my days within its covers, among its script-labyrinths- that the instant I started reading Finnegans Wake was the instant I left the World and since then I've been like Echo, its winding streams entrapping me on isles of many-tongued birds and spectral flora, I follow stags deep into rainlighted forests calling "Who's there? Who's there?..." waiting for the sky or something behind it to call back to me, in umbral glens while slowly turning to stone... I believe this is the fate of all those who have fallen in love with a God...
Profile Image for foteini_dl.
454 reviews126 followers
September 11, 2017
Αυτό το χαοτικά ονειρικά βιβλίο,μάλλον έπος,δεν διαβάζεται στο κρεβάτι.Σε θέλει ξύπνιο (ή πιο σωστά) ξάγρυπνο.Προκλητικό,ειρωνικό,με στοιχεία πρόζας,και συχνά (στο μεγαλύτερο μέρος του δηλαδή) δεν βγάζει νόημα.Δεν μπαίνει σε καλούπια,σε αφήνει να το ερμηνεύσεις όπως θες.Και με μια γλώσσα τελείως δική του.Για μένα,πιο δύσκολο απ' το "Ulysses".
Το κατάλαβα όλο; Προφανώς όχι.Προς το παρόν μου φτάνει έστω και το λίγο.
Profile Image for Ed Smiley.
243 reviews37 followers
October 26, 2017
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)

Fifth time through! The date is set to the date I read the final word "the". This was in a "slow read" book club.

This is my favorite book of all time. Admittedly it is challenging, but what it does is simply unique in all of literature, beautiful, silly, inexhaustible and, perhaps, exhausting.

I don't want to say that you should read this book, unless it calls to you. It is not for every one.

Let me give of some hints. This is a book that can overwhelm you unless you read it slowly and patiently, too rich in overlapping symbols to digest in large pieces. And yes this is really true even for really sophisticated readers. Even (hah!) if you breezed through Ulysses.If you've read this far, you may actually decide to read this book. So first of all courage!

Tip! Definitely recommend reading alongside commentary, as this is often considered the most opaque "novel" ever written. I used Campbell and Robinson's Skeleton Key and Tindall's Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake. The best study of Wake is Joyce's Book of the Dark.

The Bishop book on the Wake is good, but it is a thematic overview. It does the best presentation of the dreamer/aspect of the book. (I tend to agree that whether or not you agree the dream is real, at no point in the book is it supposed to represent normal waking consciousness.) It tends to do an excellent job of the connections of the sleeper-consciousness to the Book of the Dead and to the Viconan ideal history (language as a layered representation of the historical evolution of human consciousness.)

John Gordon's plot summary is very speculative, and he tends to want to answer "what is really happening" as if the events are real, but it is a good book, and provides some very useful insights. There is a sense in which the surroundings of the dreamer show up in the dream, and he has a lot of source material on that.

I still think the Campbell and Robinson's Skeleton Key is the best general guide.

Joyce's Book of the Dark: Finnegans Wake
A Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake
A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake: Unlocking James Joyce's Masterwork
Finnegans Wake: A Plot Summary (Irish Studies

Tip! Definitely read the book aloud. I have done this with a lot of passages before and it seemed to help, but this time, I followed the discipline of reading the entire book aloud. this immeasurably enriches the experience.

Also strongly recommend reading only a little--even just two or three pages--per day, but every day. I find 6 to 10 is the maximum I can manage--seriously. Aloud is best. And don't get discouraged, the first part you read will only begin to make sense after you are well into it--that is normal: the imagery is deliberately overdetermined as Joyce know you would miss much of it.

In terms of "breaking through" Wake, it really takes some patience in that you may read a hundred pages or more before it starts to "kick in". This is because the book is composed in such a way that every part references every other part, including some that have not yet been read. Also it is truly deliberately a night book, with the level of consciousness descending and becoming more and more obscure towards the middle, and then renewing clarity towards the end; the sense is suggested in such passages by overlays of themes, and sound sense--it is effectively a different way of reading.

A reading schedule really helps so that every day some of the images and rhythms start feeding into your brain.

