First Published 1939 – This edition 1975

As I am awaiting a few books to arrive, having pre-ordered them, I thought I would give James Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE a revisit, for gestalt real-time review purposes, which would represent a follow-up to similar such reviews in recent months, eg Rameau’s Nephew and Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot, The Inmates by John Cowper Powys and The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. But FINNEGANS WAKE might be a challenge, too far! The passage below represents the first three paragraphs of this book, i.e. about two-thirds of a page, and there are 628 pages in total! But if I do continue with this public review it will appear in the comment stream below.


riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer’s rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County’s gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all’s fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.

The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.


14 thoughts on “FINNEGANS WAKE – James Joyce

  1. In the above quote of the novel’s opening, I have decided to remove any line-
    breaking hyphens and thus, as an example, line-breaking above becomes linebreaking. This may not be Joyce’s intention, but seems sensible as one cannot know for certain if any line-breaking hyphen is a real hyphen or indeed a line-breaking hyphen.

    It seems to me that one needs to absorb this text as best as one is able, without worrying about what it is intended to mean. Then one can hope that gestation in the reading-mind will facilitate some sort of meaning gradually to emerge. In other words, taking not just a run but a riverun at the text’s panoply of assonance, graphology and implied syntax but without meticulously prowling or grubbing around in each known word and in each neologism for the desperate hope of uncovering connective entrails of meaningful semantics!

  2. Well, I’ve read the text in this fashion up to page 10, i.e. up to a a whole paragraph with just one word, this word: “Phew!
    It’s like immersing oneself in Professor Stanley Unwin and Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Cowper Powys all crossed with a Joycean automatic writing of a very rarefied kind, yet one knows that there is a linear sense flow being injected somehow straight into the veins of your brain. From the Aristophanic “Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax!” to a passage that happens to contain the word ‘whorl’ that I used this morning on my main blog in a post entitled ‘Craquelure‘ without realising I would be encountering the same word here. ‘The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction’ IN ACTION, I’d say!
    That passage:
    “He’s stiff but he’s steady is Priam Olim! ’Twas he was the dacent gaylabouring youth. Sharpen his pillowscone, tap up his bier! E’erawhere in this whorl would ye hear sich a din again? With their deepbrow fundigs and the dusty fidelios. They laid him brawdawn alanglast bed. With a bockalips of finisky fore his feet. And a barrowload of guenesis hoer his head. Tee the tootal of the fluid hang the twoddle of the fuddled, O!”

  3. Page 16:

    “Jute. — Yutah!
    Mutt. — Mukk’s pleasurad.
    Jute. — Are you jeff?
    Mutt. — Somehards.
    Jute. — But you are not jeffmute?
    Mutt. — Noho. Only an utterer.
    Jute. — Whoa? Whoat is the mutter with you?
    Mutt. — I became a stun a stummer.
    Jute. — What a hauhauhauhaudibble thing, to be cause!”

    [I have a friend called Jeff, and he has long had a set joke, whereby if anyone says to him: ‘Are you deaf?’ he always replies: ‘No, I’m Jeff!’]

  4. Page 20:

    ” A bone, a pebble, a ramskin; chip them, chap them, cut them up allways; leave them to terracook in the muttheringpot: and Gutenmorg with his cromagnom charter, tintingfast and great primer must once for omniboss step rub-rickredd out of the wordpress else is there no virtue more in alcohoran.”

    WordPress being where this is at!

  5. Page 23:

    “Landloughed by his neaghboormis — tress and perpetrified in his offsprung, sabes and suckers, the moaning pipers could tell him to his faceback, the louthly one whose loab we are devorers of, how butt for his hold halibutt, or her to her pudor puff, the lipalip one whose libe we drink at, how biff for her tiddywink of a windfall, our breed and washer givers, there would not be a holey spier on the town nor a vestal flouting in the dock, nay to make plein avowels, nor a yew nor an eye to play cash cash in Novo Nilbud by swamplight nor a’ toole o’ tall o’ toll and noddy hint to the convaynience.”

    I should be so bold!

  6. Just remembered that the lower case ‘riverrun’ at the start of this novel is rumoured to flow straight from the end of this massive text so by taking a riverun jump at it means reading it all first and making the daredevil jump at the ending!
    –>Page 36
    HCE, H.C. Earwicker or Here Comes Everybody is also rumoured to be a central character, and there is some ostensibly clear, unneologistic text amid where he arrives in it … but it has just occurred to me that characters might be switching themselves or changing names (now, in hindsight, as the characters tend to do in my own first published novel in 2011 at the age of 63)… “nexally and noxally”

  7. I note this book was first published in 1939. If more people had read it straightaway, perhaps the Second World War World could have been avoided, or at least shortened?
    –> Page 44
    “I have met with you, bird, too late, or if not, too worm and early:…”
    That seems a crucial statement for readers first encountering this book, as well as significant to what I just said about avoiding trouble at the earliest opportunity…

    Love this passage…
    “Our cad’s bit of strife (knee Bareniece Maxwelton) with a quick ear for spittoons (as the aftertale hath it) glaned up as usual with dumbestic husbandry (no persicks and armelians for thee, Pomeranzia!) but, slipping the clav in her claw, broke of the matter among a hundred and eleven others in her usual curtsey (how faint these first vhespers womanly are, a secret pispigliando, amad the lavurdy den of their manfolker!) the next night nudge one as was Hegesippus over a hup a ‘ chee, her eys dry and small and speech thicklish because he appeared a funny colour like he couldn’t stood they old hens no longer, to her particular reverend, the director, whom she had been meaning in her mind primarily to speak with (hosch, intra! jist a timblespoon!) trusting, between cuppled lips and annie lawrie promises (mighshe never have Esnekerry pudden come Hunanov for her pecklapitschens!) that the gossiple so delivered in his epistolear, buried teatoastally in their Irish stew would go no further than his jesuit’s cloth, yet (in vinars venitas! volatiles valetotum!) it was this overspoiled priest Mr Browne, disguised as a vincentian, who, when seized of the facts, was overheard, in his secondary personality as a Nolan and underreared, poul soul, by accident –“

  8. Here I stand, like Joyce’s first four paragraphs, a suspended tick of time between the cycle just passed and the one about to begin.

    I must confess to a lifelong love of Joyce’s work, and to having read each and everyone of your blog posts, your ‘Realttime review!

    All the best.


  9. Pingback: JAMES JOYCE: An Encounter | Bowen KÔRner (The Circumflexing Elbow)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s