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The American Book Club has read a James Joyce novel for 28 years

The American Book Club has read a James Joyce novel for 28 years

In 1995, the California Book Club began reading James Joyce’s Complex Novel. Last fall, we finally finished it — and started from the beginning.

The first line of “Finnegans Wake” begins in the middle of a sentence. It’s the first indication that this might be a difficult read – this 1939 novel by Irish writer James Joyce. Critics have already given up on the work, as it is considered one of the most difficult works to understand. It is controversial among literary scholars whether a book tells a story.

It ends the same way it begins. In the middle of the sentence. Without a point. The incomplete can form the loop until the beginning. In California, this assumption is taken very seriously. And start reading from the beginning: It took the book club three decades for the first round of “Finnegans Wake,” and the group opened the novel in 1995 (also the year it was founded). This fall we finished it. Now it’s time for round two, for the overall experience. “It’s not over yet, it’s an ongoing experiment,” the group’s founder, Jerry Fialka, told the New York Times.

Incomprehensible and untranslatable?

The club reads one or two pages together each month, working hard to understand Joyce’s terminology and dense references. However, the complexity of the book can never be fully understood, also because Joyce uses his own language. It brings words together in new ways, takes them apart, reconstructs them, and even mixes languages ​​together. Example: “bababadalgharaghtakaminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthuuntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk”, a word from “thunder” in ten different languages. This is one of the reasons why the work was initially considered untranslatable, but since 1993 it has been available to read in German as well (translated by Dieter H. Stundel), and there are twelve complete translations in total.

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The title “Finnegans Wake” comes from the Irish song of the same name about a builder named Tim Finnegan, who drunkenly fell down the stairs and died, but at a drunken funeral (English “wake”), in which a bottle of whiskey had been opened Broken in the coffin, he found life again. His rise, fall and resurrection are read as a metaphor for human life. But only in a lot of companies. It is unlikely that anyone will face this problem alone, at least not for three decades. (Evdin)