It is a very difficult book and nobody should worry about getting their egos bruised if they get stuck from time to time. In fact, despite the fact that I usually don't like to oversprinkle my reading with lots of reading of the critical literature, in the case of Wake it is absolutely essential to use a reader's guide. A warning though, there is a lot of the critical literature that makes cheap use of Joyce's polysemy, to crank out possibly connected but highly misleading interpretations.

The good news is that Joyce has deliberately overdetermined his imagery, because he expects his reader to miss parts. Therefore, do not drive yourself crazy if you miss something--you will. But you will encounter echoes of anything Joyce considers important over and over again.

The other tip I'd give is that despite the fact that the language has many many focii at once, there is always a focus or main subject or two where in any passage where all other references are subsidiary.

I hasten to add that as seriously complex as the book is it is also seriously silly.

Part II (The start of my adventure reading it the fourth time)

Well OK, I am starting the second part of this review, as I have started re-reading this book again. Humorously, I think of it as an act of solidarity with one of my Goodreads friends who is currently bogged down in Ulysses. I do confess to being a bit of a Joyce nut, in that I have read Ulysses though 4 times, and Portrait 3. I picked up a copy when I got a new copy of Portrait, it said "take me take me" (although I am sure it was in some kind of pun language).

Anyway, this edition is the one with the forward by John Bishop, which is an excellent introduction, as far as a few pages can prepare you.

It also has the plot summaries in the table of contents. I don't remember the other edition, the red white and blue Viking paperback having the chapter titles (my enstuck Goodreads friend is complaining loudly that there are no titles in Ulysses.) With Wake, I am more than willing to baby myself, so every bit helps.

I found that this time I was able to read the first chapter without getting completely confused without any outside help; I do admit, that is is part with which I am most familiar, so it maybe doesn't fully count.

(I am now doing a slow read with a group, which I guess is my fifth time.)

Part III
So here is where I try to tell you what this book is about.

The problem is that it isn't written in ordinary language, and so folks find themselves slipping into Joycean pun language to explain Finnegans Wake because it isn't about "one thing" exactly, and it is about everything, but, some things more than others.

This makes a kind of sense, in that in a way, the Wake is the only full explanation of itself, but this is hardly helpful.

I will try to avoid this for the most part and try to convey by suggestion and analogy. This is extremely difficult, because literary criticism or just talking about books in general is more or less done in the language that the books are written in, but this case, in which the thing is written in a highly mutated form of English, perhaps you could call it Jabberworkish, the problem is more like writing about music or painting, where the domains are very different.

So I will tell it through my own eyes. In many cases I was influenced by other authors who have analyzed the book, they get full credit, I am just synthesizing my reaction.

Finnegans Wake is about consciousness. Specifically, it is about all awakenings to full consciousness. A major philosophical source for Finnegans Wake is Vico. Most commentators, focus on Vico's concept of historical cycles, and certainly the book's structure has a basis in Vico's ages. But that interpretation is pretty trivial. (An actual exchange between Joyce and a critic. "Your puns are trivial" "No." said Joyce, "they are quadrivial".) What actually is of interest in Vico is he Viconian idea of the unconscious, what Vico called "ignorance", and how the primitive consciousness comes into awareness, and how the enlightenment of full consciousness is reflected in language! Bingo!

In sleep, one is not fully cognizant of where one is, or who one is, so it is impossible to determine who is dreaming the Wake, or even if the dreamer is real. but it is definitely suggested that there is someone there. He appears to be a tavern keeper, possibly named Porter (which, as is inevitable in Wake, is a pun--on the drink) and in the dream language appears as Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, but he is more or less Here Comes Everybody, as his persona is infinitely elastic. Joyce had remarked that perhaps the dreamer is an old man, "although his existence is doubtful" and indeed the word world comes from the age of man (wer+eld), in reading it this time, as I am older, I tend to think of his dream as a retrospective dream interpretation of his life, and by extension life itself.

As dreamer he lies insensate like Space itself, spread under a green patchwork quilt which is Ireland itself. Yet he is a restless sleeper. As a fat wheezy and somewhat inebriated old man, he likely physiologically suffering from sleep apnea and clearly, psychologically from guilt and fear of exposure. As Joyce puts it: "Lack breath must leap no more."

