The Epoch-Making Modern Novelist — James Joyce

The Epoch-Making Modern Novelist — James Joyce
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划时代的文坛巨匠 詹姆斯·乔伊斯

The Epoch-Making Modern Novelist— James Joyce

If a poll were taken among authors, critics, and scholars to choose the greatest writer of the twentieth century, the likeliest name to emerge at the top of the list would be that of James Joyce. After two early works of fiction perfect in their technical execution, remarkable in their eye for telling detail, and subtle but powerful in their emotional impact, he spent seven years writing what many consider the most important novel of the century, one that defined the modernist movement in literature and recreated the concept of serious fiction. In addition to his achievements as a writer, Joyce also stands as an icon of the artist as culture hero.

In his early twenties, he turned his back on his native land to pursue his formula of "silence, exile and cunning," as he lived in a succession of European cities, earning — and sometimes cadging — a hand-to-mouth subsistence and devoting himself with scrupulous discipline and concentration to his art, a concentration so intense that in a large part the story of his life is the story of his books. He watched as ego-driven, infinitely less talented writers achieved successes denied to him, while he fought with publishers over trivial details, saw an entire edition of one of his books destroyed by its own prospective publisher, and had his work — when it finally was published — attacked as unintelligible and suppressed as obscene. In the midst of these artistic travails, he lovingly cared for his daughter as she drifted further into mental illness, and suffered through many long eye operations that left him in terrible agony and near-blindness. And he persevered through everything, painstakingly fashioning his densely written and layered works word by word, until he brought the world around to the acknowledgment, and much more, of his vision.

James Aloysius Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland, on February 2, 1882, the eldest son (among fifteen children, ten of whom survived infancy) of John Stanislaus Joyce, a rate collector, and Mary Jane (Murray) Joyce. He was educated first at Conglowes Wood College, a Jesuit-run grammar school, and then at Belvedere College, also a Jesuit school. This change of schools was a considerable step down in social level, one necessitated by his family's economic reverses, which also brought about several shifts of residence. Joyce's first publication came in 1891, when he was only nine years old, in the form of an essay called Et Tu, Healy. This was an attack on the main political opponent of the recently dead Charles Stewart Parnell, the great Irish nationalist and hero to many, including Joyce's father, who paid to have the piece printed as a broadside.

An excellent student, Joyce completed his education at University College in Dublin, from which he received his degree on October 31, 1902. While in college, he discovered the work of the great Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, famous for uncompromising realism and attacks on bourgeois complacency and conformity, and published an essay on him in the Fortnightly Review. These years were also marked by the kinds of controversy that would become part of the pattern of his life: he published a pamphlet called The Day of the Rabblement, assailing the insularity and philistinism of the Irish Literary Theater, and he found himself becoming increasingly estranged from the Catholic faith, heavily dominant in Ireland, in which he had been raised.

Joyce went to Paris in the fall of 1902, intending to take up medical studies. This plan was put aside in short order, but his time in Paris left him with a permanent taste for life on the European continent. He was called home the following spring in response to his mother's illness, and at her deathbed in August 1903 he found himself unable to fulfill her request that he pray for her. His mother's death, and the guilt that he felt from his refusal of her plea, haunted him deeply, and would become one of the principal components of the last chapter of his first completed novel and of the first several chapters, a continuation of sorts, of his second.

He taught school briefly in Dublin in the spring of 1904, and in June of that year he met a young woman named Nora Barnacle. On June 16, 1904 (which date Joyce would later make into "Bloom's day," the day upon which his masterpiece Ulysses is set), there was some transformation of Joyce's feelings that began what would become a lifelong bond between Nora and himself. Unwilling to marry and unable to live openly with her in Ireland without benefit of marriage, Joyce took Nora to Zurich, Switzerland, in October 1904 (they were ultimately married in Paris i

n 1931, largely to secure the inheritance of their son Giorgio born in 1905 and daughter Lucia born in 1907). Within a short time they had settled in Trieste, where Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School — a position he would soon leave, finding it more profitable to give private English lessons — and embarked upon a series of frustrating dealings with publishers in his attempts to get his work into print.

