Bloomsday. Iron Ore Mine. Concussion. Funeral. The Words.
|Joyce and Nora.|
I was 20 when I emigrated from Donegal, Ireland to Canada. My first job was in an iron ore mine in Wawa, Northern Ontario. One day a young Quebecois student said to me: "What do you think of Joyce then?" I had never heard of Joyce. I was humiliated. All that was backward in Ireland had kept him from me. I joined the merchant marine. My first big port of call was New Orleans. I went to the library and asked for a book by Joyce. They only had Finnegan's Wake. I sat down and tried to read it. I thought I had concussion.
It was many years later that I realized that Joyce would have been proud to hear that an Irish peasant read his book in New Orleans and thought he had concussion. Finnegan's Wake is a sort of concussion of genius, breaking down the barriers between being asleep and being awake. I returned to Ireland. I took part in the Bogside uprising. This and other upheavals cracked the backward forces which had banned Joyce. I sought out and read more of his works. I came to recognize him for what he is - the greatest writer of them all.
When my mother died she was buried in a small rural graveyard in Donegal. As an atheist I would not let the preacher speak for me. I spoke of her life and thanked her. Then I read two of Joyce's poems. The graveyard was silent. Two women approached me and thanked me for reading the poems for my mother. I thought of Nora, Joyce's companion without whom he could never have achieved what he did. Joyce, banned by all the backward forces,vilified and lied about and scorned, reached into that small graveyard in Lifford, County Donegal. Just like his words are on bronze plaques on the Dublin sidewalks today he could not be silenced. When there is genius, or as as Joyce said "states of exaltation" which correspond to reality these force their way to the surface. Take a read at a few lines of Joyce. See their power and beauty. The first one makes me think of what will happen to this earth if capitalism is not ended. Especially think about those last five words: "time one livid final flame." And there is some of what imperialism is doing in the middle east now in this quote. They are blowing it to bits. "ruin of all space,shattered glass and toppled masonry."
"I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppled masonry, and time one livid final flame."
"There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being."
"I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.
"Love the desire of good for another."
Then there is the one about today, June 16th, Bloomsday. People celebrate the world's greatest writer on every continent. Finnegans Wake has now been translated and is selling out in China. 10.000 new characters have had to be created by the translator lady. Her husband says he hates Joyce because he cannot get his wife to come to bed as she is always at that Finnegans Wake. She says calm down she has only ten more years to go. But that is another story. A few years ago on Bloomsday a group of Joyce fans from Japan arrived in Dublin. They were doing the rounds of the pubs and hotels and restaurants mentioned in Ulysses. When outside Davy Byrnes one of them pulled out a sheet of paper and started reading some pieces of Finnegan's Wake in Japanese. Two local Dublin dudes were hanging out to see if maybe there would be a smoke or a drink in it. But in spite of themselves they got caught up in the reading of Finnegan's Wake.
After a few minutes one of them said to the other: "Bay the Jesus you can understand it better in the Japanese." Joyce would have been proud of that too.