Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Restored Finnegans Wake

I’ve been meaning to say something about The Restored Finnegans Wake for ages. Instead, here’s a nice piece in the Times Literary Supplement by Gordon Bowker (though I suspect the Beckett anecdote he mentions (“Come in”) is apocryphal). Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon have done an excellent job, and all praise to Penguin for supporting their work. It’s expensive to reset a text (and a text like Finnegans Wake – well, that’s a unique undertaking) and it is wonderful to see the book in a new incarnation.

The revised text makes Joyce’s intentions much clearer – in particular how he plays with different text formats – although my first impression was one of dismay when I saw The Mookse and the Gripes section (one of my favourites) is now set in reduced type (new p.121, old p.152). Still, it would seem that this is what Joyce intended, so I will just have to get used to it.

Of course, resetting the book means the pagination is different too, so all future scholarly works on the Wake will now have to make mention of yet another set of page references! Argh!

Also, as Bowker makes clear, there is another difficulty: an uncertainty as to how this text stands in relation to the standard text; it seems to exist parallel to it, rather than becoming the definitive text in its own right.

Still, to those familiar with Joyce’s masterwork who want to see it with new eyes, I’d highly recommend getting hold of this revised Penguin edition.

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