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The Trieste Joyce School - Day 6

Participant Diary, June 25th – July 2nd, 2016

Joyce’s Ireland was a land burdened by a complicated history and stubborn people, but with the happy privilege to be the cradle of so many courageous enthusiasts. An entire generation of poets lived for the ideal of creating a better nation, free and unbiased, open to change and without radical discrimination. They wanted to create soil fit for everyone’s dreams, where people could serve what they deemed important, without the shackles of an imposed authority which was never to be questioned. Such enthusiasts joined the World War I on the side of Great Britain and their poetry reveals an embodiment of broken ideals. Theirs was a path of loss and sacrifice, without gratification. Among such people James Joyce grew up, from such people Stephen Dedalus wants to fly away. His story is the story of a boy turning into a man who cannot do anything that is against his better judgement and, when we read The Portrait, the freedom he craved fills our sails and we are ready to set off. So if anyone poses a question of the value of reading Joyce’s works, that is one readymade answer among many others. In this particular situation, cultural and literary values are in a dialectical position: they do not oppose each other; rather, they are in a constant dialogue with each other - they are complementary. To imagine one without the other would mean to lose a great part of the meaning in Joyce’s books.

Trieste, Day Six

His works easily conquer the Cyclops of the time - their beauty and value is not marred, but rather enhanced by it. Playing with it, they simultaneously play with our language, imagination, but also with the fact that we can sometimes overlook things when reading, so some passages wait for a future, or even present, careful reader who will laugh wholeheartedly at their witticism. For example, invoking ghosts in the chapter entitled ‘Cyclops’ will reveal to us what messages ghosts have for us and to what extent they differ from the ones which Hamlet’s father relayed to Hamlet.

Some of the ghosts we managed to invoke while walking the streets of old-new-eternal Trieste, which revealed to us its old face in a new dress. Brothels, prostitutes, and alehouses of yore materialised themselves before our eyes as we listened to the stories of Joyce’s continuous struggle with illness and drinking habits. This Joyce unveiled the incessant flame of life which burned inside him, driving him to write even when he knew he only had six months left to live. We should all be aware that people, writers in particular, should not be glorified, because then we fall in a trap of deceptive chimeras. Writers are geniuses with an extraordinary inclination towards telling stories through which humans become eternal. However, their bodies are as frail as anyone’s (even more so).

The only difference is the trail they leave behind themselves; heir trail has the power to save so many others by the shining glory of the revealed truth.

The photo is courtesy of Danijela Mitrović.


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