Saturday, September 22, 2012

James Joyce: Reading From Ulysses—'Aeolus'

Literature & Reason
James Joyce [1882-1941]: The author James Joyce photographed with Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris in 1920. 
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Source: Wikipedia

In this Public Domain Review article, you can listen to James Joyce read from his novel, Ulysses, first published by Sylvia Beach in Paris in 1922; this recording is from 1924. Aeolus is the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology; Aeolus is episode seven in Joyce's novel, and it takes place in the Freeman newspaper offices.

The novel, an important work in modernist literature and one of the greatest in the twentieth century, is a carefully structured stream-of-consciousness narrative, divided into 18 episodes, which considers the thoughts and actions of Leopold Bloom in Dublin during one day, June 16, 1904, which was the day that Joyce had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle:
Joyce made this recording in Paris at the HMV studios at the insistence of Sylvia Beach (the woman behind Shakespeare and Company, the publisher’s of Ulysses), although HMV would only loan out their equipment at a cost and would have as little to do with the recording as possible. Beach recounts:
Joyce himself was anxious to have this record made, but the day I took him in a taxi to the factory in Billancourt, quite a distance from town, he was suffering with his eyes and very nervous. Luckily, he and Coppola were soon quite at home with each other, bursting into Italian to discuss music. But the recording was an ordeal for Joyce, and the first attempt was a failure. We went back and began again, and I think the Ulysses record is a wonderful performance. I never hear it without being deeply moved. Joyce had chosen the speech in the Aeolus episode, the only passage that could be lifted out of Ulysses, he said, and the only one that was “declamatory” and therefore suitable for recital. I have an idea that it was not for declamatory reasons alone that he chose this passage from Aeolus. I believe that it expressed something he wanted said and preserved in his own voice. As it rings out – ‘he lifted his voice above it boldly’ – it is more, one feels, than mere oratory.



FROM THE “AEOLUS” EPISODE OF ULYSSES (1924)

He began:
      —Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: Great was my admiration in listening to the remarks addressed to the youth of Ireland a moment since by my learned friend. It seemed to me that I had been transported into a country far away from this country, into an age remote from this age, that I stood in ancient Egypt and that I was listening to the speech of some highpriest of that land addressed to the youthful Moses.
      His listeners held their cigarettes poised to hear, their smokes ascending in frail stalks that flowered with his speech. And let our crooked smokes. Noble words coming. Look out. Could you try your hand at it yourself?
      —And it seemed to me that I heard the voice of that Egyptian highpriest raised in a tone of like haughtiness and like pride. I heard his words and their meaning was revealed to me.
FROM THE FATHERS
It was revealed to me that those things are good which yet are corrupted which neither if they were supremely good nor unless they were good could be corrupted. Ah, curse you! That’s saint Augustine.
      —Why will you jews not accept our culture, our religion and our language? You are a tribe of nomad herdsmen: we are a mighty people. You have no cities nor no wealth: our cities are hives of humanity and our galleys, trireme and quadrireme, laden with all manner merchandise furrow the waters of the known globe. You have but emerged from primitive conditions: we have a literature, a priesthood, an agelong history and a polity.
      Nile.
      Child, man, effigy. By the Nilebank the babemaries kneel, cradle of bulrushes: a man supple in combat: stonehorned, stonebearded, heart of stone.
      —You pray to a local and obscure idol: our temples, majestic and mysterious, are the abodes of Isis and Osiris, of Horus and Ammon Ra. Yours serfdom, awe and humbleness: ours thunder and the seas. Israel is weak and few are her children: Egypt is an host and terrible are her arms. Vagrants and daylabourers are you called: the world trembles at our name.
      A dumb belch of hunger cleft his speech. He lifted his voice above it boldly:
      —But, ladies and gentlemen, had the youthful Moses listened to and accepted that view of life, had he bowed his head and bowed his will and bowed his spirit before that arrogant admonition he would never have brought the chosen people out of their house of bondage, nor followed the pillar of the cloud by day. He would never have spoken with the Eternal amid lightnings on Sinai’s mountaintop nor ever have come down with the light of inspiration shining in his countenance and bearing in his arms the tables of the law, graven in the language of the outlaw.

You can read the rest of the article and listen to the 1924 recording of Joyce himself at [The Public Domain Review]

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