|Dublinés, by © Alfonso Zapico|
I am mostly a reader of novels. However, for my birthday, my sister gave me a big book called Dublinés (“Dubliner”). The author is Alfonso Zapico, and his book is a graphic novel based on James Joyce's biography. If I remember correctly, that is the first graphic novel I have read; well, I am not even sure if that is the correct description for that kind of work. In any case, I treasure my days reading in the sun (in the dark, in the sun, there are moments for everything *wink-wink*) smiling and aching along the joys and misfortunes of Jim's peculiar life. Both the drawing and the text parts are thoroughly well documented and the bibliography is very solid, of course.
|© Alfonso Zapico|
I am not very keen on reading biographies. Especially of writers. Especially about my favourite authors. However, I have to admit that reading about James Joyce's private life is a very stimulating activity for me. Let's say that there are many aspects of his life I share with him. Like the bohemian poverty, to say the least. Before reading this wonderful Dublinés, I knew the outline of Joyce's life. After reading the book, I found out I knew more about him than I thought, since many scenes of his novels are taken from real life episodes. But the sweetest surprise from Zapico's book has been the cameos. There are the recurring encounters and mentions to WB Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Sylvia Beach, GB Shaw, V. Lenin or Carl G. Jung. I found especially amusing his relation with/to WB Yeats. At a time in which the silver-haired poet was the greatest literary thing, the gem of Irish literature, Joyce despised him.
|WB Yeats VS. James Joyce © Alfonso Zapico|
Some may say Joyce was totally arrogant, but what I think is that he possessed the two characteristics that are essential to a courageous human being: 1- Self-love, total trust in oneself. 2- Individuality, meaning NO God NO Nation NO King/Queen. Joyce could not stand Yeats' nationalistic and Romantic aspirations. But most of all, he loathed religion. The compulsory relation between the Irish Nation and the Catholic Church is a very problematic issue. Of course Yeats was no Catholic, and not even Maud Gonne herself could change his mind; but he was no Atheist either.
|Nora threatens Jim to christen their children if he doesn't stop drinking... © Alfonso Zapico|
Going back to Joyce, I have to admit I see many points in common between Ireland and Spain. And the relation Joyce had with his country is the same I have with mine. For most of the time I totally hate it, would love to escape from it forever. And yet I cannot, I would not.
‘No matter how dreary and grey our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there tan in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.’
(Dorothy in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
|Virginia Woolf © Alfonso Zapico|
Okay, let's go back to Bloomsday! During my college years, different teachers made me believe that the names of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce went hand in hand. That they were part of the same thing, of Modernism, of British Modernism which is characterized by its elitism, as opposed to popular culture. Well, it has not been until recently, when I finished the degree, that I took to read Joyce on my own. Probably from an Irish perspective too. I took the challenge of reading Ulysses during the months prior to my first visit to Dublin. Ulysses has to be read as an exercise of freedom, of fun and of pleasure. Thank goodness it was not a compulsory reading at university. Going back to Mrs Woolf, I also love Zapico's book because he inserts real quotations from Joyce and other characters, this is related to the cameos I have previously mentioned. There was one in particular that shocked me. It was Woolf's opinion on Joyce and Ulysses. I looked up for the original quotation and here it goes. According to Woolf's diary, Ulysses is an "illiterate, underbred book ... of a self taught working man". So what's wrong with being working class? And self-taught? I am so damned proudly both things!
For many years, I had been a bit reticent towards Modernism, precisely for statements like that. At college they insisted on elitism as a core of the movement; my teachers' opinion was that was a drawback: literature was for a selected few. That is what the Bloomsbury Group represents, maybe. Every artistic movement is born as a reaction to the previous one. It is alright that Modernism was a reaction to Realism, they needed to put the stress back on the individual; but they were going from one extreme to another. No doubt Virginia Woolf felt threatened by Ulysses. Cultural and literary history has proved that her suspicions were right. Woolf did not go to University but she had a library of her own, thanks to her father. She belonged to the privileged classes.
