James Joyce

Tuesday January 14, 1941
The Guardian

With the death of James Joyce there passes the strangest and most original figure which Ireland gave to Europe in this generation. The ban imposed for years upon his "Ulysses" gave a notoriety to his name without disclosing his true stature and strength. That he was a genuine artist, sincere, integrated, and profound is clear from the simplicity of his early short stories "Dubliners" and from the well-defined autobiographical narrative of "Portrait of the Artist." In "Ulysses" he attempted the difficult task of presenting a complete picture of the life of the individual in our time, both conscious and subconscious, the single, peccant, groping man with the hard unrelenting universe around him. In "Finnegan's Wake" (sic) he went farther, and in a strange inventive tongue he seemed to break through the barriers of time, though so complex is the medium that without commentary few can follow the meaning. In his background were the old traditions of Dublin and of the Roman Catholic Church. He broke with them both as far as a man can ever break with so deeply grounded a past, and portrayed the chaos of a disorganised world.

"Ulysses" has been sought by some readers because its pages contain words which rarely find their way into print. If that were Joyce's sole achievement there would be many of his countrymen of humbler intellectual pretensions who could outdo him. His originality lay in his discovery of a literary form for expressing the inconsequent complexity of the human mind and the dim resemblance that its migrations possessed to the orderliness of grammatical sentences or the appearances of time and space. He annihilated the ordinary and the normal, and revealed a jungle world of the mental and emotional reactions which may come over men in a single day. Down that road his genius travelled as far as it is possible to go. If others had not strived for tradition or fought for an illusion at least of order Joyce's nihilism would have been impossible, for his terms of reference would have disappeared. Europe appreciated him and yet he was at last locked out of Europe, as of Ireland, in some secret temple of his own mind, as removed from the great passage of events as his own countrymen are to-day.