James Joyce Quarterly 44.1 (2006) 182-185

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Reviewed by
Friedhelm Rathjen
Scheeßel
Beziehungen und Identitäten: Österreich, Irland und die Schweiz/Connections and Identities: Austria, Ireland and Switzerland, edited by Gisela Holfter, Marieke Krajenbrink, and Edward Moxon-Browne. Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, and Wien: Peter Lang, 2004. 381 pp. $65.95.

Relations between Ireland and Germany have been the subject of numerous studies, but at least in one respect these countries are hardly comparable: Ireland is a small country dominated culturally and linguistically by a larger neighbor (Great Britain), whereas Germany is a large country that culturally and linguistically dominates [End Page 182] its smaller neighbors (Austria and Switzerland). It seems wise for once to leave Britain and Germany out of the equation and instead concentrate on a comparison between Ireland, on the one hand, and Austria and Switzerland on the other. This is exactly what happened at the Third Limerick Conference in Irish-German Studies in April 2002, and reworked versions of selected papers from that conference are brought together in the book under review. Various historical, literary, political, cultural, and linguistic aspects of the topic of identity are discussed by the authors in twenty-two essays, eight of these in German and the rest in English.

In three of the contributions, the focus is on James Joyce. Hermann Rasche, in "Joyce unterwegs: Austria und Helvetia," relates how and why Joyce came to live both in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in Switzerland, relying largely on Richard Ellmann's biography (and falling victim to a few of Ellmann's mistakes). Joyceans will hardly find new information in this essay, but as a general overview for non-Joyceans it provides good service indeed. Joyce experts will prefer the book's other two related items, both pairing our author with prominent female Austrian writers of later times. Rebecca Beard, in "Speaking the Language of Culture: Elfriede Jelinek and James Joyce Writing the Homeland," discusses Ulysses as well as Jelinek's Burgtheater and Lust, trying to show that in all three texts the notion of identity has "markedly little to do with place or nation" and "is instead linked to cultural tradition," which, in turn, "is shown up to be a mythical construct dependent upon a certain manipulation of language" (192).1 Beard concludes her jargon-heavy analysis by stating that "Jelinek and Joyce deal with the homeland by quite literally 'changing the subject,'" alluding to Ulysses 16.1171—"We can't change the country. Let us change the subject"—a conclusion that smacks of generalization (202). Specification instead of generalization is the virtue of Michael Eggers, who, in "'Sprachen, die sich nie ganz begegnen...': Ingeborg Bachmanns Simultan und James Joyces Dubliners," shows to what degree Bachmann modeled her short-story collection (which she originally intended to entitle "Viennese Women") after Dubliners.2 This is especially true of Bachmann's final story, "Drei Wege zum See," which in many respects comes quite close to "The Dead." "Like Joyce," Eggers argues convincingly, Bachmann "uses the means of a fictional story in order to comment on her own tense relationship to her home . . . —not in the sense of a transfiguration but in the sense of remembrance, of a 'topography of memory' and of a deliberately chosen decisive parting" (183).3

Apart from these three contributions, James Joyce is mentioned only twice in the book, and quite briefly, by Helen Hauser who, in her discussion of "Irish" novels by Swiss authors Gabrielle Alioth and Hansjörg Schertenleib, includes A Portrait in a list of works dealing [End Page 183] with Irish Catholicism and by Beatrice von Matt who mentions Ulysses as an influence on Otto F. Walther's novel Zeit des Fasans.4 This does not mean, however, that Joyceans will not find nourishment for their interests elsewhere. In Rudolf Agstner's "The Austrian (Austro-Hungarian) Consulates in Ireland before World War I," we learn of the career of Maurice E. Solomons, a Dublin businessman who was an "importer of optical instruments, director of Boland's Bakery, and Justice of the Peace" (45), as well as honorary Austrian vice-consul from 1902 up to 1914; this is the very "Mr M. E. Solomons in the window of the Austro-Hungarian viceconsulate" (U 10.1262-63) mentioned on the last page of "Wandering Rocks" and glossed somewhat inaccurately by Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman.5 Another historical person mentioned in Ulysses who reappears in the book under review is "professor Pokorny of Vienna" (U 10.1078), the eminent Celticist (1887-1970); Pól Ó Dochartaigh, in "Julius Pokorny and Celtic Swiss Identity," summarizes his life and career and relates how Pokorny (who was of Jewish ancestry) managed not only to obtain refuge in Switzerland in 1943 but also to make himself useful (and employed) in his new country by inventing Celtic roots as a cultural unionizing device for the rather diverse Swiss nation.

