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Finnegans Wake

January 24, 2010

Because this book is known as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language, I thought I would explore the book a little more. No, I have not and probably never will read Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (Ok, I lie, I would probably try to read it, if my passion for modern culture continues) but I like to learn more of these types of books.

The thing I found interesting about what I’ve learnt is this book is that the entire thing is written in an idiosyncratic language, consisting of multilingual puns and portmanteau words. This to me would mean that there would never be a correct interpretation of this book; it’s just a twisted world full of no answers.

The book is a non linear story which attempts to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams. Which is interesting because back in the early 1900 Freud wrote a book called “The Occurrence in Dreams of Material from Fairy Tales”. In this he made mention of dreams been a coded message waiting to be cracked. So it seems Finnegans Wake was just James Joyce deciding to follow this idea and blend it with his obvious love of puns to create a completely unorthodox book.

For a book that took seventeen years to write, it’s hard to think what the point of it is. Is this just a social experiment that Joyce was doing? Maybe he was just setting out to defy all conventions of plot and character construction. What ever the reason was it remains on of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen so far.

Just a great example of avant-garde in modern literature that doesn’t get read. I think the only people that do read it are the people fascinated with this kind of topic and the people that read it to sound intellectual.

I would love to talk to someone who’s actually read this book.

EDIT: I read somewhere that the idea of all the puns is so essentially the book never ends.

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  1. I read it in college. It was dense and nearly impenetrable. But it has passages that are luminous in their beauty. It’s best to read it aloud. Follow these links for a couple of neat FW resources:

    There are a number of wonderful books about FW that are in themselves joys to read.

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