The text of the Finnegans Wake extract (from ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’) that Joyce reads is given at the bottom of this page. You can listen to the track in full with a registered Spotify account, which comes for free.
̶ Are you French?
̶ Half French.
̶ And what’s the other half?
̶ Swiss. My father’s French, my mother’s Swiss.
̶ Suisse romande?
̶ Yes, but I live in Zürich.
̶ Ah! I was in Zürich last year. What a city! A lake, a mountain and two rivers are its treasures. Yssel that the Limmat?
̶ Yssel that the Limmat?
̶ Ah! That’s a good one.
̶ It’s from Finnegans Wake. James Joyce. The greatest writer in the English language!
̶ And Samuel Beckett, writing about Joyce’s Work in Progress, said, ‘His writing is not about something; it is that something itself’. Do you see the difference?
̶ Yes. Music.
̶ What’s Work in Progress?
̶ Finnegans Wake. The dream book.
̶ I’ve heard it’s a nightmare. To read.
̶ Do you know there’s a James Joyce Foundation in Zürich?
̶ Yes. I was there last year. I heard a lecture on Nora Barnacle.
̶ Who’s she?
̶ She was Joyce’s wife.
̶ What a name!
̶ Yeah. Joyce’s father used to say, ‘With a name like that, she’ll never leave him’!
̶ A clinging barnacle!
̶ Except that it was he who clung to her. She was an amazing woman. ‘Her image had passed into his soul forever.’
̶ ‘Her eyes had called him and his soul had leapt at the call.’
̶ I see.
̶ This is Cassiopeia. Can you find it in the sky?
̶ I think so. It’s the only constellation I know well.
Scanning the inexhaustible hierophany that seems to be absorbing me, I find where to look and bring the binoculars to my eyes.
̶ Yes, I see it.
̶ You do know it well, Sprague. And how did that come about?
I lay down the binoculars.
̶ ‘His shadow lay over the rocks as he bent, ending. Why not endless till the farthest star? Darkly they are there behind this light, darkness shining in the brightness, delta of Cassiopeia, worlds.’
̶ James Joyce?
̶ Yes. That’s what kicked my love for the English language into overdrive. That was when I understood that with sound and rhythm, you can create a world. I’d wanted to do it in music, but I knew I didn’t have the talent. So I chose the next best thing—words.
‘What bitter’s love but yurning, what sour lovemutch but a bref burning till shee that drawes dothe smoake retourne?’ Lying on the sofa in our suite while you’re out shopping, I hone my wit on the stone of Finnegans Wake. On cue, you return just when I get to Issy’s interrogation: ‘Of I be leib in the immoralities? O, you mean the strangle for love and the sowiveall of the prettiest?’ You’re used to my laughing out loud at the Wake, so you simply say:
Glossing ‘It’s Dracula’s nightout. For creepsake don’t make a flush!’, I call out:
̶ Did you find what you were looking for?
̶ I did, my darling.
On cat’s paws you’ve come to me; I turn around and I’m transfixed …
Well, you know or don’t you kennet or haven’t I told you every telling has a taling and that’s the he and the she of it. Look, look, the dusk is growing. My branches lofty are taking root. And my cold cher’s gone ashley. Fieluhr? Filou! What age is at? It saon is late. ‘Tis endless now senne eye or erewone last saw Waterhouse’s clogh. They took it asunder, I hurd thum sigh. When will they reassemble it? O, my back, my back, my bach! I’d want to go to Aches-les-Pains. Pingpong! There’s the Belle for Sexaloitez! And Concepta de Send-us-pray! Pang! Wring out the clothes! Wring in the dew! Godavari, vert the showers! And grant thaya grace! Aman. Will we spread them here now? Ay, we will. Flip! Spread on your bank and I’ll spread mine on mine. Flep! It’s what I’m doing. Spread! It’s churning chill. Der went is rising. I’ll lay a few stones on the hostel sheets. A man and his bride embraced between them. Else I’d have folded and sprinkled them only. And I’ll tie my butcher’s apron here. It’s suety yet. The strollers will pass it by. Six shifts, ten kerchiefs, nine to hold to the fire and one for the code, the convent napkins twelve, one baby’s shawl. Good mother Jossiph knows, she said. Whose head? Mutter snores? Deataceas! Wharnow are aile her childer, say? In kingdome gone or power to come or gloria be to them farther? Allalivial, allalluvial! Some here, more no more, more again lost alla stranger. I’ve heard tell that same brooch of the Shannons was married into a family in Spain. And all the Dunders de Dunnes in Markland’s Vineland beyond Brendan’s herring pool takes number nine in yangsee’s hats. And one of Biddy’s beads went bobbing till she rounded up lost histereve with a marigold and a cobbler’s candle in a side strain of a main drain of a manzinahurries off Bachelor’s Walk. But all that’s left to the last of the Meaghers in the loup of the years prefixed and between is one kneebuckle and two hooks in the front. Do you tell me that now? I do in troth. Orara por Orbe and poor Las Animas! Ussa, Ulla, we’re umbas all! Mezha, didn’t you hear it a deluge of times, ufer and ufer, respund to spond? You deed, you deed! I need, I need! It’s that irrawaddyng I’ve stoke in my aars. It all but husheth the lethest zswound.
Oronoko! What’s your trouble? Is that the great Finnleader himself in his joakimono on his statue riding the high horse there forehengist? Father of Otters, it is himself! Yonne there! Isset that? On Fallareen Common? You’re thinking of Astley’s Amphitheayter where the bobby restrained you making sugarstuck pouts to the ghostwhite horse of the Peppers. Throw the cobwebs from your eyes, woman, and spread your washing proper. It’s well I know your sort of slop. Flap! Ireland sober is Ireland stiff. Lord help you, Maria, full of grease, the load is with me! Your prayers. I sonht zo! Madammangut! Were you lifting your elbow, tell us, glazy cheeks, in Conway’s Carrigacurra canteen? Was I what, hobbledyhips? Flop! Your rere gait’s creakorheuman bitts your butts disagrees. Amn’t I up since the damp dawn, marthared mary allacook, with Corrigan’s pulse and varicoarse veins, my pramaxle smashed, Alice Jane in decline and my oneeyed mongrel twice run over, soaking and bleaching boiler rags, and sweating cold, a widow like me, for to deck my tennis champion son, the laundryman with the lavandier flannels? You won your limpopo limp fron the husky hussars when Collars and Cuffs was heir to the town and your slur gave the stink to Carlow. Holy Scamander, I sar it again! Near the golden falls. Icis on us! Seints of light! Zezere! Subdue your noise, you hamble creature! What is it but a blackburry growth or the dwyergray ass them four old codgers owns. Are you meanam Tarpey and Lyons and Gregory? I meyne now, thank all, the four of them, and the roar of them, that drayes that stray in the mist and old Johnny MacDougal along with them. Is that the Poolbeg flasher beyant, pharphar, or a fireboat coasting nyar the Kishtna or a glow I behold within a hedge or my Garry come back from the Indes? Wait till the honeying of the lune, love! Die eve, little eve, die! We see that wonder in your eye. We’ll meet again, we’ll part once more. The spot I’ll seek if the hour you’ll find. My chart shines high where the blue milk’s upset. Forgivemequick, I’m going! Bubye! And you, pluck your watch, forgetmenot. Your evenlode. So save to jurna’s end! My sights are swimming thicker on me by the shadows to this place. I sow home slowly now by own way, moyvalley way. Towy I too, rathmine.