James Joyce was not precisely famous for accumulating goods. His bohemian poverty is a well-known trademark of his. However, he did go to University. I believe in class struggle. It is such an obvious fact. But money is not a synonym of wisdom. James Joyce is my example. We still live in a world in which, as a general rule, rich people get better jobs. Because they can afford higher studies, etc., that's one reason. But a person with lots of brains and creativity but less money, has to fight harder. Is Ulysses perhaps a mediation between Realism and Modernism? Realism for the social concerns and class issues? And Modernism for the emphasis on the individual, the stream-of-consciousness, and form? Is Joyce a Postmodern? Is that what Postmodernism is all about? We reject Modernism for one thing and Realism for another and yet we mix all their features together? Well, food for thought! That idea has just popped in my mind. I'll definitely think about it...
|© Alfonso Zapico|
|C. Jung on Lucia and James Joyce © Alfonso Zapico|
Before closing this post, I'd like to mention that I think TS Eliot does not fit in that elitist thing either, despite his office in Bloomsbury square. It is true that Ulysses is not an easy reading. But neither is “The Waste Land”. Eliot's aim was to sow his poem with symbols, with words with hidden meanings so that the reader should have to travel back in history or penetrate deeper in the contemporary context; so it is the reader's task to make the poem bloom. Because literature is life; any work of art is real, and we have to be aware of these histories being created, uncreated and recreated around us. To sum up, Eliot's poems may seem for a selected few, and probably they are, but their greatness is that he is there with us to help. He seduces us into unknown territories. He leaves a clue. We readers research, then go back to the poem. This process is repeated.
end, we read the poem with all the many new histories we have learned. And then
we are in love with Eliot. We are wiser because he has showed us the way. In
that way, he makes literature accessible to anyone, to anyone willing to accept
the challenge. As I have mentioned before, Joyce's bohemian poverty is well
known, and it pervaded all his life. Never had a steady job, got his fame
rather late in life, eternally exiled from one country to another. James Joyce
is the supreme master of the English language and one of universal literature.
Art has nothing to do with money. Not the cause, not the consequence either.
Was Woolf aware of that? Well, probably, since she ended up using some Joycean
techniques in her own works. Virginia Woolf surely felt threatened by the Ulysses
project as regards “the
social privilege into which Virginia Stephen was born; as a woman writer, whose
models of literary authority are far fewer than Joyce's, she is, perhaps understandably,
unwilling to forgo that privilege.”(1) The fact that Joyce gives
individuality to lower/working class people, a section of society that has been
traditionally associated with Realism, really terrified her.
This is going to be the last
paragraph, so I will try to make some sense out of it all and close the circle.
I adore James Joyce both objectively and subjectively. The professional reasons
why I worship him are obvious, I think. Literature in English reached its
climax with Ulysses: for linguistic, thematic, formalistic, stylistic
and social reasons. The personal ones involve his biography and mine. I enjoy
my bohemian poverty too. I acknowledge money is an obstacle most of the times.
But certainly, life is not about money. Money cannot buy the most essential and
important things in life. I know a great deal of people richer than me who are
also much more stupid than me. Sorry, illiterate is the word. When you have
(plenty of) money, life is easier so you tend to think less and less. I would
never never never give away my brains and heart for all the money in the world.
Alfonso Zapico's Dublinés is a magnificent, pleasant read. It is Joyce's
biography in a novel form. No, it goes further than that. It is Joyce's
biography told in graphic novel form. The text is concise and effective; the
drawings are awesome and expressive, and very personal and beautiful, they often
speak louder than the text itself. I do not like to read biographies, but
reading Joyce's has been a pleasure thanks to Zapico.
|Jim hanging out with TS Eliot and Ezra Pound...© Alfonso Zapico|
|© Alfonso Zapico|
Jim sums it up for me:
THANKS FOR READING! ♥
“When a man is born...there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”
― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- For more information, please visit Alfonso Zapico's official website:
- All pictures are mine but of course the copyright belongs to: © Alfonso Zapico
- My edition of the book is this one.
- I am afraid the book has not been translated into English yet... I hope that changes soon because Dublinés is a delightful book for both the Joycean lover and the general reader alike, no matter which nationality or language! But I do believe the English-speaking audience would especially love this work of art...
THANKS FOR READING! ♥