15 January 2016

James Joyce - Scientist of Letters

...he was absolutely without an equal.

The New Republic's obituary for James Joyce, 1882-1941

by The New Republic

January 20, 1941
Detail of a photo by Gis√®lle Freund
James Joyce died in Switzerland, the last truly neutral country in western Europe. Since his escape from France, he had been living with his family in Zurich—in the same house, we are told, that they occupied in the World War. He was there twenty-six years ago when Romain Rolland, also a refugee in Switzerland, published Above the Battle. But Joyce was not so much above as completely outside the battle. He was working as much as 16 hours a day on the writing of Ulysses, a task that seemed more important to him than the fate of the warring countries. After leaving Ireland in 1904, he never permitted himself to make a statement on any political issue. He was the leading representative in our time, and perhaps in all times, of the theory of literature as a pure art almost

Literature as a pure art approaches the nature of pure science. And Joyce was also the great research scientist of letters, handling words with the same freedom and originality that Einstein handles mathematical symbols. The sounds, patterns, roots, and connotations of words interested him much more than their definite meanings. One might say that he invented a non-Euclidean geometry of language; and that he worked over it with doggedness and devotion, as if in a laboratory far removed from the noises of the street. This does not mean that he neglected to present human beings in his novels. Stephen Dedalus and his father, Leopold and Molly Bloom, even H. C. Earwicker of Finnegans Wake, are figures that will not be forgotten. But they are figures that are analyzed exhaustively in repose rather than being presented in action. And the side of them that held Joyce’s interest was their subconscious—that is, the side that medical scientists like to deal with. Moreover, even the strongest of his characters seem dwarfed by the great apparatus of learning that he brings to bear on them. They are almost like atoms being smashed by a 250-ton cyclotron.

These are some of the reasons why Joyce was not a writer of the same magnitude as Tolstoy or Stendhal or Dickens or any of the great men whose subject was human actions in their social background. In his own field, however, he was absolutely without an equal. There are very few serious novels of the last twenty years that do not show traces of his influence, even if only at third hand. The writers of the world owe him an enormous debt for making discoveries that have opened new horizons even to those who completely disagree with Joyce’s idea of literature. They will miss him all the more because, in the hard years that lie ahead of us, it is doubtful whether any great scientist of letters will have the opportunity to carry on his work. Perhaps there will not even be neutral countries to which they can escape.

Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

Under Milk Wood is a 1954 radio drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, commissioned by the BBC and later adapted for the stage. This film version, Under Milk Wood directed by Andrew Sinclair, was released in 1972. With Richard Burton reprising his role, also featured Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O'Toole, Glynis Johns, Vivien Merchant and other well-known actors, including Ryan Davies as the "Second Voice". It was filmed on location in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, and at Lee International Film Studios, London.

An omniscient narrator invites the audience to listen to the dreams and innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of a fictional small Welsh fishing village Llareggub ("bugger all" backwards).

They include Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, relentlessly nagging her two dead husbands; Captain Cat, reliving his seafaring times; the two Mrs. Dai Breads; Organ Morgan, obsessed with his music; and Polly Garter, pining for her dead lover. Later, the town awakens and, aware now of how their feelings affect whatever they do, we watch them go about their daily business.  

08 January 2016

The Ghosts of the Forest - Dylan

Often I heard strange noises between the dark trees, during my daily walks on the hills around my home town.  It gave me a shock every time. There was no smell and I never saw any creature.
My mother, a believer in the goddog 'Lupus', used to tell me and my two brothers stories about dogs with wings, spirits of  evil hounds, holy bitches, and the like. I clearly remember a story about a enormous hound with red eyes, somewhere in a town called Baskerville. Because of all those stories, I was always afraid to go outside on my own in the dark and I had often bad dreams about it.
Is there more in this world than I can see?

Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Now more than 8 years old, Thomas, one of my brothers, and I have a house and garden of our own. We have two attendants, a human male and female, who have their rooms upstairs. They are very intelligent and often have discussions about all kinds of interesting subjects. They can talk to each other for hours. Listening to them, while I'm resting in my basket, I know now that my mother's stories were just stories, because there is no truth to them at all. She was possibly indoctrinated by her Setteric family and I think that the humans around her were not very helpful either. I heard that our father, a secular Sheeper, had a kind of a scientific education, but he left our mother before we were born, so he could not inform us about the natural world.

One day, a few months ago, on our walk with our male attendant, we heard the noise again and all three of us looked in the direction from where it was coming. 'Look over there', our attendant said, 'two jays, what beautiful birds they are!'
You see, now I know what the noise was. So if you keep your eyes, ears and nose wide open, than you can learn a lot about the real things. Other animals than Homo can be sapiens too, you know!`