Writer, researcher, translator, critic

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man [London; 1916]


Mostly I'm angry with myself for not having read it when you're supposed to, i.e. in my late teens or early twenties. Now, although I'm still in awe of the musicality of the prose and the remorseless stripping-away of everything that doesn't relate to Stephen Dedalus's consciousness, it's too late for it to have the spiritual, aesthetic, or moral impact it would have had when I was a callow youth, theology-stuffed Catholic, frightened skeptic, and attempted poet myself. The famous (almost) last line, "forge in the smithy of my soul, etc." which I might once have taken earnestly as a sort of inspiration or even (forgive me) aspiration, is in context so clearly the false pomp of an arrogant little twerp (I cannot believe that Joyce meant the complete portrait to be heroic rather than satirical) that I'm a little mad at everyone who's ever repeated it credulously for a hundred years as the key to Joyce's (or worse, their own) art.

Anyway, of course it's a great book. Now to turn to something less incessantly talked-over for ever and ever.

April 1, 2017