His presence infects the initials of the language, as from time to time words start with H.C.E., E.C.H. etc.-- "how charmingly ecsquisite", as the Wake puts it. A large comic character, red nosed, fat, with a waist overcinched by his belt, and outsticking ears, farting and snoring, pompous and giving himself airs as a minor community leader, his dream mind is always falling into dissociative panics of disgrace and guilt, he is troubled by echoes of a possibly more romantic and handsome youth, and possibly a far more disreputable past.

He fears toppling from his position, he has Scandinavian ancestry; he is Protestant, in a Catholic community; his wife, is, and his children are raised as Catholics. And if the community rises agains him--in the form of hsi customers, is he oppressor, or scapegoat? Will he fall? His name Humphrey is associated with, and dream morphed into that of Humpy Dumpty. The topping, fear of falling, like Ibsen's master builder reminds us of the book's central image of falling Tim Finnegan, of the comic Irish ballad--more on him in a minute.

The other main characters of the book come from what appear to be his family.

The other primary and most defined persona, is his female counterpart, Anna Livia Plurabelle, who, if real, though wife and mother, is in this altered world, the river Liffey, nicknamed by Dubliners, Anna Liffey, wending through and personifying the language itself. Flowing though the circulatory system of this dreamlike state, in the chapter that celebrates her alone, two gossipy crone washerwomen dish the dirt and slap the clothes forming the lubdub of her riparian circulation. (One of the greatest of all chapters in literature, it is filled to the brim with pun references to the rivers of the world.) Whereas H.C.E. is solid and inert, falls and rises, and in crashing splits, she is liquid and flows, dissolves and recirculates. Her initials, A.L.P., just like H.C.E's, also infect passages when her presence is being felt.

She fell for him when she was a young girl (her initials are the same as Alice Pleasance Liddell, of Wonderland fame) and he was a handsome dashing piratical young man with a gleam in his eye, perhaps up to a a bit of "skandaknavery". She as his own literal life blood, water of life, has given the "key to her heart" to him, she has received a green dressinggown as a golden anniversary present, she is green mother nature, "leafy" and the continuous flow of everlasting Time.

Now there are three children of H.C.E and A.L.P., the dueling brothers, Shem and Shaun, and the daughter, Issy.

When H.C.E. seems himself as a younger man, he sees himself as a complete romantic hero, a Tristram to the young woman Isolde. However in reality, the patriarchal world order is one in which the male principle is, by its very drama of domination inherently unstable, so therefore incapable of the ideal inheritance, and Hump breaks apart in his Finnegan-fall into two polar opposites, represented by his sons.

Where Shaun is pastor-Shem is sinner; where bourgeoisie--proletarian; where England--Ireland; God--Lucifer; food--drink; flesh--spirit (note how the two meanings of spirit combine); lawman--outlaw; master--slave; superego--id; worker--artist; ant--grasshopper; postman (delivers literature)--writer(delivers himself up to literature); sword--pen
body--soul; lightness--darkness; space--time and so forth. They appear as Mute, and Jute; Burious and Cassious (butter and cheese: Brutus and Cassius); the Ondt and the Gracehopper; Mick (Archangel Michael) and Nick (Lucifer); the Mookse and the Gripes, to name a few of the aliases in which they manifest.

H.C.E. projects the disowned part of himself onto Shem. He projects the view of himself as he wants to be seen onto Shaun. Shem is somewhat modeled on Joyce himself, but with an acid and ironical self-deprecation, that hides how essential Shem is to the whole kaboodle. For Shem is A.L.P.'s favorite, for the Book of Life, the letter that A.L.P. dictates herself, is accessible to Shem, the inspired artist-penman, where the stolid Shaun, postman and misdeliverer of the Word can only play second fiddle. Shaun in his postal rounds is merely a hollow booze barrel bobbing on the Liffey--the spirits (Shem) are missing.

