At the end of 2013 I achieved something I did not think possible; I finished Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. I admit that before embarking on this journey I had never read any Joyce (shock horror!), I had never even scanned a page of Ulysses. I dived however head first into the primordial ooze of language that constitues The Wake and attempted to swim through the syntax to make sense of this bizarre universe.
Set in a nighttime, carnivalesque city , this text follows Finnegan’s fall from a ladder into a dreamlike state. Here Harold Earwicker morphs into a variety of characters and to attempt to describe the rest of the ‘plot’ would be remarkably futile. The language of this text mimics the transformation Earwicker undertakes. Joyce weaves together hundreds of cultural signifiers, myths and multiple languages; he sits like a gigantic spice at the centre of a vast web of words.
The intertextuity of this work is mind boggling and through his borrowing of texts, Joyce manages to create a timeless text. Once in its active narration and secondly in the text’s physical presence. Finnegans Wake feels as contemporary now in the 21st century as it did when it was published in 1939.
To be able to offer a comprehensive review of such a complex work is difficult. The only justice I can do to this masterpiece is to urge you to read it for yourselves.
By Nicola Borasinski