chapter  175
8 Pages

Eugene Jolas, Memoir of Joyce 1927

On a Sunday afternoon, in the winter of 1927, Joyce invited Mile Adrienne Monnier, Miss Sylvia Beach, my wife, Elliot Paul, and myself to his home in the Square Robiac to listen to his reading of the manuscript ('Work in Progress') in question. We listened to the Waterloo scene, which subsequently appeared in the first issue of the review [transition, which Jolas edited with Eliot Paul]. Flis voice was resonantly musical, and at times a smile went over his face, as he read a particularly exhilarating passage. After he had finished, he said: 'What do you think of it? Did you like it?' We were all stirred by his verbal fantasy, excited, even, but puzzled. It was not easy to reply with conventional phrases. There was no precedent in literature forjudging this fragment with its structure of multiple planes and its novelty of a poly-synthetic language. Some weeks later, he let me read the entire manuscript. It was not more than 120 pages long, and had been written, he said, within a

weeks, often late at night, with the help of one or the other of his friends. It seemed almost a collective composition in the end, for he let his friends participate in his inventive zeal, as they searched through numberless notebooks with mysterious reference points to be inserted in the text. When finished, the proof looked as if a coal-heaver's sooty hands had touched it . . . Sometimes he would bring with him [to dinner at his favourite restaurant, the Trianons] a page he had written and hand it round the table with a gesture of polite modesty. He never explained his work, save through indirection. . . .