How does one solve an enigma which seems to encompass the entire universe bounded in a book? By approaching it from different angles. That was exactly the opinion of the young enthusiasts who were asked to give three short presentations. Joyce’s (and consequently, everyone’s) universe is so multifaceted that, when we start exploring it, it seems to enrich our world as well as the fictional universe. Joyce’s books reveal the attitude of that time, the prospects, merits and downsides and if we let them tell us the story of their time, we will see for ourselves how much they differ from the stories of our own time.
Is Leopold Bloom so different from the modern man when he pays such attention to every detail of female attire? Is he only the womanly man of the twenties and only twenties? Do men still glance at a beautifully dressed woman? I believe they do. His ‘fashion gaze’ is anything but different from today’s and we can see it as a precursor of the advancing times.
The other aspect which we shed some light on was Joyce’s interest in banking and insurance. Such minute descriptions of various banking-related affairs could not possibly be without any roots in Joyce’s own experience. Of course, we discovered our stipulation was justified – Joyce kept notes and studied economic books thoroughly just to understand the whole business. Yet another window of possible interpretations was opened when we learned that he was supposed to teach Business English at a local school and that he was just a meticulous student. If we add to that his possible attitude towards studying as an exclusively ludic experience, we get a playful Joyce whose perception of language is clearly reflected in his writing style.
Trieste, Day Five
Obviously, Joyce was not the only writer to play with words and it can be of great importance to include all the possible influences which might have affected Joyce’s way of writing. What would be the first name to cross our minds? Who took English to undreamt heights? Who more than Shakespeare? It is not only us who were stricken by the idea, but also our professor, Laura Pelaschiar, who draw amazing parallels between Shakespeare’s Othello and Joyce’s short story “Eveline”. Did Joyce attempt to outdo the great Bard or just to provide us with an alternative ending? Is it even alternative? It seems that the arising questions are rather numerous (maybe as numerous as the ‘sirens’ which lure Leopold Bloom to change the strict course on his way home), while on the other hand we only have semi-formed answers to them.
Living authors can answer many questions if only they wish to and that was exactly what Hugo Hamilton did when presenting his life story – the story of a child living in Ireland with the father who made him speak only Irish and forbade uttering a word of English in his household and a German mother who had a way of bringing song into a rather gloomy environment. Just as Joyce did, he managed to fly safely by those nets which tried to tie him to the ground and confine him to one place only.
As we sat, perched at the quay of the drowsy city, we realised the beauty of the language which the sea incessantly spoke. Even at that very instant, somewhere out there was a brave Ulysses fighting his way home.