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“Trieste ate I my livre”: The Thirteenth Annual Trieste Joyce School, University of Trieste, 28 June–4 July 2009

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 2, Winter 2009
pp. 207-210 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0136

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For Joyce, whose lifelong fear of thunderstorms was noted by Stanislaus in My Brother’s Keeper and whose triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number thirteen) was well known, the stormy weather of the Thirteenth Annual Trieste Joyce School would have seemed an ominous combination. Whether the soul of the modern Joycean is less sensitive to superstitions or the sheer quality and range of the papers and events on offer prevailed over the inconvenience of wet hair and squelching shoes, the hardy members of the School made the heroic treks from lectures to lunches to seminars with eager consistency, our shirts dampened but certainly not our spirits.

Proceedings were launched by a lively polyglot performance of a passage from Giacomo Joyce, with a cosmopolitan band of school members reading their own translations in “lashons of languages,” ranging from Albanian and Irish to Japanese and Serbian. Such a diversity of tongues set the tone for a decidedly international week, which included no small ration of globally themed papers, including Maria McGarrity’s “Joyce in the New World: Portrait, Ulysses, and the Atlantic Archipelago,” Teresa Caneda’s “Joyce’s Young Man in Havana: Reading A Portrait in Revolutionary Cuba,” Carlos Gamerro’s impressive essay on Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges, Barry McCrea’s on Joyce and Marcel Proust, Mark Thompson’s on Joyce and Danilo Kiš, and a comprehensive and illuminating study of the difficulties of translating Ulysses by Jolanta Wawrzycka entitled “Bonding/Binding; Serving/Severing: Dilemmas of Translation.” For Wawrzycka, translating Joyce is a process of stylistic sensitivity and intelligent compromise, in which the translator should ideally side with the flavor and flow of the language wherever capturing the right mood is at odds with pragmatic and exact, but tone-deaf, sense-conversion. A nicely phrased comment from the University of York’s James Fraser summed up the feeling that “every language has its own Ulysses,” a frustrating yet in many ways tantalizing prospect. The range of papers presented over the week was deliciously broad and varied, representing the exponential growth of Joyce studies into the fields of, among other things, linguistics (for instance, Paul Fagan’s “‘nat language at any sinse of the world’: The Linguistics of ‘Wakese’”), cultural anthropology (Tom Rice’s remarkably learned “Cannibalism and Cultural Transfer, or, James Joyce Learns to Spit”), and theology (Geert Lernout’s probing analysis of “James Joyce and the Trinity”).

Afternoons saw us divide into four elective seminar groups on Dubliners, A Portrait, Ulysses, or Joyce and Beckett. While the level of knowledge and experience within those groups varied, the seminars were democratically pitched, confirming the general rule that Joyce studies is one of the most welcoming and least territorial of academic fields. Fritz Senn’s delivery style was exemplary in its ability at once to include and challenge its miscellany of students: he incorporated gentle wit, quicksilver anecdote, and the effortless critical acumen that makes him such a key figure in Joyce studies today.

To ensure that the week was not solely devoted to panels and talks, the School’s organizers planned festive evening bills of fare. Monday’s opening trip was typically magical, with a scenic bus ride out of the city and into the hills ending at a traditional Osmiza in the Triestine Carso, where we were served a rustic feast of Bloomian proportions. Further highlights from evening events included a walking tour of Joyce’s Trieste and a dynamic performance of his one-man play Jimmy Joyced by the actor Donal O’Kelly. The now customary sing-along at Trieste’s cosy Osteria Da Marino was an especial highlight for me. We were treated to impromptu folksongs from across the globe, including a hearty assortment of Irish drinking songs (both in English and as Gaeilge), bawdy jokes, and Broadway numbers. Sorcha Fox’s rendering of the tongue-twisting “Ballad of Persse O’Reilly” was particularly striking. It was an evening as spirited and song-filled as any in HCE’s pub and one in which Joyce himself would no doubt have felt quite at home.

The writer Mark Thompson gave an intriguing talk on Trieste and the northern front in World War I. Proof that Trieste remains as literary a...

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