Sunday, April 2

Don’t read Ulysses. sing it

Don’t read Ulysses. sing it Joyce’s verbose text enters better through the ear than through the eye. It is a verbal catharsis. (“They listen. And on the porch of their ears I pour“) There is no need to be alarmed by so many declarations about boredom or the impossibility of reading that the bums of literature make a show of. Its author was a great tenor, proven in concerts. While his eyesight suffered so much that he was unable to correct the proofs of its pages accurately. Joyce’s Ulysses sounds very good in English-Irish and is denser in Spanish. But its intimate or aloud reading is protean. Mixtures of language, phonetic pirouettes, hidden references and verbal joys make vibrant the odyssey of its reading to understand the soul of the man of the century. A hundred years ago its uneventful publication, persecuted, prohibited and turned into a fruit of paradise. Now it is celebrated worldwide and the Joycean Bloomsday Society did not miss the appointment in the Ateneo de Madrid, like every month Our Irish host, Ian Gibson, a pro Dubliner, accentuated the Spanish veins of the book and recalled the prohibitionism that still weighed on the work in his youth.

Joyce chose the exact day of its publication, coinciding with her 40th birthday… perhaps she sensed that a hundred years later the anniversary would land in this kabbalistic 2 of the 2 of the year 22 with the work going from highly prohibited to groped. Relentless American censorship hounded the texts from their seminal magazine appearances, so wisely Sylvia Beach of the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare & Co printed it in France. What bothered the Joycean text? Not even the Wolf couple dared to enter the labyrinth of the publication fearful that the open descriptions of sex, the spilling of fluids, the allusions to bodily impulses would collide with puritanism and the prevailing laws.

If the official censor did not show scruples, even the postal officials were willing to promote its prohibition as happened with what was published in the magazines. Undoubtedly the greatest danger is that in the vertiginous verbal torrent of the blue-cover book, the human mind could be divined openly, Joyce achieving for the first time, like no one else in literature, that being was transparent in his language.

The best Spanish connoisseur of the work and its great translator of the 1976 version states that “perhaps the deepest and lasting impact of reading Ulysses is to make us realize that our mental life is basically a flow of words, that sometimes we would blush if it were exposed”.

Gibraltar, Algeciras, Ronda… are also part of the geography of Ulises, Molly Bloon’s homeland is added to that of Leopoldo and his Dublin, both two protagonists, she and he, Ireland and Spain. Gibson –elbowed in both countries– thinks he understands that what is Irish entails a Celtic, Iberian, and Spanish substratum. And that is noted in Joyce’s masterpiece. “The Irish have a reputation for being loquacious like the Spanish. We enjoy talking and Ulysses is a book of words and dialogues.” In Ulysses he appears from the sardines and breams on the Catalanes beach to the night watchman, from the latticework to the Moorish wall. “The strait shone, I could see the bay of Tangier and the Atlas mountains white with snow on top” (Molly in the monologue that closes the novel and that Magüi Mira brilliantly recomposes these days in the theater).

Gibson is moved when talking about his compatriot in the hall of the Madrid Athenaeum that at that time of the writing welcomed Guillermo de Torre and the ultraists. He remembers the Joyce who rubbed shoulders in Paris with Breton and knew the work of Freud. Beside him, Antonio Garrigues wonders what Ireland is doing to generate so many high-level writers (“Do they pay them well?”). Oscar Wilde, Bernard Show, Becket,… The new Irish ambassador, Frank Smyth, says that in the morning he presented his credentials to the King of Spain and that the first thing he spoke to him was about Ulysses. Sara Cantó, founder of the Bloomsday Society, reels off the heroism of the American editor, for whom she asks for a monument in Dublin.

If Ulysses has made history, and a hundred years later causes rivers of ink, it is not only due to its intricate Homeric structure, nor to its stylistic flourishes, nor even to the wise recreation of spoken language or the management of time in a work of a day in Dublin made Odyssey, but above all and especially for giving the world of the novel “the inner word”. James Joyce opens a new window for literature by joining the currents of the century as Nietzsche or Freud did in their fields

If Picasso taught us that the cubist vision best confirmed the complex portrait of the new man of the century, Joyce showed his voice as a novel. What’s more, Joyce also “raised the expressive quality in novels to the height of poetry,” concludes Valverde. Yes, better sing it…

When a book is a public thing, any personal reading is born vitiated. There is no longer a safe vision of one’s own, because if the act of reading is an intimate matter, the literature blessed in public reading at the altar seems to consecrate the revelation of the mystery. I am grateful for the enthusiastic and serene guide that our professor of Universal Literature, the controversial Vintila Horia, gave us at the Faculty. Due to biographical affinity, the Romanian writer considered Joyce’s self-imposed exile (Italy, France, far from Dublin) key to be able to generate a work and recreate a language like that of Ulysses. Distance to catch the interior. He opened the key pages for us to understand the evolution of the letters of the century that revolutionized everything with the History of avant-garde literatures by Guillermo de Torre, and anchored us in the masterpieces of Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust and Joyce. He saw him as an outsider, due to his Irish status, which allowed him “to have a more objective view of the events that were shaking the continent”

It is almost paradoxical that the author who exalts Dublin, who portrays it like few others, had to distance himself and describe it –on a universal day– from Trieste or from Paris. He said goodbye to all that fed up with Ireland economically and artistically. Evicted and politically upset, he begins the journey of discontent with his beloved Nora. Irish nationalism appalled him. Italian was spoken in his house of exile. It was an uncomfortable pilgrimage neither for him nor for his family, but perhaps it fueled his literary obsessions, distanced him from everyday life and opened other doors and relationships. Some complicities were key. Like that of Ezra Pound (who believed in him as a writer), that of WB Yeats, Ítalo Svevo and Edouard Dujardin.

For some, the analysis of the Joycean text may remain in its possible structural framework (the references to the Odyssey are not present and only noted by Joyce in comments to friends) or in its literary allusions, of which Weldon Thornton offers an index that occupies five hundred pages. (Allussions in Ulysses, republished by the University of North Carolina in 1973). But perhaps the most sensible way to delve into the intricate Ulysses is to previously read both Dubliners What The portrait of the adolescent artist (curiously translated by Dámaso Alonso), which are the bases of the story that Joyce amplified in his magnum opus. Also read or watch John Houston’s last film, Dublinerswhere the atmosphere created by the writer is palpable when transferring to the cinema the chapter of The dead.

References to the Odyssey did not appear in the first blue cover edition. Only in chapters previously published in magazines. They are not even numbered in what turns out to be 18 chapters. Dawn, Morning, Day and Midnight frame Bloom’s temporary stroll through Dublin. It begins with Telemachus and ends with Eumaeus, Ithaca and Penelope to fulfill all the Homeric terms. The new odyssey – that of that contemporary man, not digital, of course – covers from 8 in the morning on Thursday, June 4, 1904 until two in the morning, until Molly Bloom’s monologue.

So much concrete data, so much reference to the framework would make us think of an interest in realism. And yes there is, but referring to the viscera, the heart, the soul, the inner world of its protagonist, the dissatisfied and dazed man who walks the wire of the new century in search of a volatile identity. So you have to read Ulysses, sing it, feel it, to lose yourself in it. As in the paths of Don Quixote, which are internal nerves through which the soul of each one of us travels in the face of the complexity of the odyssey that we have to live. Each reading will be a new Ulysses. Many with a Gibson Spanish accent.