In addition to the two sons, there is Issy, the daughter. She is the selfregarding lookingglass girl, Maya/illusion, the Tempress, ever an Isolde, to the imagined Tristram usuuper; she is appearance. She is a continuity in multiplicity of A.L.P., unlike the sons who represent H.C.E's fundamental discontinuity. She is reflecting and quicksilver droplets to A.L.P.'s river, the rainbow girl, she is attended by the 7 girls of the rainbow colors and, multiplying by the 4 Viconian ages 4 X 7=28 + 1 = 29 she is the leap year girl, attended by the 28 other days. She is leaping, and dazzling, fickle and trickle: her splatter and splash represent the renewal and cycling back of the muddy mother river. "Catchmire stockings, libertyed garters, shoddyshoes, quicked out with selver. Pennyfair caps on pinnyfore frocks and a ring on her fomefang finger. And they leap so looply, looply as they link to light."

Other recurrent characters include: The Four (the four Irish Analists, the four Godspell Writers Matthew, Mark Luke and John) they embody the Viconian Ages, and the Four Rivers of Paradise, The Four Points ogf the Compass, and in concrete form are the four posts of H.C.E.'s bed; The Twelve (Customers at Earwicker's pub, the members of the jury, for H.C.E. finds himself ever on trial); Kate the scrub woman, who is a crone manifestation of A.L.P., who is in charge of the digging up of old rubbish, she is Clio, or history, she also manifests as a hen digging in a rubbish heap, and finding the letter--the book of life--A.L.P.'s hen scratches; the Cad with the Pipe, a recurrent accuser manifesting H.C.E.'s guilty consciousness--for what?--there appears to be a peeping Tom incident of two women making water in Phoenix park?; and of course, Finnegan himself.

Finnegan appears in an Irish comic ballad Finnegan's Wake (with an apostrophe). He works construction and falls to his death. At his wake, a riot ensues, someone splashes whiskey on him and he wakes up. "Bedad he revives, see how he rises,
Timothy rising from the bed.
Saying "Whittle your whiskey around like blazes,
t'underin' Jaysus, do ye think I'm dead?"

Finnegan is the Ur-Christ/Osirus/Odin figure, the dead and risen god of which humanity all too humanly partakes. Finnegans Wake is the wake of all dead Finnegans and the awakening of all Finnegans. His fall is accompanied by a hundred letter thunderword, the sound that startles the primitive to to worship and utterance in Vico's myth.

The time of year of Finnegans Wake (if it has any season at all) is the Spring of renewal. (The Spring solstice fell on Joyce's lifepartner/wife Nora's birthday). The day is blustery, in the night, a bit of wind, a few showers and a patch of thunder. The tree branches keep knocking at the window. Tip. Tip is a term for a dump or rubbish heap, and also a clue. The hen is digging up the letter. Mother nature is calling.

I leave the final words to Joyce. The keys to the heart of Nature herself. Sorrowful surrender and joyous embrace. The final passage of the book:
Profile Image for Jonathan.
920 reviews978 followers
June 24, 2014
Our Wake Reading Group, which is full of all sorts of helpful odds 'n sods:

Ay Hell[p]-full Qwroat from Jamesy

"[A]nyone who reads the history of the three centuries that precede the coming of the English must have a strong stomach, because the internecine strife, and the conflicts with the Danes and the Norwegians, the black foreigners and the white foreigners, as they were called, follow each other so continuously and ferociously that they make this entire era a veritable slaughterhouse. The danes occupied all the principal ports on the east coast of the island and established a kingdom at Dublin, now the capital of Ireland, which has been a great city for about twenty centuries. Then the native kings killed each other off, taking well-earned rests from time to time in games of chess. finally, the bloody victory of the usurper Brian Boru over the nordic hordes on the sand dunes outside the walls of Dublin put an end to the Scandanavian raids. The Scandanavians, however, did not leave the country, but were gradually assimilated into the community, a fact that we must keep in mind if we want to understand the curious character of the modern Irishman….The mystic theologian who assumed the pseudonym of Dionysius, the pseudo-Areopagite, says somewhere, “God has disposed the limits of nations according to his angels”, and this probably is not a purely mystical concept. Do we not see that in Ireland the Danes, the Firbolgs, the Milesians from Spain, the Norman invaders, and the Anglo-Saxon settlers have united to form a new entity, one might say under the influence of a local deity? And, although the present race in Ireland is backward and inferior, it is worth taking into account the fact that it is the only race of the entire Celtic family that has not been willing to sell its birthright for a mess of pottage.’ (Critical Writings, 1966, p.159-66.)’

This is of much help too: http://www.ricorso.net/rx/library/aut...


read (v.)

Old English rædan (West Saxon), redan (Anglian) "to advise, counsel, persuade; discuss, deliberate; rule, guide; arrange, equip; forebode; explain" (related to ræd, red "advice"), from Proto-Germanic *redan (cognates: Old Norse raða, Old Frisian reda, Dutch raden, Old High German rattan, German raten "to advise, counsel, guess"), from PIE root *re(i)- "to reason, count" (cognates: Sanskrit radh - "to succeed, accomplish," Greek arithmos "number amount," Old Church Slavonic raditi "to take thought, attend to," Old Irish im-radim "to deliberate, consider"). Words from this root in most modern Germanic languages still mean "counsel, advise."

Connected to riddle via notion of "interpret." Transference to "understand the meaning of written symbols" is unique to Old English and (perhaps under English influence) Old Norse raða. Most languages use a word rooted in the idea of "gather up" as their word for "read" (such as French lire, from Latin legere).

One cannot, therefore, read passively. Nor can one read in isolation. It is a process. A doing. There are black marks on pulped wood. I am converting them, explaining them to myself, burrowing deep to dig up silt, rich in nutrients, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, sometimes Guinness-dark or sharp as the first sip of Whiskey on a teenage tongue. But always involving. Always evolving.

We gather up scattered traces and, like Bibliomancers, we interpret, predict, tell our own fortune as well as that of the text. Joyce has refused to allow us the comfort of pretense, of our childish game of "story", lying curled in bed while images are scattered over us and we sleep. Instead, he asks us to work. He took 17 years to make something, it is no surprise we should be asked to spend a little more time on it than usual.

write (v.)

Old English writan "to score, outline, draw the figure of," later "to set down in writing" (class I strong verb; past tense wrat, past participle writen), from Proto-Germanic *writan "tear, scratch" (cognates: Old Frisian writa "to write," Old Saxon writan "to tear, scratch, write," Old Norse rita "write, scratch, outline," Old High German rizan "to write, scratch, tear," German reißen "to tear, pull, tug, sketch, draw, design"), outside connections doubtful.

"For men use to write an evill turne in marble stone, but a good turne in the dust." [More, 1513]

Words for "write" in most Indo-European languages originally mean "carve, scratch, cut" (such as Latin scribere, Greek grapho, Sanskrit rikh-).

To write is to do violence to something. It is not peaceful. It is not calm. It is not benign. He has scratched hard into the World, he has brought forth blood. It is not intended to be easy. It is not intended to be polite.


You are sitting down. In front of you is a small rectangular object made of a substance derived from trees. You manipulate the object with your hands. You note that the object has been divided into a series of thin sheets. Each side of the sheet has been covered in small black marks. You focus your attention on these marks. You were taught as a child to associate these marks with certain vocalised signs known as words. Your optic muscles begin directing your eyes in a series of rapid horizontal movements. Photons, which have travelled for 8 minutes from the sun to reach you, are reflected back from the sheets and converted by a thin wall of flesh at the back of your eyes into a series of electro-chemical signals which travel deep into your brain, setting off a cascading fireworks display of activity. Though you were originally taught to associate certain shapes with certain letters of your culture's alphabet, you have been well trained to move far beyond that. Evolution has sacrificed certain areas of your brain which were once used to interpret the natural world around you to permit this ability. Once your visual cortex has deciphered the word (taking on average less than 150 milliseconds), ripples spread throughout the rest of your brain, investigating and developing its semantic meaning. Metaphors involving scent stimulate the olfactory sections of your brain, those involving taste fire off neurons last active when you ate your breakfast. The complexity of this process is astonishing to you, though it can only occur when it is ignored.

But the text before you now is something different. It interrupts this process. It highlights, it illuminates what is ordinarily invisible. Your visual cortex is unable to rapidly and silently decipher the words. It requests assistance from other parts of your brain. It enters a dialogue, an investigation. It is forced to operate in ways it has not done since you were a child. The sensation is pleasurable. What was ready-to-hand has broken down. What was transparent has become deeply and richly coloured. It is beautiful to you.


If you are still reading this, my last comment will simply be to stress how enjoyable the experience of working with this text was for me, how fun it was. There is music and laughter and brain-twisting and all the wonderful things that words are capable of.

