Just as readers are still learning from Joyce the writer, so too we continue to learn more about Joyce the man as unpublished correspondence in private and institutional collections comes to light. The revelations are not always flattering. Geert Lernout’s groundbreaking study, “Finishing a Book Without Title: The Final Years of ‘Work in Progress,’” draws on unpublished letters and telegrams to reconstruct in meticulous and often witty detail the final, frenetic years of Joyce’s composition of Finnegans Wake—and its protracted publication in May 1939. Nearly all of the novelist’s exchanges with his British publisher, Faber and Faber, and his American publisher, Viking, were conducted through his devoted friend, secretary, financial advisor, and “permanently attached slave” Paul Leon. Analyzing Leon’s written correspondence with T. S. Eliot, B. W. Huebsch, and others, Lernout reveals the difficulties posed by Joyce’s silences, evasions, and missed deadlines, as well as the admirable “patience and forbearance” of his publishers, who were led to believe that the untitled work would be completed by as early as 1931. In detailing Joyce’s compulsive revisions and enlargements of his epic, even as type was being set, Lernout suggests that his “inability to finish the book seems to have been part of the process of writing.” In view of the expensive delays that Joyce’s “process” entailed, his sometimes petulant threats and superstitious demands for specific publication dates are particularly troubling. Lernout’s portrait of the aging artist as self-consumed, irascible, and ungrateful stands as a provocative revision of Richard Ellmann’s version of the mature Joyce struggling heroically against blindness, censorship, and family crises.
Leonid Livak’s essay, “A Thankless Occupation,” also brings to light unpublished archival material that enriches our understanding of Joyce’s life in Paris—in this case, his early years in the city, beginning in 1920 when he met Ludmila Savitzky, the poet, actor, fellow emigré, and habitué of artistic circles who first translated A Portrait of the Artist as a Young [End Page ix] Man into French. Livak illuminates this neglected and sometimes fraught relationship through a consideration of Savitzky’s memoir, “Dedalus en France,” in which she reveals her deeply personal attachment to the novel and its youthful protagonist, as well as her frustration with Joyce, who, she felt, neglected the translation project in his drive to finish Ulysses. Having recently lost custody of her own children in a divorce judgment, Savitzky regarded Dedalus: Portrait de l’artist jeune luimeme as her “adopted child,” and as she labored to convey the novel’s “special music” she was disappointed by Joyce’s desire to rush the translation into print. Following his introductory analysis, Livak presents Joyce’s previously unpublished letters to Savitzky, both in the original French and in English translation. The communications contain Joyce’s answers to Savitzky’s questions about the rendering of specific words such as “Collywoobles” and “square ditch,” but they also reveal, ultimately, his sympathetic appreciation of Savitzky’s slow, meticulous method (“being myself a formidably slow worker”), the “material hardships they share,” the personal “cost” of her labor, and the value of a translation that remains the standard in the French-speaking world nearly a century later.
Five of the essays in this volume offer new perspectives on the inexhaustibly suggestive stories in Dubliners. Richard Russell examines Joyce’s frequently overlooked attitude toward Northern Irish Protestantism, a deepening political distrust and personal dislike that finds satirical expression in his sketches of the “privileged and taciturn” Crofton in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” and, more corrosively, in the abusive Mr. Alleyne of “Counterparts.” In an extended analysis of the latter story, Russell argues that Alleyne’s rhetorical violence against Farrington reflects Joyce’s view of the Northern Protestant temperament as “shrill and demanding,” traits that later emerge in “Ireland, Island of Saint and Sages” and “Gas from a Burner.” Russell traces the writer’s growing hostility to two sources: Joyce’s frustration with the Protestant publisher George Roberts, of Maunsel & Company, who objected to certain Dubliners stories, and his belief that Ulster Unionist zeal would derail the movement toward Irish Home Rule. Russell argues that Joyce regarded this...