By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
The answer in a word is no. Although Seamus Deane writes in his 1992 Introduction to the Penguin edition (with its caricature of the author by César Abin on the cover, above), “the first thing to say about Finnegans Wake is that it is, in an important sense, unreadable”. By which he means that the reader “must forgo most of the conventions about reading and about language . . .”. It is, he goes on to say, a book “written in the English language, and also against the English language”; in fact, Joyce has drawn on sixty-five different languages.
None of this makes the book unreadable of course but, like many, I have for years been daunted by the Himalayan challenge the book presented, and I won’t deny I feel a certain satisfaction in having now read it cover to cover. What are the pleasures to be derived from the novel James Joyce took seventeen years to write (1922–39), “to keep the critics busy for three hundred years”?