the ledge files
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James Joyce
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1922

refered to by:
Under the Volcano
Malcolm Lowry

Mrs Dalloway
Virginia Woolf

The Odyssey

Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Saul Bellow

Natasha Radojcic

A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess

Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell

Midnight's Children
Salman Rushdie

Vladimir Nabokov

[De kellner en de levenden]
S. Vestdijk

Virginia Woolf

Orhan Pamuk

Bob Rigter

This Blinding Absence of Light
Tahar Ben Jelloun

Children of the Alley
Naguib Mahfouz

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At the end of his life, James Joyce was asked why he had made Finnegans Wake (1939) such a complicated book, a dreamlike bombardment of language, in which the story of a publican’s family in Dublin was only barely discernable. The Irish writer-in-voluntary-exile replied: ‘To keep the critics busy for the next 300 years.’

It wasn’t the first time that this half-blind devotee of Laurence Sterne and William Shakespeare had pushed back the frontiers of prose-writing to a point where few had gone before. In the short story collection Dubliners (1914), he had given an uncommonly realistic portrait of the frustrated and unhappy citizens of the town where he was born. In his autobiographical Bildungsroman,[A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), the voice of the protagonist changes as he moves from babyhood, through childhood, to adolescence. And in Ulysses, a day in the life of the Irish-Jewish advertising salesman Leopold Bloom, Joyce perfected the technique of ‘stream of consciousness’ (the reproduction, as faithfully as possible, of human thought) and experimented with every possible literary style. The eighteen chapters of Ulysses are not only a playful retelling of the books of Homer's Odyssey, but in each case also display a different (literary) technique – from the fugue (the ‘Sirens’ chapter, which takes play in a bar) to the hallucination (the ‘Circe’ chapter, in the brothel).

Academics are crazy about it, and have written libraries-full about Joyce’s 260,000-word tome; as a result, Ulysses has
become one of the most daunting books in world literature. That’s too bad, because with the exception of a few cryptic passages, Ulysses can also be read as the moving story of a Dublin everyman, struggling with the impending infidelity of his wife and who, at the end of the day, finds the son he never had. Some chapters, such as the dimestore-novel ‘Nausicaa’, are as plain as a pikestaff; and once you get used to the flow of words, you can settle down and enjoy the most famous chapter in the book, ‘Penelope’, in which Bloom’s wife Molly (not quite as faithful as her mythological counterpart), lies in bed and reflects on (her) life in a long, legendary, interior monologue, forty pages without a single punctuation mark.

Ulysses is one of those books that yields new discoveries with each new reading. That can be a pun, a joke (Joyce’s wife Nora once said she often heard fits of laughter coming from her husband’s workroom), a reference to one of Joyce’s own literary role-models, or a mysterious character that returns in various chapters. And once you finish Ulysses, you will come across it again and again in other great works of world literature: in Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf, in Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry, in Chapel Road, by the Flemish writer Louis Paul Boon; but also in a witty, wordplayful experiment like Exercises in Style, by French author Raymond Queneau. Consider it a bonus for the undaunted reader.

- Pieter Steinz (NRC Handelsblad)


The Odyssey
Homer, ca. 700 v.Chr.
Homer's epic about Odysseus and his encounters with both natural and divine forces on the ten-year voyage home to Ithaca - and his beloved wife, Penelope - after the Trojan War. (see The Iliad[/i)

Gargantua and Pantagruel
François Rabelais, 1532-1553
The classic satirical and ribald tale about the travels of Gargantua and Pantagruel, set in the French countryside.

Tom Jones
Henry Fielding, 1749
The protagonist, Tom Jones, is introduced to the reader as a ward of a liberal Somerset squire, appearing a generous but slightly wild and reckless boy. Misfortune, followed by many spirited adventures as he travels to London to seek his fortune, teach Tom wisdom to go with his good-heartedness.

Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1605 / 1615
A comic study of delusion and its consequences; Don Quixote, the old gentleman of La Mancha, takes to the road in search of adventure and remains undaunted in the face of repeated disaster.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Laurence Sterne, 1759-1767
Part novel, part digression, this gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters.

The Bays Are Sere
Edouard Dujardin, 1888
The first novel written entirely in interior monologue or stream of consciousness. For a long time its impact was dormant, until James Joyce read it in 1903 and subsequently revealed its influence upon him.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll, 1865 / 1871
The first time, Alice goes chasing after a talking rabbit. The second time she climbs through a mirror. Both times, she ends up in a strange, fantastical world, where everything is entirely different from the world she knows.

Henrik Ibsen, 1881
Osvald Alving returns home only to discover the truth about the father he respected and the horrific effect his father's debauchery has had on him.

Confessions of a Young Man
George A. Moore, 1888
A fictionalized autobiographical account of the author's days in Paris.

Lieutenant Gustl
Arthur Schnitzler, 1901
Written in 1901, twenty years before Ulysses, this Austrian novella is a very early example of the literary stream of consciousness technique. Indeed, Joyce acknowledged his debt to this story.


Stylistically varied Homer-parody about the Dublin everyman Leopold Bloom, who emerges as surrogate father to Stephen Dedalus on the day his wife Molly sleeps with another man.

Saul Bellow, 1964
Professor-in-crisis comments on modern life in New York and Chicago.

Manhattan Transfer
John Dos Passos, 1925
New York City emerges from fast-paced montage of interconnected lives.

Mrs Dalloway
Virginia Woolf, 1925
A day in the life of a London society lady - in streams of consciousness.

Berlin Alexanderplatz
Alfred Döblin, 1929
A grubby Don Quixote struggles to survive in 1920s Berlin.

Zeno's Conscience
Italo Svevo, 1923
At the suggestion of his psychiatrist, a man looks back over his life and (non)sanity.

Under the Volcano
Malcolm Lowry, 1947
The last day in the life of an alcholic consul in Mexico.

Malone Dies
Samuel Beckett, 1951
Interior monologue of a lonely, dying man with a sense of gallows humor.

[Meneer Visser's hellevaart]
S. Vestdijk, 1936
A financially dependent old man sets out to torment those even less fortunate than himself.

Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison, 1952
Disturbing ‘adventure story’ about a black man in prewar America.

Chapel Road
Louis Paul Boon, 1953
Kaleidoscopic collage novel about Ondineke, who wants to get ahead in the world.

The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner, 1929
Decline of a Mississippi family in stylistic jigsaw.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The portrayal of Stephen Dedalus's Dublin childhood and youth, his quest of identity through art and his gradual emancipation from the claims of his family, religion and Ireland itself, is also an oblique self-portrait of the young James Joyce and a testament to the artist's "eternal imagination".
Fifteen stories about ordinary people, trapped in their everyday lives.
Finnegans Wake
Follows a man's thoughts and dreams during a single night. It is also a book that participates in the re-reading of Irish history that was part of the revival of the early 20th century.
Stephen Hero
1944 (posthumous)
Part of the first (less experimental) draft of A Portrait of the Artist
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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Design: Maurits de Bruijn

Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
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