Cultural Institution Blesok • Established 1998
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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 44 | volume VIII | September-October, 2005



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 44September-October, 2005


p. 1
Mitja Čander

    At a first glance, Joyce is a repulsive icon of modern literature. The academic circles often use his life and work as a privileged polygon for that part of erudition, which those favouring banality call pedantry and hair-splitting. His inheritance is wrapped in thick layers of written sheets, which often report about commas and other punctuation marks. Consequently, his works inspire honest people with deference, even with awe. In Joyce-land every stone is marked and put on the maps by all possible surveyors, who are tying to prove the exclusive match between their hypotheses and his texts. However, this transparency of the harsh landscape can have interesting effects. A curious eye, frightened by the strictly controlled zones, often sets off to the more obscure corners, which might otherwise remain deep in the shadow of anonymity. One of them is Joyce’s letters to Nora Barnacle, the woman whom he – then aged twenty-two – first met on 16 June 1904 in Dublin, and who accompanied him through his entire life. The letters, mostly written during his young years in Trieste, tell the utterly intimate story of a young intellectual, who was searching for a unique personal artistic expression, and an audience for it. So – what started on that fatal 16 June 1904, on Bloomsday, the mythological day of the later gigantic Romanesque research – the famous Ulysses?

* * *

    Their first encounter was totally accidental. Joyce first saw Nora on 10 June 1904 in Nassau Street in Dublin, and addressed her right away. Obviously, his appearance was unusual enough for the newly fledged chambermaid to take him for a Swedish sailor. He talked her into meeting him on 14 June, but the actual encounter took place on the infamous day. The opening – though scarce in volume – but important part of their correspondence is from the early phase of the long-lasting love relationship. Joyce took advantage of the epistolary medium for his self-presentation. His was the experience of drifting dissatisfaction. As if he were constantly pursued by a dislike for the rigid society imbued by petty bourgeois and Christian beliefs, unbending and cemented in the eternal repetition of outdated mental and behavioural patterns. His failed attempts at studying medicine, law and music, the sorry waning of theatrical ambitions, the domestic shambles and many other things to him seemed proof of his incompatibility with the surrounding world. I cannot enter the

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