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Showing posts from April 7, 2013


Philip Harvey  The last word in Finnegans Wake is ‘the’, the English definite article. That book is Joyce’s desperate attempt to escape the confines of one language, English, to create some new pan-language best able to express his vision of human existence in time. The results remain contentious and open to dispute and interpretation. There is no end to Joyce’s cyclic explanation of the world and we who live in it. That’s as will be. Yet even though James Joyce invented a kind of Esperanto of imagination to dramatise his perceptions (itself a unique and incredible literary achievement), one of the ironies of Finnegans Wake is that it depends upon English language, grammar, and syntax in order to be intelligible. If Czech was his first language, Finnegans Wake would be similarly dependent on Czech grammar. Ironically, the book ends with the most common word in usage, and I don’t mean ‘okay’, I mean ‘the’. Indeed, Joyce himself explained to an interviewer that ‘the’ was