The New Finnegans Wake

Don Anderson in The Australian has a review of the “corrected” Finnegans Wake, sporting over 9,000 textual edits, supposedly to bring it more in line with Joyce’s wishes, although I can’t imagine how anyone would know at this point.

I have to say, of all the “difficult” books out there, this is one that I’d probably be the least ambitious to tackle, although it was fun to note Harold Bloom’s reverence for it in The Western Canon.

Though to get back to Anderson’s article, it would have been nice if, for all the noise Anderson makes about people who have erroneously written it “Finnegan’s Wake” over the years, someone (presumably the editor) didn’t make exactly that error in the title of the newspaper article.

Thus, in a river-obsessed text (“Life begins by the Liffey”) where the 1939 version reads “Such a loon waybashwards to row!”, the 2011 version has: “Such a loon werrabackwoods to row!” On p159 the 2011 edition deletes a comma — a “minor but crucial” emendation? Perhaps we might think of this deletion as an act of revenge for the countless number of occasions on which an apostrophe was added between the last two letters of the first word of Joyce’s title.

O’Brien claimed to “know from personal communication that the increasing incidence of that unfortunate apostrophe hastened Mr Joyce’s untimely demise”.



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An interesting bit of backstory, as I understand it: the academic buzz is that recently a bunch of Joyce’s drafts/documents came into usage rights, so that academics could legitimately work on and share insane projects such as this. Same thing’s happening for Ulysses, as I understand it. Source: some Irish Joyce scholars I met in grad school over there.

Are there really only 950 copies being printed?

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