Finnegans Wake by Irish writer James Joyce was first published in 1939. Considered one of the most difficult works in the English language, the book employs a stream of consciousness style of writing, with hidden jokes and linguistic experiments. The book is so complex that eighty years after its publication, there is still no real consensus on what the plot is, or indeed, if there even is a plot. The same goes for characters, with critics still not entirely sure if there are main characters or not.
The initial response to Finnegans Wake was almost completely negative, even by those close to the author, some believing the book to be a joke, some merely saying it was incomprehensible. H. G. Wells wrote to Joyce asking - '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?'
However, it's unusual style led it to be studied and analysed - something it seems Joyce had planned on. He once made a comment that only by making it obscure, and therefore neccessary to study, could he be sure it would be around for a long time. (Global Grey ebooks)
- "Dubliners" (1914): This collection of 15 short stories was Joyce's first published work, and it is widely regarded as a masterpiece of modernist literature. The stories are set in Dublin, Ireland, and they offer a vivid and unsentimental portrait of life in the city at the turn of the 20th century.
- "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (1916): This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of Joyce's early years. It follows the life of Stephen Dedalus, a young man who struggles to find his place in a society that is deeply conflicted about its Irish identity. The novel is notable for its use of stream-of-consciousness narration and its depiction of the spiritual journey of its protagonist.
- "Ulysses" (1922): Considered by many to be Joyce's masterpiece, "Ulysses" is a dense and complex novel that follows the lives of three characters over the course of a single day in Dublin. The novel is celebrated for its use of multiple narrative styles and its exploration of themes such as identity, sexuality, and mortality.
- "Finnegans Wake" (1939): Joyce's final novel is a notoriously difficult and experimental work that is written in a language that is entirely of Joyce's own invention. The novel is an attempt to capture the dreamlike quality of the human mind, and it is celebrated for its use of puns, wordplay, and other forms of linguistic innovation.
The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.
James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake doesn’t work like other novels. It has lines like, “What clashes here of wills gen wonts, oystrygods gaggin fishy-gods!” In some ways, this makes the book almost impossible to read. H.G. Wells told Joyce, “You have turned your back on common men—on their elementary needs … What is the result? Vast riddles.” The Wake doesn’t have to be difficult, though; you don’t have to read it as a collection of unsolvable riddles. In Finnegan and Friends, we don’t regard the Wake as something to decode completely. Instead, we find in the book a well of inspiration for endless exploration.
When you accept that you can’t perfectly decipher this thing, you set yourself free to notice rather than solve, and you’ll start to notice a lot. You’ll notice, for one thing, that Finnegans Wake deals with basic, shared, elemental experiences—of dreams, of water, of private chitchat. And it does all this in its own dreamy, fluid language. As Samuel Beckett wrote, of Joyce and the Wake, “His writing is not about something. It is that something itself.”