Joyce's first book was Chamber Music (1907), a sequence of thirty-six poems heavily romantic in feeling and traditional in style. Within their limited intentions, they were quite skillful and often beautiful, and have — unsurprisingly, given their manner and their title — been frequently set to music. (Twenty years later, Joyce would publish another pamphlet of verse, this one containing only thirteen poems. Although a bit more modern than the poems in the earlier collection, they were still quite traditional in technique and themes. While not major works by any means, they are not negligible, and hardly deserve the contemptuous dismissal they received from Ezra Pound when Joyce showed him the manuscript.)

In this same period, Joyce was writing many of the stories that would comprise Dubliners, the work he described as a series of "chapters in the moral history of my community, written in a style of scrupulous meanness" (he used the term "meanness" in its sense of bareness, simplicity, lack of ornamentation). Always a highly schematic writer, he devised an underlying four-part structure: three stories of childhood, expressing disillusion; four stories of adolescence, expressing entrapment; four stories of maturity, expressing sterility; and three stories of public life, expressing corruption. "Araby" is the last story of the first group. Only these three are written in the first person, each of them narrated by a sensitive, bookish young boy. The others are written in the third person, at times with surgical detachment. After a heartbreaking experience with a Dublin publisher who actually set the book up in type and then refused to issue it, out of fear of lawsuits from Dublin commercial establishments mentioned in the text and because of an unflattering reference to the British monarch, Joyce placed the work with the London publisher Grant Richards, who brought it out in 1914. Shortly before publication, Joyce added to the volume a long,recently-completed story entitled "The Dead," and in so doing vastly elevated the quality of what was already a fine work. Unquestionably one of the finest stories in the English language, "The Dead" describes a long night spent among family and friends in which Gabriel Conroy, a somewhat self-important but extremely self-conscious and insecure young man, is forced to come to terms with his own limitations, and in doing so experiences a new understanding of human fragility and a new depth of sympathy and love. Its last several pages are stunning in their beauty and emotional power.

In 1915, because of uncertain conditions occasioned by the First World War, which he was resolute in his determination to ignore as much as he possibly could, Joyce moved his family to Zurich (After the war, they would return to Trieste, and then in 1920 move to Paris, which became their home for almost all of Joyce's remaining years). The following year, 1916, brought the publication of the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Once again Joyce's amazing technical skills were displayed: he takes his heavily autobiographical protagonist Stephen Dedalus from earliest youth to young manhood in five long chapters, each written in a style that is reflective of Stephen's age and sensibility at that point in his development. The book is grounded — as always with Joyce — in richly detailed descriptions of both Stephen's outer and his inner life, as he passes through religious doubts, sexual awakening, family conflict, and other experiences that all contribute to the formation of his character. At the end, he is determined to follow unswervingly the promptings of his artistic conscience, no matter what the outcome may be.

Upon finishing the Portrait, Joyce in 1914 began to write Ulysses, the work that would insure his literary immortality and would open previously undreamt-of technical possibilities to generations of fiction writers. It begins by taking up the story of Stephen Dedalus where the previous novel had left him, suffering the guilt of his mother's deathbed scene, but in short order the focus of attention shifts to Leopold Bloom, a Jewish salesman in his late thirties with a sensuous (and unfaithful) wife called Molly. Its entire action takes place on a single day, a day of small incidents that bring about great emotional transformations, a day into which Joyce packs the many-layered, sprawling, boisterous life of his city (although Joyce never again lived in Dublin after the age of twenty-two, all of his fiction is set there). Ulysses is a richly comic performance with tragic overtones, whose most notable feature is the astonishing range and inventiveness of its experimental techniques. Each of its eighteen chapters has a parallel in one of the episodes of Homer's Odyssey (hence the title), and each has its own style, mood, and symbolic patterns. Its most celebrated technique, one not original with Joyce, is the use of stream of consciousness, a device that seeks to create the illusion of actual thought processes through fragmented phrasing and quick, frequent associative leaps. One chapter, set in a maternity hospital, displays the gestation of English prose style through a series of brilliant parodies from earliest Anglo-Saxon to late Victorian. The last chapter, a lengthy, unpunctuated internal monologue of Molly Bloom, is one of the high points of Joyce's art.

