Introducing James Joyce: A Selection of Joyce's Prose


The reader of the following extracts from the prose works of James Joyce may reasonably ask on what principle the selection has been made. The editor makes no pretence of having chosen what could be called 'the best' of Joyce, and indeed maintains that no such principle could be applied, either in a book of this size or a much larger one, to the work of such an author. The later books, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, are too closely constructed, and depend too much upon cumulative effect, for any extracts to be more than those parts easiest to grasp in isolation. I hesitated long over the selections from these two books, being impelled to the choice of one passage or another, at different times, according to mood or the desire to exhibit different aspects. It might have seemed possible to choose 'the best' from among the short stories contained in the volume Dubliners. My choice, as the finest of these stories, would have been The Dead (and I hope that the reader of these selections will have the curiosity to turn next to Dubliners and read that story): but, for one thing, The Dead is of such a length as to have upset the proportions to be observed; and, for another, I believe that the story which I have chosen leads on much more directly to A Portrait of the Artist.

I decided that the best principle of selection by which to make the reader aware of continuity of development between one book and the next, was to take passages in which the author was present either as child or as young man, either as observer or as protagonist. In The Sisters the author is merely observer: but the point of the story would be blunted were it not recognized as having been seen through the eyes of a child--and the first thing to grasp in approaching Joyce's work is an appreciation of the Dublin that he knew, as child and as adolescent, in the way that he knew it. The family party scene from A Portrait, with its bit-

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • London
Publication year:
  • 1942


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