The Joycean Monologue - George C. Sandulescu
The Joycean Monologue
George C. Sandulescu
All novelists—except one—write stories. Almost everybody agrees that, in the absence of incidents that happen to a hero, and whose order creates suspense, we can hardly talk about novels. The one exception to this rule was, of course, James Joyce. He short-circuited both story and language. He used, instead, a complex mysterious tool, which wrote directly in our minds, our bodies, and our hearts. All his characters were actually one, in the end: they were all Joyce himself. His incidents—story or no story—were, again, Joyce’s own. Everything Joyce ever wrote was part of the ONE book of his life, which began on Candlemas Day...
George Sandulescu published The Joycean Monologue in 1979. It will soon be a hundred years since Ulysses was published. George Sandulescu’s criticism of Joyce is a plea to look for Joyce’s secret in his novel.
The Joycean Monologue refuses to follow the remark Joyce allegedly made to one of his translators: ‘I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.’ These words come very close to what T. S. Eliot, Joyce’s contemporary, meant when he stated, ‘Poetry can communicate before it is understood.’
George Sandulescu’s study has one major point to make: the reader must forget about answers—he must simply question the words. One key to meaning is the cover the author chose for The Joycean Monologue. That cover suggests, among other things, Brancusi’s second portrait of Joyce. Brancusi—the Romanian Paris-man, whom Joyce knew well. They both had trouble with the Courts of Law in much the same way, over values in Art...
That image also suggests the circular Paris arrondissements, which Joyce knew well. Out of those circles, Mallarmé’s words gush forth in syllables mixed up in a typically Joycean order, an order that resists understanding: ‘… li-sa-nt au li-vr-e de lu-i-mê-me…’—which means in English ‘reading the book of himself’. These words appear in Episode Nine of Joyce’s book.
Brancusi’s second portrait of Joyce is, in fact, a prolongation of Mallarmé’s words. He pictures Joyce as a spiral of the internal ear: the Romanian-born artist tried to represent the Irish-born novelist—whose eyes very nearly failed him—listening to himself, en écoutant le livre de lui-même.
Mallarmé wrote these words while referring to Hamlet, in 1896. They surfaced in Ulysses in 1922. We find them again, in 1979, on the cover of a critical book republished by Contemporary Literature Press in 2010. Mallarmé’s words have become in this book of criticism the definition of Joyce’s interior monologue. G. Sandulescu’s cover for his book on Ulysses leads to the critic’s website—
http://sandulescu. perso. monaco. mc/
—whose motto is Mallarmé’s statement: ‘Tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre.’ To Joyce, everything led to the book, to his Joycean Monologue.
We learn from this critical guide to a novel which is as immediate as life itself that Joyce’s focus may not have been on Bloom, but on Stephen, after all. But the critic himself took up and enlarged upon this thought in a subsequent volume that he published in 1987, on the Language of the Devil and on the Joycean archetype in Finnegans Wake.
George Sandulescu’s critical attitude unveils, and yet preserves, Joyce’s secret—which secret the critic makes his own. He handles Joyce’s silence with intellectual emotional cunning.
George Sandulescu probes a ‘devilish’ text with tools of his own making, tools which are mysterious, forceful and not within everybody’s reach. He teaches the reader that, before finding out Joyce’s secret, he must become Joyce himself. (Lidia Vianu, 2015)
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