Thursday, 23 February 2017

Frank Delaney

The final episode

Like Joyceans everywhere, I was shocked and saddened to learn yesterday of the sudden death of Frank Delaney. Since 2010, his weekly Ulysses podcast has been our regular Saturday morning lie-in listening. After seven years, Frank was almost a third of the way through, and he was looking forward to continuing it for another twenty years at least.

Listening to the podcasts, you could see why NPR described him as 'the most eloquent man in the world'. He seemed to be talking without notes, yet always fluently, and quoting from memory from Shakespeare, Coleridge, Browning, the Latin mass and assorted Irish songs (which he would often sing). In one episode he even gave us a rap, which has been animated by dizkoteck on youtube. He was also a great dramatic reader, with a range of accents – using a Cork accent for Ned Lambert and Simon Dedalus, and a Derry one for Richard Best.

Frank was a very partisan reader, strongly on the side of Stephen and Bloom, and sensitive to slights against them. With Bloom, he found antisemitism in seemingly innocent exchanges, even accusing Jack Power and Davy Byrne. He disliked Buck Mulligan, seeing him as an enemy of Stephen from the very beginning. So, when Mulligan borrows Stephen's handkerchief to wipe his razor, Frank responded:

Frank Delaney with his pocket square
'Now admittedly it wasn't the cleanest handkerchief in the world, but that's not the point. I've been wearing pocket squares in my jackets since I was twenty years old, and if anyone did that to me, there'd be a fire on the moon, that's for sure! Such an invasive act.'

I loved the way he would always bring in his own memories of Dublin or of his childhood in Tipperary.  The phrase 'Bad Cess!' in episode 362 inspired a digression on swearing.

'Dublin was full of swearword euphemisms, my favourite being 'James's Street Christ Church and the Coombe!'... used instead of 'Jesus Mary and Joseph' and usually shortened to 'James's Street!''

Bloom's thoughts on watching communicants receiving the eucharist ('they don't seem to chew it only swallow it down') brought this memory:

'When I was a child of seven being taught how to take communion for my first communion, and practising with disks cut out of an ice-cream wafer, it was impressed upon me and upon all of us that we must never never never chew the host because it's the body of Christ. We had to swallow it whole, which wasn't always easy, because it always, it seemed to me, stuck to the roof of the mouth.'


After every twelfth podcast, Frank put up a 'Baker's Dozen' episode, a more general Joycean discussion. Here he is in episode 240a, talking brilliantly about how to read Finnegans Wake:

'Now we come to Finnegans Wake. Ha! Ha! (sigh) Two notes here, one minor one major. The minor note - there's no apostrophe in 'Finnegans'. We've all made that error, but you'll never make it again after I tell you that it is not a title with anything possessive in it. It's an exhortation to everybody by the name of Finnegan to wake up: 'Finnegans WAKE!'

The major note, Finnegans Wake is not a novel....No! No! Finnegans Wake is a poem, it's a symphony by a modern atonal composer. It's an assembly of language tying together floating evanescent ideas. It's a long rapid eye movement dream, it's a marathon technicoloured musing that might have been induced by mescaline or LSD or some other mind-bending substance. It's a seemingly reckless careening through English and other languages. Yet you know that every word has been considered in this hodge-podge pot-pourri of miscellaneous and not always aligned thoughts and ideas, in this flamboyant and brilliant linguistic exercise that mimics the intensely illustrated pages of a medieval Irish manuscript. It's a massive rap, as in rapper, as in street talk, as in lingo, as in the heat of the day and the cool of the night captured dreamily and melodiously in words of all shapes and sizes. It's a mirage. 

So 'How do I read it?' I hear you ask. Answer, don't!  Do not read FW. Feel it. Dip into a page, any page, and if you find something that lights up your synapses, and you will find lots and lots. Enjoy it. Coleridge said that every great and original writer must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished, as Coleridge himself did in trumps....Joyce had already done that with his previous books. Here he does so incandescently. I love Finnegans Wake, but it's a private love, almost a guilty secret. I read it to myself aloud, knowing that I can never ever do it justice.  And I don't follow it page by page. I dip. 

And when all its investigations have done, and when someone comes along and devotes forty or fifty or sixty years to opening out Finnegans Wake in full access, as I am trying to do with Ulysses, well then ladies and gentlemen we shall have available to us one of man's greatest works of art. I so hope that happens in my lifetime.  I so hope it's going on now. And I so hope we'll get to it during my life. And my life has to last another twenty-five years because of the Ulysses podcast. So my final advice in a single sentence is, read Finnegans Wake on any page at any time, and listen to it. Feel the words in your mouth and smile. But above all else: feel it in your spirit.'

