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100 Years ago...

ARTS : Ulysses smuggled by intellectuals

December 2, 1922

The publishing event of the year occurred in Paris where the owner of an obscure bookshop, Sylvia Beach, brought out a limited edition (1000 copies) of a novel entitled Ulysses, which has been banned from sale in the US and Britain on grounds of immorality.

The New York Society for the Prevention of Vice seized copies of the literary magazine which serialized it and obtained its conviction. Such is the reputation of its author, James Joyce, a Dubliner who has lived abroad since 1904, that the book has become a cult. Copies are smuggled from Paris by the intelligentsia.

Ulysses is a very complex and detailed novel, in which the adventures of Homer's epic hero are paralleled by those of Leopold Bloom, in the doings of a single day in Dublin, June 16, 1904. Bloom his wife Molly and Stephen Daedalus, representing the author's younger self (as he did in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) are the primary characters. Their inner thoughts and desires are presented in a series of interior monologues such as Molly Bloom's 38-page soliloquy which closes the book.

The author of an equally ambitious attempt to order the experience of an individual human being over time, Marcel Proust, died in Paris in November aged 51 with his panoramic work, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past) apparently unfinished. Six parts have now appeared (the second won the Prix Goncourt in 1919) but to the time of his death Proust was revising and rewriting the remainder, which exceeds a million words in all.

An asthmatic, he withdrew from a brilliant social life in 1905 to a room soundproofed with cork, writing only by night. "My instrument is not a microscope," he declared, "but a telescope directed at Time." With it he retrieved the social and sensual world of the Belle Epoque, its corruption and its disintegration with the coming of war. But he also took what he called "a diver's search" into the depths of human consciousness.

London has seen an experimental play by Italian Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author, in which they invade a rehearsal, strangely alive, and demand to be put into the play.

Article from "Chronicle of the 20th Century" ISBN 1 872031 80 3

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