A letter to Eva Fabbris


Dear Eva,
I try to explain a bit about Joycean Society.
It all comes from a very old work of mine from 1999 (attached) and of course the logical parcourse The Deviant Majority/ The Inadequate.
As you have read in the blog “Ulysses was born in Trieste”- I read once this book called “Schizophrenic Speech”, by Peter McKenna, where he spoke of the phenomenon known as “thought disorder”. The many connections between madness (specially, that thing called schizophrenia, but also that thing called autism) and language are very fascinating and of course impossible to summarize, resolve or conclude. But in this book I found some very interesting points, like:
– when some psychiatrists were confronted with some texts by the literary avant garde, like Joyce or Beckett, they were unable to make the difference between them and a clinical case of thought disorder, whether schizophrenia, or delirium.
– it is very clear that Joyce and Beckett were terribly sane. In fact, Joyce was baptized by Lacan as “Joyce The Symptom”- this is, his literary oeuvre, his destruction of language, was his way of keeping together the three realms of subjectivity: the real, the imaginary and the symbolic, and escape their collapse into madness.
– Perhaps the affinity between poetry and madness goes beyond simple or obvious associations, it could be a) madness is the price we pay for language b) poetry is a form of deviation, a dysphasia, a disease.
This is one thing. Another, is Finnegans Wake. Probably the most famous book that has been read by less people ever. In fact, it is said to be “impossible to read” but I think it is rather “impossible to read in the conventional sense”. Such a language needs a different way of reading, a circular reading, forever, between many people, in a loud voice, in endless discussion. Curiously, Joyce shares this particular way of exegesis with Lacan. For Joyce, they are called “reading circles”; for Lacan, “cartels”- in both cases a group of people from all walks of life commit themselves to get together on a regular basis to discuss a text that means the world to them. It is like they are holding the sense of the world together: the real, the symbolic, the imaginary.
These secret societies with a secret language and a clear purpose, perhaps having the potential to extend ad infinitum, where everyone will get home in the evening and get connected to other people and discuss a paragraph at a time- in the reading circle I am attending, it takes them 11 years to complete the reading of The Wake, and then they start all over again, because, it is never the same book.
And those books, you should see them- they are no books anymore, they are diaries, they are drawings, and they are maps. Many of them keep the 676 pages separate and put together in a bundle, holding one page at a time, complete with drawings, lines – I think I have a picture- it’s attached. They write and rewrite on the page, but when the cycle repeats, every 11 years, they cannot understand what their 11-years-younger self had written.

It is a real exegesis of a text- endless discussion follows one word, one sentence.
So this is the idea: the group, the text, the time, like a book that holds together the sense of the world.
We have an interview in the film as well, to Geert Lernout- he is a very special scholar that has somehow consolidated something called  “genetic literary studies”, where he tries to understand the genesis of a text from the notebooks of the author, the many different versions, the try outs and the mistakes- he will do a radiography, so as to say, of the densest text in the world: FW.
One thing I could not understand in “The Inadequate” is how Joyce, a writer of enormous talent, convinced of his own genius and wanting to be as famous as he thought he deserved, would write a text so difficult, so absolutely strange to the idea of literary success- specially after the great success of Ulysses. I thought it was somehow the “attraction to the abyss”, a certain mauditism. But my theories were destroyed by Fritz Senn, the “chief” of the Zurich reading circle: “Oh, you know, I don’t thing he had anything planned. I think he started going somewhere and he arrived somewhere else and you know, when you have seen that place, you cannot do anymore as if it does not exist; you have to be there- if you’d discover a fantastic land, Could you do as if you hadn’t seen it, just for something so ridiculous as success?”
So let me know if you like to know something else…
Thanks for writing about it! that fantastic place…

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