ULYSSES is a Bank

That day Mr. Bloom was worried that he might not be able to pay off Mr. Joyce from whom he had borrowed a large sum to celebrate and buy stuff  for the upcoming Bloom’sday and then we calmed him down and said that nobody pays that man back he doesn’t mind he’s a nice fellow to borrow from and you don’t know how great many people  have stolen from his fat purse and never returned a penny hey here this guy Suman Mukherjee comes up with his list lend your ears to him…

 

What do you think would have happened if Samuel Richardson and James Joyce ever met by some miracle? Samuel Richardson, who gave birth to English novel and James Joyce, who murdered it. Probably they would have challenged each other in a duel. That would have not been very nice. We would have missed one of the greatest bankers of the world. Banker? Yes. After finishing Joyce’s ULYSSES, your mind drifts through many frenzied thoughts. In a sudden bout of madness I have chosen to call him Mr. Banker instead of Mr. Novelist. Why so?  He would be judged as the last person on earth to start a bank if anyone knows about the financial problem that never left his side. But what I am talking about is a bank for books, for the books to come.

As a precocious intellectual James Joyce would have been an idol to the nouve riche entrepreneurs of our developing nation. ULYSSES would be an exemplary start-up in our age. Suppose you are writing a novel. You are running short of ideas. Your work is lacking the charm. It does not seem unique enough. Borrow. Borrow from ULYSSES. Zero interest. No EMI. A novel of such dimension will never disappoint you. All crazy tricks, all mad instruments, all trifles, all serious debates – all compressed within two covers. Years after years, ULYSSES had been a source of inspiration to major writers all over the world. Some were inspired, some were influenced and some imitated. My poor self is not much of a genuine reader yet I have readied a list of five books which I have read, books that carried on the legacy of Joycean techniques…

 

THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco:

Who hasn’t heard about the famous Italian author Umberto Eco and ever gathering praise of his debut novel? But note that Eco had been a famous Joycean scholar who authored numerous essays and articles on Joyce and had enriched the field of academics with his valuable research works.

name of the rose
Book Cover : Amazon

In the post-script of his novel Eco had claimed, “ULYSSES may have been an unconscious model, because of its structure rigidly bound by the hours of the day; but another was THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, with its mountainous, sanative situation, where so many conversations could take place.”

If Dublin were to be completely destroyed ever, it would have been reconstructed brick by brick from the pages of ULYSSES. The abbey in Eco’s novel can be rebuilt easily in a similar fashion. One who has read Eco’s novel would surely recall that the calculated conversations between the characters are almost mathematically measured. Time and space are combined in perfect concinnity. Though ULYSSES seems unruly on the surface, a great number of complex patterns are well at play beneath the mattress. Eco’s detective eyes didn’t fail to watch the subtle game and he learned to play it in his own ground.

 

THE LONELY LONDONERS by Sam Selvon:

In the sophomore year of my college, a chat with a senior spilled the beans that there is a big fat book by a crazy Irish guy where the last fifty pages are completely devoid of punctuations hence unintelligible and the rest of book is no better than that. Until that moment, I had this stupid, absurd, unreasonable idea that literature is all about stories which are pretty good understandable. What about this book? This would surely cook my brain. But no. Molly’s monologue, which runs for fifty pages, is the most wonderful piece I have ever read. That is the most legible part of the novel (Well, that is my opinion!). And since that, I have discovered that one can do away with punctuations while writing and achieve great results in the experiment. One such discovery was centered on a long chapter in Sam Selvon’s THE LONELY LONDONERS which didn’t have a single comma or full-stop or anything. Those who haven’t read it, missed out big. Here is one such passage, brace your sides:

Lonely Londoners
Book cover : Amazon

“Oh what a time it is when summer come to the city and all them girls throw away heavy winter coat and wearing light summer frocks so you could see the legs and shapes that was hiding away from the cold blasts and you could coast a lime in the park and negotiate ten shillings or a pound with the sports as the case may be or else they have a particular bench near the Hyde Park Corner that they call the Play Around Section where you could go and sit with one of them what a time summer is because you bound to meet the boys coasting lime in the park and you could go walking through the gardens and see all them pretty pieces of skin taking suntan and how the old geezers like sun they would sit on the benches and smile everywhere you turn the English people smiling isn’t it a lovely day as if the sun burn away all the tightness and strain that was in their faces for the winter and on a nice day every manjack and his brother going to the park with his girl and laying down on the green grass and making love…”

I told you already. Selvon takes this trick to a whole new level where you feel as if the commas were never there. He creates a magic and a fortune. All borrowed from Jimmy!

 

THE BLUEST EYE by Toni Morrison:

This is undoubtedly one of the best novels that I have read so far. Do not read Toni Morrison to cross-check whether she was helping herself with Joycean tools or not but to discover a different reality to be found nowhere else. In the beginning of most of the chapters there I found peculiar headings in capital letters. That seemed quite strange at first! Those were incomplete sentences without any punctuations and spaces between the words. Often the meanings have been deliberately distorted to puzzle the senses thouroughly. Here is one such excerpt:

bluest eye
Book cover : Amazon

HEREISTHEFAMILYMOTHERFATHER

DICKANDJANETHEYLIVEINTHEGREE

NANDWHITEHOUSETHEYAREEVERYH

 

All such experiments with language are indebted to Joyce. Trust me, the Joycean logic of flexible language can unsettle your nerves. But you would enjoy it like a tequila shot!

 

 

UNTOUCHABLE by Mulk Raj Anand:

Few of us have been acquainted with the fact that Mulk Raj Anand had been associated with the celebrated Bloomsbury group for a brief period of time. He returned to his

untouchable
Book cover: Amazon

country soaked in the high modernist trend that flooded the European scene in the 20s. Why could not there be an Indian novel in the form of ULYSSES? He tried his hands in it. One routine day in a person’s life. That’s the target. Since Gandhi’s influence was heavy on him; he began it by placing an ‘untouchable’ at the center. Two unthinkable things at the same time. And it worked. When I read that novel years ago, it seemed dull. I could not find the magic until I revisited it recently. The Joycean technique was all bare in front of me. But alas! Today, Anand’s name is not well-pronounced among the young readers who find him less classy and back-dated.

 

HAZAAR CHURASHIR MAA (MOTHER OF 1084) by Mahasweta Devi:

I read this timeless classic just after I was introduced to the concept of ‘stream of consciousness’ by my professors. What a fashionable name! Quite obviously it appealed to me. Though notable Bengali authors of early 2oth century were acquainted with Joyce’s works, such trials were hardly notified. Once I came across a wish-list of books prepared by Manik Bandopadhyay and to my astonishment, there I found the name of ULYSSES among other longish titles of books on communism.

mother of 1084
Book cover from  Amazon

A mother bereaved of her dear son undergoes such multitude of torments that one can hardly express in words. Mahasweta Devi’s novel efforts to create a strategic language, expressing the ever-changing motions of thoughts in a deeper level. It results in producing a typically complex design of an anxious mind. But the stream is interrupted, again and again by the philistine surroundings. The conscious mind of the mother slowly approaches the unconscious through a benumbing pain as she is continuously reminded of her dead son by the void of his absence. But there is a major difference. The Joycean world is crowded by the routine presence; the world of this helpless mother is emptied to the last drop. Despite the difference, the shadowy presence of Joyce cannot be overlooked in the beauty of the expressions and the taut integrity of the novel.

 

Title art by Suman Mukherjee

NEXT POST ON 11th JUNE

 

 

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