The construction and invention of national identities is a topic discussed by several contributors. Joep Leerssen, in "Sublime Landscape and National Character," explains that "nostalgia" originally was a medical term designating the homesickness of Swiss people who had to work abroad (hence it was also called the "Swiss disease") and that this feeling of "nostalgia" while away from home is one of the origins of the notion of a national identity. Audrey Hartford, in "Concepts of Austrian Identity in the Works of Hermann Bahr," stresses the fact that the notion of an Austrian nation developed rather late and that paradoxically the diversity of different parts of Austria acts as a unionizing element in the conception of "Austrianness." Catherine Spencer, in "The Discursive Construction of Austrian Identity in the Early Years of the Second Republic," adds that this emphasis on Austrian diversity ended only after 1945 when a process of "selective remembering and forgetting" was started (158). Interestingly enough, much of the anti-state and anti-politics anger to be found in the works of post-1945 Austrian writers (discussed in this book by Ernest W. B. Hess-Lüttich, Markus Oliver Spitz, and Petra M. Bagley) is aimed at these nation-defining, unionizing strategies.

Some readers may regret that in these contexts Joyce is never part of the game. If Stephen Dedalus leaves home in order to "forge . . . the uncreated conscience of [his] race" (P 253), he acts very much like Swiss dairymen who did not understand what it meant to be Swiss before going abroad or like Irish tourists and heritage managers (discussed by Ulrike Spring) who define Irishness by listing characteristics [End Page 184] that disappear under the pressure of tourist growth and heritage awareness. Perhaps most stimulating for Joyceans, however, is the fact that numerous implicit questions applicable to Joyce and his works arise—but no answers are provided. The considerable diversity of topics, approaches, and points of view chosen by the book's contributors adds to the stimulating effect.

Joyce knew all three countries discussed in this volume fairly well. At first, neither Trieste nor Zurich was to his liking, but both cities soon appealed to him. It is generally held that multicultural Trieste and (possibly to a lesser degree) multilingual Zurich contributed considerably to the texture of Ulysses. After reading the essays in Connections and Identities, we may feel tempted further to modify this conception. From 1904 up to 1920, Joyce lived in two political confederations marked not by national unity but rather by cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity. Perhaps it is in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake that Joyce shows himself to be a writer with an identity partly Austro-Hungarian and Swiss rather than purely Irish.

Friedhelm Rathjen is a free-lance literary critic, writer, translator, and Joycean. He is the editor of In Principle, Beckett Is Joyce, Music at Night: Arno Schmidt's Garden of Verses, and James Joyce für Boshafte and the author of more than twenty books in the German language, the most recent ones including a collection of essays, Dritte Wege: Kontexte für Arno Schmidt und James Joyce, a collection of travel writings, Irish Stew: Irland und Leute, and Beckett: Eine Einführung ins Werk. His translations include excerpts from Finnegans Wake, Moby-Dick, Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn, Mayan Letters, The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans, the poems of Gertrude Stein, the Lewis and Clark journals, and the writings of various contemporary authors including Christopher Buckley, Tom Murphy, Jonathan Ames, and others.

Notes

1. See Elfriede Jelinek, Burgtheater, Theaterstücke, ed. Kurt Palm (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1992), pp. 129-89, and Lust (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1989).

2. Ingeborg Bachmann, Simultan: Neue Erzählungen (Munich: Piper, 1972).

3. This translation from the original German is mine.

4. See Gabrielle Alioth, Der Narr (Zurich: Nagel und Kimche, 1990), and Die Arche der Frauen (Zurich: Nagel und Kimche, 1996); Hansjörg Schertenleib, Die Namenlosen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2000); and Otto F. Walther, Zeit des Fasans: Roman (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1988).

5. See Don Gifford, with Robert J. Seidman, "Ulysses" Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's "Ulysses," rev. ed. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), p. 286: "M. E. Solomons, a prominent member of Dublin's Jewish community, optician and manufacturer of spectacles and mathematical and hearing instruments, 19 Naussau Street; listed at the same address: the Austro-Hungarian vice-consulate, imperial and royal vice-consul, Maurice E. Solomons (justice of the peace in the City and County of Dublin)." Apparently it was inconceivable for Gifford and Seidman that the optician M. E. Solomons and the vice consul Maurice E. Solomons were actually one and the same person.