Finnegans Wake is everyone’s dream

James Atherton writes

‘As I see FW it is everyone’s dream, the dream of all the living and the dead. Many puzzling features become clear if this is accepted. Obviously we will hear many foreign languages…The Wake never stops: the sentence circles round to become the first and the whole work revolves to reflect the nature of the world of sleeping humanity….
  To my mind, the most revealing statement Joyce ever made about his work was ‘Really it is not I who am writing this crazy book. It is you, and you, and you, and that man over there, and that girl at the next table.’ This is stressed, once you start looking for it, in the Wake itself. It is ‘us’ who are brought back to ‘Howth Castle and Environs’ in the third line of the book…It is easy to miss the ‘we’. Chapter 2 has ‘we are back’ in line 3. In fact all the first chapters use ‘us’ or ‘we’ by the ninth line at the latest – and the sixth chapter ends ‘Semus sumus’. We are Shem. All of us. The phrase ‘us, the real Us’ occurs twice (62.26; 446.36); and when one episode ends it is ‘we’ who are left ‘once more as babies awondering’ (336.16)….The Wake is an event in which ‘the all gianed in with the shoutmost shoviality’ (6.18. You expect it to say ‘They all’ and most people read it as ‘They all’, but it is ‘the all’ that Joyce write: everybody joined in….
    It is the universal mind which Joyce assumes as the identity of the sleeper; he, of course, is writing it all down but everyone else contributes. Sometimes the contributions are those of ‘the misunderstanding minds of the anticollaborators’ (118.25), but they are made all the same….
   One final word about my theory. It may also give the Wake (I say this with some diffidence) a purpose and a message. Joyce is saying that mankind is one. We are ‘humble indivisibles in this grand continuum’ (472.30)….He was an ardent pacifist; he saw the world as a single family. Can we not also see it as one in which it is time the boys grew up and stopped fighting? If so, the Wake is not a ‘crazy book’ but a work of importance for all of us.’

‘The Identity of the SleeperJoyce symposium, Dublin 1967                           (reprinted in A Wake Newslitter, Vol IV No.5).

 

One response to “Finnegans Wake is everyone’s dream

  1. it is time the boys grew up and stopped fighting?
    Q. *Sommes nous* capables?
    “Answer: Semus *sumus*!” (168.13)
    Shame us if not.

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