Episode 240a 'Reading Joyce' 16 January 2015

PQ has written about this passage on his excellent Wake blog, coincidentally called Finnegans, Wake!

I still have episodes 365-8 left to listen to, and it will be so unbearably sad to hear the final one.


Friday, 10 February 2017

Last Memories of Joyce

Here's another quotation from Nino Frank, describing the last bleak period in Joyce's life:

Joyce in 1938 by Gisele Freund
'Harnessed to an inhuman task, this man had been leading an hallucinatory and raw-nerved life for a long time. By a supreme effort during the years 1938 and 1939 he had finally completed Finnegans Wake. This was an event of the utmost importance for himself, but not for the so-called civilised world, which at that time was otherwise occupied....On the day when he held the first copies in his hands, the continent was crossing the threshold of night; from then on, all was lost in the inane noise of the first cannonades.
   The last stage of Joyce's life was therefore to be a time when the arrow shot from his bow disappeared into a derisive void. When the self relaxes after such a long effort, it no longer offers any resistance to the forces of destruction. The avidness with which James Joyce sought some attention for his work was without any doubt the cry of a life in danger. I was informed that, his daughter still mentally unbalanaced, his daughter-in-law in turn had to be hospitalized. It was as if around the old hero – I have mentioned Oedipus as well as Don Quixote: doesn't Finnegans Wake seem to be man's answer to the sphinx? – some obscure vengeance of the gods was falling.'

Nino Frank, 'The Shadow That Had Lost Its Man' in Portraits of the Artist in Exile ed Potts.

Here's a similar memory of that time, from Georges Belmont, in a 1982 account translated by Anthony Burgess:

'In my final view of him – the most precious of all – at the end of February 1940, I left him at about two in the morning. I was taking the dawn train. Back in Paris I remember telling some friends that I’d never see him again – it was all over. And I wasn’t thinking merely of the inevitable separation of war – I was thinking of Goethe after Faust Part II, Wagner after Parsifal, of the death – the most natural of deaths – which seizes the great creators after they’ve said all they have to say.
In that little hotel at Saint-Gérand-le-Puy, when I asked him if he was working at something, he replied with a smile and a sigh – “I’m adding commas to Finnegans Wake.” Then, after one of his long silences, he laughed and said: “If I write anything new, it will be something very very simple.” It was the best way, the quietest and most resigned way, of telling me that he’d write no more.'

Joyce with Paul Léon
I was reminded me of John Naughton's 1991 interview with Alexis Léon, the son of Paul Léon, Joyce's unpaid assistant while he was writing the Wake.

'My main memory of Mr Joyce is of a very quiet man. He used to come and sit, with long periods of silence, in his favourite armchair in our living room, and he and my father would talk together or would be working on some papers and so on. Like my father, he was a man of great courtesy and as I grew a little bit older I thought of them as quiet beacons of civilisation in a world that was very much in upheaval – havens of grace perhaps, under pressure....
  Why was he so devoted to Mr Joyce? Well, first of all, he admired him. And I think he felt he should help because after all Mr Joyce was labouring under many disadvantages and doing something which had never been attempted before....He was breaking the bounds of language and bringing into literature a whole stream of coinsciousness....
  The last memory I have comes from St Gérand-le-Puy during the exodus from Paris. I remember my father and Mr Joyce sitting or taking walks, very often without talking, just like that.
  Once, while I was dashing around on a bicycle, I found them sitting on a tree trunk looking at something. Joyce pointed to an earwig that was coming out of a log and he said 'Ah, here's HCE, here comes HCE' – H.C. Earwicker, one of the characters of Finnegans Wake. They were both watching it and they truly thought it was a sign.
  That is my last memory of Joyce. He then went back to Zurich and my father and I left for Paris. The war did its work and both men died. But I have never forgotten those three or four years, when I came close to someone who left his mark on this century.'   

