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Going to read Finnegans Wake: any thoughts?

  1. Feb 1, 2013 #1
    All right, so I've started my Joyce phase with Ulysses, but as I like to read a few books at once, I was thinking of picking up Finnegans Wake as well. It is both famous and infamous for its difficulty, so I'm going to borrow Joseph Campbell's A Skeleton Key To Finnegans Wake from the library, just in case. Also, my godparents are good friends with an international Joyce scholar, and he's kindly give me his e-mail address in case I have any questions. However, as I believe in considering a variety of perspectives, I would like hear some of your thoughts on the novel (either those who have read it or are currently reading it). Any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated. I know the most common advice from Joyce fans is to read it aloud, but that can be less than ideal in certain circumstances.

    Some people spend their entire lives contemplating Joyce, so I'm very excited to start this!

    For those completely unfamiliar with the novel, here is an example of it from the first page:

    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I had a course in college years ago where we read Ullyses. Very difficult read especially if you're fresh out of highschool and are planning to be a physics major.

    In hind sight, I'd get a Spark's Notes on it and read it as I'm reading the actual work to get a better understanding of things.

    Joyce's books are so difficult to read that it takes translators 8 to 10 years to get an effective translation as he makes up words, injects Dublin humor and inside jokes into the mix.

    About the only story of his that I could appreciate at the time was "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man".

    Also PRI The World did a show on how popular Finnegan's Wake is now in China:

    http://www.theworld.org/2013/01/translating-the-untranslatable-finnegans-wake-in-chinese/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Feb 1, 2013 #3
    Very interesting. I have a great deal of respect for that translator, to say the least.

    A agree about Ulysses. I was overconfident going in and have since found it to be quite humbling. Definitely a book for a very educated and worldly person (someone I am not). However, the overly proud part of me is resisting SparkNotes. That's not to say that I'm intrinsically against it, I merely want to see how I fare on my own, at least for the beginning.

    Finnegans Wake, however, is another matter. There isn't even a SparkNotes page on it, and it would be incredibly foolish of me (and that phrase doesn't do the foolishness justice) to think I could accomplish in two or three readings, with no references, what Joyce scholars have accomplished over decades.

    Thanks for the reply!
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