This text is, in my opinion, one of the greatest works of art ever created. It has a power and a depth and a beauty unmatched by any other work built out of words. There are as many ways to "read" it as there are Readers, and as many ways to respond to it too. For me, the main strands were political and personal - the colonial, the patriarchal, sex supressed and shameful, the family as mirror of the state and of the past - it is no coincidence that references to Irish Independence abound, particularly in the final section.

What an amazing act of courage this book is.

It has been about 15 years since I read his other books, so think 2015 will involve a chronological re-run through them all...
Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
1,009 reviews605 followers
January 30, 2022
Readers of this book (or more precisely, listeners since one must follow the story as if one were in the dark and using one’s ears rather than one’s eyes as one does in the daylight) are in for a treat. I have never read a more satisfactory work of fiction than this book. Joyce will say something like, ‘addle liddle’, and he’s getting at three different things: first he’s keying off the sound and means ‘ate a little’, next he’s giving a hint that you’ve entered through the looking glass since Alice Liddle is the real name of Alice from the looking glass and lastly he’s referring to Anna Livey since AL almost always refers to Anna Livey, the wife of HCE, and of course, Anna Livey (or her many different variations) seems to be the most interesting character.

HCE has either masturbated, took a leak in public, intentionally exposed himself, or perhaps did something else or nothing at all. HCE doesn’t like what the press has said about it and will think the press is similar to that ‘divine Comic Denti Alligator’, of course, the language is written such that one has to connect the concepts not the experiences, and Joyce will put ‘Daunty, Gouty and Shopkeeper’ (Dante, Goethe and Shakespeare) together through their appeal to our feelings through experiences while simultaneously connecting them to another concept within his book.

Joyce doesn’t mince his name dropping of the great thinkers from the past particularly when it comes to the scholastics and theologians and when he brings them up he usually means something beyond the first reading within the paragraph would indicate. All the names I mentioned in this review are used by Joyce one way or another within his book.

Giambattista Vico gives four ages for man, the giants, the divine, heroic (Homeric), and his (Vico’s) current vulgar age (1750) and in particular the time after Descartes (Vico really doesn’t like Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, though Vico really does like Hobbes), and for him the vulgar age will return back to the divine age. Hence, the last sentence of the Wake will feed back into its first sentence. Giordano Bruno (both Vico and Bruno appear frequently in this story) believes Hermes had access to original unfiltered truth and believes as Plotinus (and Socrates) that all copies of an original are inferior in essence to the original and for Bruno the unfiltered truth can only be understood by the originator, Hermes, and that is why Joyce delves so strongly into Irish folklore and its history and Irish connections to America and Tom Sawyer within the first section of the book. Vico in his book The New Science also thinks that in order for history to be understood properly we must understand the history within its own terms not necessarily through our present perspective.

Our understanding, according to the Greeks, comes from Logos, Pathos, or Mythos. Or in other words, from our logic, feelings or narratives we tell ourselves. When our space, time and causation are taken away and we are behaving as if we are in a dream or in the dark, we only have the Logos that is we have the changeless of the universal, necessary and certain, the logical and the analytical, or in other words the abstract. Our usual grasp of the concrete through our Pathos and Mythos, our feelings and our narratives are not able to attach meaning when our orientation is taken away from us as if we were floating in space in the dark with nothing to grasp on to.

Avicenna’s floating man would necessarily conceptualize through translational symmetries that are invariant to a host of transformations (or in other words abstractly) and would have no experiences enabling understanding concretely by holistically synthesizing a whole from parts by experiencing the parts as the sum of the whole. This book is written as if it was being told by Avicenna’s floating man.

At night we see with our ears. Our thoughts between our thoughts never stand alone; a word’s meaning is not realized until the meaning of the whole sentence is comprehended. In the dark while alone in the absence of space, time and causation the ideas we have are isolated until connected to other ideas through concepts. The stream of consciousness dialog that permeates this book is how we develop our own thoughts. One can will one's thoughts but the thoughts that we will come from beyond ourselves but they still enter into us and determine our meaning by allowing us to take a stand on our own understanding. This book is rare among fiction books for me in as much as it brings me closer to doing just that.
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