'Arm in Arm With A Literary Legend', The Observer, 13 January 1991 
I've found another interview with Alexis Léon in the Irish Times, where he says:

'(Joyce) was courteous but very silent. He was good with children. His eyesight may have been impaired, but he had an ear open to the world....In writing Finnegans Wake, Joyce was breaking the bonds of language. He would check ways of saying things with my father, who could speak seven languages.'
In 1941, Paul Léon risked his life to save Joyce's papers, left behind in his flat in occupied Paris:

'Paul and a handy man we sometimes employed made two trips with a pushcart, and it was only later I realized how distasteful entering someone else's home and rummaging through private possessions had been to my husband. He told me he hoped he had saved everything of importance, and I suggested that he go once more and make sure. Paul looked at me very steadily and said very gently, 'Do you realize what you are saying?''   

Lucie Noel (Léon), quoted by Danis Rose, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, p 4

It's thanks to those two trips with a pushcart that we can read Joyce's notebooks and manuscripts in the National Library of Ireland and the University of Buffalo.

Léon was arrested by the Gestapo in October 1941, and murdered in Auschwitz the following April.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Anna Livia Plurabella Part 2

The story of the Italian translation of Anna Livia Plurabelle has a villain – the journalist Ettore Settanni, who stole the co-authorship credit from Nino Frank and mutilated the text.  

'Settanni writes me from Capri that he thought it well to soften certain passages. Please obtain a copy of the review and note the variants in the margin. In that way I will have our original text. Settanni writes me that your name does not appear for reasons you will understand at once. But it will not always be kept hidden I trust.'

Joyce to Nino Frank 13 March 1940 Letters III p 468-9
Nino Frank

The reason for Frank not being credited was that he had been exiled from Italy for anti-fascist activity – ironically, by Curzio Malaparte, the editor of the very review in which the translation was published. Malaparte had been a prominent early fascist, but later became an opponent of both Hitler and Mussolini. In 1932, he had been stripped of his fascist membership and sent into internal exile on Lipari. His offence was writing a book in which he called Hitler 'a woman'! (Hitler: Une Femme)

Curzio Malaparte, who called Hitler a woman!
Settanni, who was ignorant of the original text being translated, took it upon himself 'to soften certain passages', without consulting Joyce. He also changed the text of Joyce's letter (quoted in the previous blog) when he pubished it in the same journal:

'The April issue is publishing a letter I wrote to Settanni. The text shows that the third person singular pronouns have been changed to second person plural pronouns!  By the way, did I ever lend you At Swim Two Birds by F.O'Brien? I am only asking, not accusing you.'

Joyce to Nino Frank, 9 April 1940  Letters III p474-5

The pronoun changes were made was because, in 1938, had Mussolini banned the use of 'Lei' replacing it with 'voi' in formal speech.

(I've included that last bit because it's the only independent confirmation I can find of Joyce's love of this book – which still carries an unsourced approving quote from him: 'That's a real writer, with the true comic spirit')

Here's Nino Frank on the changes made to 'Anna Livia Plurabella' by Settanni:

'A dozen slight modifications, most of them absurd, had been made in our text – I mention only a particular sentence in which, by means of puns, Joyce inserted the names of four counties of Ireland: Derry, Cork, Dublin, and Galway; the newcomer changed the words and spoiled the puns.'
Nino Frank, 'The Shadow That Had Lost Its Man', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile ed Potts, p 202  

So this is one passage 'softened' by Settanni:
'And his derry's own drawl and his corksown blather and his doubling stutter and his gullaway swank.' 197.04

Joyce and Frank translated this as:

'Un ghigno derriso del corcontento, ma chiazze galve dal cervel debolino'

Settanni had no idea what was going on here, so he changed it. 

Back to Nino Frank:

'Furthermore the text was presented as the work of Settanni himself, my name having completely disappeared; the Italian wrote that I 'would understand.'
 His reasons were doubly good: for more than ten years I had been a literary fuoriuscito*, and it happened that I owed my very exile to the hate of that very Malaparte – it dated from his 'ultra' days (To finish with Settanni, I will add that these reasons no longer existed around 1955, when he republished the text, still omitting my name. He was later forced to rectify the error). Yet Joyce seemed somewhat troubled the day he informed me of the intrigue...'

*One exiled from Italy for political reasons. 

Yes, in 1955, Settanni published James Joyce e La Prima Versione Italiana del Finnegan's (sic) Wake, (Venice: Cavalliino) which includes a reminiscence in which he claimed to have worked on the translation with Joyce!

This morning I discovered the typescript of Joyce and Frank's translation online on the National Library of Ireland's wonderful website. Although this is the original typescript, it's described as an 'Italian translation by James Joyce, Nino Frank and Ettore Settanni.'