As Joyce struggled to complete the book, Ulysses began to be serialized in the American publication The Little Review in March 1918. In October 1920, after about half the work had appeared, the Society for the Suppression of Vice in New York complained against the publication on grounds of obscenity, and the serialization was stopped. Joyce was unable to find any publisher in the English-speaking world who would print his novel. His wandering one day into an English-languagebookstore in Paris brought about a meeting that led to one of the most famous episodes in publishing history. Sylvia Beach, the shop's proprietor, was an idealistic young American with a great admiration for Joyce, who agreed to publish Ulysses. Luckily for both of them, she had no idea of the magnitude of what she was taking on. The book was published to coincide with Joyce's fortieth birthday on February 2, 1922. It immediately became a lightning rod for attacks by conservative critics, some of whom denounced Joyce as degenerate and insane, and became a rallying cry for writers and readers who recognized not only its technical brilliance but also its depth and richness of life-affirming humanity. It also became notorious as "obscene," although, to most of those who sought it out for prurient reasons, it was also unreadable. It was not until 1933, in a legal ruling that became a landmark decision in the fight against censorship, that it was cleared for publication in the United States. In holding that it was indeed a serious work of art, Judge John M. Woolsey wrote that "whilst in many places the effect of 'Ulysses' on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac," perfectly reflecting the standard of a Puritan society that, while it is perfectly acceptable to disgust readers, it is not appropriate to arouse them.

Joyce's next, and last, literary project would occupy him for seventeen years. This was Finnegans Wake, in which he pushed stylistic experiment as far as it could possibly go — and, in the opinion of many, a good deal further. It is ostensibly the story of H. C. Earwicker, a Dublin pubkeeper whose initials also signify Here Comes Everybody and Haveth Childers Everywhere; his wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle, whose name has roots in Dublin's Liffey River; and their sons, Shem and Shaun. In this work, Joyce seeks to capture the dream state through the creation of a language that goes beyond mere English, a language in which every sentence is a multileveled, densely packed, endlessly reconnecting and reverberating series of multilingual puns.

Joyce was now the most celebrated avant-garde writer in the world, and as portions of his Work in Progress, as it was provisionally called, appeared from time to time in pamphlet form, it produced both headscratching incomprehension and passionate defense and interpretation. In small bits it can be entertaining ("Americans are jung and easily freudened") and even evocative (Joyce himself made a marvelous recording of a brief excerpt in 1932), but there are not many people who can work their way through its hundreds of pages.

After seventeen years of sustained effort on Finnegans Wake, punctuated by frequent eye operations and the worsening emotional problems of his daughter Lucia, Joyce was exhausted. Although he spoke of further projects, he did no more writing. Another world war totally upended Joyce's settled way of life, and he and his family were forced to leave France in 1940 and once again relocate in Zurich, where Joyce died of a perforated ulcer on January 13, 1941, three weeks before his fifty-ninth birthday.

His literary legacy is vast. The emphases of his work — the years of planning, writing, and revising that went into the making of each of his works of fiction; the absolute authorial control in which every word was made to play its essential part in the total intent of the work; the fitting of manner to matter, and the necessity to rethink this relationship for each new work — have become, chiefly through his example, standard practice for the majority of writers of serious fiction, many of whom have been inspired by the fruits of his experimentation to explore new possibilities of their own. But no writer can remain alive with readers purely on the basis of technical genius, and in the end it is the humanity of Joyce's work — his infinitely varied depiction of the life of his times, his limitless curiosity about people of all types and social levels, his sympathetic understanding of the complexities of the human heart — that fully justifies his towering position in the literature of the twentieth century.

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  • 来源:外教社 2016-06-28