The Condemned Playground: Essays: 1927-1944

By Cyril Connolly | Go to book overview

I
THE POSITION OF JOYCE

JAMES JOYCE HAS BROUGHT OUT A NEW BOOK. IT IS A fragment of a longer one, and is called Anna Livia Plurabelle. We are used to the reputations of authors fluctuating from year to year, but Mr. Joyce's also fluctuates from place to place. He is resented in Ireland, neglected in England, admired by a set in America, and idolized by another in France. In every nation there is a general public and a literary public. In Ireland the general public is provincial and priest-ridden. It cannot forgive Joyce his blasphemy nor his contemptuous parodies of Irish jingoism. The other, the smaller public, has chosen escape in a romantic return to the past, characterized by a special lyric note of easy and indefinable melancholy born of self-pity. Joyce is a realist, and out of touch intellectually with that generation. "Michael Roberts remembers forgotten beauty. He presses in his arms the loveliness which has long faded from the world. I desire to press in my arms the loveliness which has not yet come into the world." Thus Joyce's only disciples in Ireland are the young realists of the postrebellion period. In England the literary public is governed by good taste. Cautious as the cenotaph, the critics decide the value of a book in terms of "delicious" and "charming." The general public is equally conservative, and the fate of a book like Ulysses (so hopelessly unpresentable when submitted to the Chelsea canon) is decided in advance. It is in America, where there is a large and less sophisticated general public, and in Paris, where there are a great many young writers anxious to experiment in literary form, that the "Ulysses generation" has grown up.

Mr. Forster, in his lectures on the novel, states perfectly the English attitude to Joyce, the bad bogy-man of letters. Ulysses," he writes, "is a dogged attempt to cover the universe with mud, an inverted Victorianism, an attempt to make coarseness and dirt succeed where sweetness and light failed, a simplification of the human character in the interests of

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The Condemned Playground: Essays: 1927-1944
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xi
  • I - The Position of Joyce 1
  • II - Ninety Years Of Novel-Reviewing 90
  • III - Spring Revolution 174
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