Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Swift Peek at the New Wake

The special new edition of Finnegans Wake that I spoke about last month got some attention from BBC News recently. It's only a brief news item but there's a clip from an interview with Danis Rose, one of the men who edited the new version of the book and I think it's worth a listen (only 3 minutes long).

His answer to the final question is great:
Alot of people will have come across this book at school and they'll think "it's really hard and really inaccessible so why would I want to bother to read it now that I'm grown up"?
I would read a section for them personally and I guarantee they would agree that it is the most beautiful thing they have ever heard.
They posted up a reading of one sentence by some woman but it's nothing special at all and actually kind of sucks. Listen to this to hear what Rose means.

The new edition was published by a company called Houyhnhnm. Try to pronounce that. The name comes from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. There are actually many allusions to Swift in Finnegans Wake, especially the densely written opening paragraphs which contain the sentence:
not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe...
"Nathandjoe" is an anagram for Jonathan who, as noted in A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, is "split in two and turned head over heels by his two young-girl loves, Stella and Vanessa." Stella and Vanessa were nicknames for two separate young girls Swift became infatuated with during his life, they both were actually named Esther.

Here's the website for the Houyhnhnm edition of Finnegans Wake describing the contents of the special limited edition package. At the bottom of that page there's a quote from an old Finnegans Wake review by Harry Levin and it's one of the best summaries of Joyce's art I've ever read:

Joyce renews our apprehension of reality, strengthens our sympathy with our fellow creatures, and leaves us in awe before the mystery of created things.


  1. Wonderful blog, PQ! Concerning this new Rose edition of FW, I'm arriving a little late to the party, but have you by any chance heard of the tragic story of John Kidd? He's a brilliant Joycean (now discredited) who never produced his highly anticipated edition of Ulysses. He stirred up a lot of trouble with Hans Gabler and Rose, criticizing their poor editorial decisions as well as characterizing the JJQ as a circle-jerk. I suppose it's not hard to imagine the plucky, young Kidd over-agonizing and finally giving up on his edition with all the heat he brought down on himself. But, hey, I'm wasting my breath. You can just read about it here, if you haven't already:


    I may be more excited to read the criticism that Danis' edition will generate than the book itself. Of course, the floodgates truly open in 2012 when the works of JJ are supposed to enter public domain...

  2. Thank you for the compliment and for educating me on Rose and Kidd, I had not heard Kidd's story before. I'd heard about the "Joyce Wars" but never had a chance to read into it. That article you posted is very interesting and I'm amazed at what Rose did with Ulysses. I'll make a post about this very soon.

    I was not aware that JJ's works will "enter public domain" in 2012. Does that include all of his notebooks and letters and everything?

  3. Also, amazingly I'd never heard the phrase "circle-jerk" before. I've just received my 2nd edition of the JJQ and it seems pretty good so far. Seeing that John Bishop and John McCourt are involved with it is reassuring although I do see the names of Gabler and Groden on there as well.