LETTERS OF JAMES JOYCE: Vols. II & III by Richard- Eds. Ellmann


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Richard Ellmann is rapidly becoming the most important scholarly critic of modern writing, and to his monumental biography of Joyce, he here adds one thousand pages of Joyce's letters, drawn from a variety of sources and prodigiously annotated. He has even translated (or arranged to have translated) the letters Joyce wrote in French, German, Italian and Norwegian. In one crucial sense, these letters are disappointing for Joyce hardly mentions aesthetic matters or even records critical opinions of his reading. Instead most of the correspondence deals with the details of his unstable life. He makes arrangements for new places to stay, supervises the publication of his work, haggles with publishers, encourages admiring critics. Rarely is the prose more than prosaic since Joyce seemed to have looked upon letter writing as a task requiring more efficiency rather than elegance. The exceptions are his youthful letters to Nora (which are nearly obscene) and his vain notes to a Swiss Fraulein soliciting her attention. In the early years the letters are addressed to his brother but after 1920 the respondents become more varied. The book includes both his notes to others and their notes to him. The first volume is rather a Portrait of the Artist as an Inefficient Businessman, and the second volume creates the picture of an ineffectual father not in full control of his environment. Though they are hardly great letters, they still reveal, on nearly every page, a great intelligence.

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1966
Publisher: Viking