Saturday, July 13, 2013

HG Wells on James Joyce

November 23, 1928

My dear Joyce,

I've been studying you and thinking over you a lot. The outcome is that I don't think I can anything for the propaganda of your work. I've enormous respect for your genius dating from your earliest books and I feel now a great personal liking but you and I are set on absolutely different courses.

Your training has been Catholic, Irish, insurrectionary,  mine such as it was, scientific, constructive and I suppose English...And while you were brought up under the delusion of political suppression, I was brought up under the delusion of political responsibility.  It seems a fine thing for you to defy and break up. To me not in the least.

Now with regard to this literary experimentation of yours [Finnegan's Wake]. Its a considerable thing because you are a very considerable man, and you have crowded in your composition a mighty genius for expression which has escaped discipline. But I don't think it gets anywhere. You have turned your back on the common man, on their elementary needs and their restricted time and their intelligence and you have elaborated. What is the result? Vast riddles.

Your last two works [Ulysses & FW] have been more amusing to write then they ever will be to read. Take me as a common reader. Do I get much pleasure from this work? No. Do I feel I am getting something new and illuminating as I do when I read Amrep's dreadful translation of Pavlov's badly written book on Conditioned Reflexes? No. So I ask: Who the hell is this Joyce who demands so many waking hours of the few thousands I have still to live for a proper appreciation of his quirks and fancies and flashes of rendering?

All this from my point of view. Perhaps you are right and I am all wrong.  Your work is an extraordinary experiment and I would go out of my way  to save it from restrictive interruption. It has its believers and its followers. Let them rejoice in it. To me its a dead end.

My warmest wishes to you Joyce.  I can't follow your banner anymore than you can follow mine. But the world is wide and there is room for both of us to be wrong. - H.G. Wells.

No comments: