Ulysses and Nietzsche

Just started reading James Joyce’s Ulysses yesterday (it had to happen one day, Jorn). I’m about six chapters in (two chapters into the second part) and surprised to find it not too hard going. Plenty of unintelligible neologisms, but they don’t interrupt the already strange prose-poetry flow. Plenty of intriguing throwaways that presumably hint at things we do not yet know about Mulligan and Daedalus. For a book accalimed as the novel of the 20th century, not surprising to find one or two wonderful turns of phrase.

Most intriguing are the Nietzschean Superman and Zarathustra references. Set in 1904, written between 1906 and publication in 1922, there are no references to Nietzsche in the copious introductory bibliographical and biographical notes (I’m reading the Paris / Shakespeare 1922 text published by OUP). I didn’t think Nietzsche had been translated into English at that time ? Did Joyce read the original German, whilst living in Austria ?

Another intriguing point is that the chapter naming plan (implicit only in the 1922 text, but explicit in earlier drafts) includes a chapter “Scylla and Charybdis” – the title used by James Willis in his essay on the pitfalls (whirlpool) of rationalism prompted by his reading of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Rather naively I guess, I was also rather surprised at all the references to the politics and war of Irish independence.

Reading it in the Pickerell, as usual, a couple of English students were interested to know if it was my first read of it and how I was finding it, given that it was on their reading list and they hadn’t started it yet. More difficult to understand was why was I reading it given that I didn’t have to.

5 thoughts on “Ulysses and Nietzsche”

  1. neither literature/philosophy nor music are areas of any expertise of mine, but I’m half way through reading “Nietzsche’s Footfalls” – I cannot remember when I was so immediately gripped/stunned/impressed by such a masterpiece. Not even sure how I came by this “tryptich” (it’s been on a bookshelf at home for a couple of years) .. there are a few trivial errors in the text, but SO trivial! Marvellous contribution to posthumous biography(?). Your remarks on Joyce were years ago, and I’m sure you now realize Nietzsche in English pre-dates your 1922 – I have some of the 1911 set! For the “Footfalls”, David, thank you!

  2. Thanks for the comment, I didn’t know Nietzsche’s dates for first publication in English, I was just speculating / guessing. Either way it’s clear Joyce had read him before 1922.

    I must look out the “Footfalls”.

    (BTW you were not under the misapprehension that I was David Pollard, were you ? I do corrrespond and share a blog roll with “a” Dave Pollard, but quite a different one I’d guess. I’m Ian Glendinning.)

  3. Bob Potter,
    Thanks for the kind comments on the book. Much appreciated!

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