I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Rebellion of the Intellect

Rebellion of the Intellect

David Blake Knox
At the start of the present millennium, the editorial board at Random House published a list of the hundred most important novels written in the twentieth century. The board included such distinguished writers and critics as Gore Vidal, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, William Styron and John Richardson. There was little surprise at their number one choice: James Joyce’s Ulysses. What may have been more unexpected was that another book by Joyce occupied the number three position. It was his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Perhaps, there was no need for surprise: the Portrait has also received worldwide critical acclaim. It is the most widely read of Joyce’s works, and there are currently more than a hundred editions of the book in English alone. It has, of course, also been translated into scores of other languages, and has proved highly influential in the development of modern fiction. Even its title has had an impact on other work – apart from Dylan Thomas’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, there have been Portraits of a Young Ape, a Young Woman, a Young Gamer, and even a Young Entrepreneur. By the time he wrote the Portrait, Joyce had already published Dubliners, his collection of short stories. His work had first been drawn to the attention of the American poet Ezra Pound by WB Yeats. Pound was greatly impressed and offered to help ensure that successive chapters of Joyce’s novel would be published in the avant-garde literary journal The Egotist. The complete novel was finally published in New York one hundred years ago ‑ on December 29th, 1916. The Portrait had previously been turned down by both English and Irish publishers. Edward Garnet, a highly regarded editor and reader at Duckworth and Company – who was a friend of Yeats and well disposed to Irish themes ‑ thought the work was too “unconventional” and felt that “ugly things, [and] ugly words, [were] too prominent”. Garnett predicted that, unless Joyce learned to exercise more “restraint and proportion”, he would not gain many future readers. Despite such reservations, some of the early reviews of the novel that were published in the English press found merit in Joyce’s work. HG Wells was generous in his praise of its “quintessential and unfailing reality”, and compared Joyce favourably with Swift and Sterne. However, he also advised readers of a squeamish disposition to “shun this book”. Other English reviews were more disparaging. The Manchester…

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