chapter  28
Review of the French Translation 1926
Pages 1

Mr. James Joyce is still a rather enigmatic writer for the French public. We have already had the translation of his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but we are awaiting the enormous and unusual Ulysses. The reading ofDubliners is an excellent initiation. . . . They [the stories] are preceded by a clear and substantial preface written by Valery Larbaud. He heralds again a great foreign mind, with a devotion and an ardor which is very rare today in a writer of his importance. What is most striking in these Irish stories is the particular quality of their realism, almost of their nationalism. Domestic situations, boys playing hookey from school, humble piano teachers, employees, cafe politicians, bourgeois lovers, and even pimps-the subjects, the characters recall those of Maupassant or of the descendants of the group of Medan. But a French novelist-a logician and always, in spite of himself, a moralist even when he considers himself unimpressionable-would begin and end the narrative precisely at the point when even the mysterious would be explicit. Joyce, however, only conducts the reader with a weak hand from which, however, one does not escape. He rarely informs us and does not conclude. It is a moment of daily life, such as it is. He leaves the movements of the acts and the lines of a decor floating. He seems to record from without what is happening; but he suggests all the complexities of the interior being as so much more poignant that they remain uncertain, as in our human truth itself. Sometimes this fog bothers us, accustomed as we are to life, translated literally and appearing logical. How dare art guide us so little and yet remain master of us! Even in a brief story, the visages, the first aspects of a situation, the rapports of being to being only emerge progressively, unequally at first from the unknown, like parts of images on a cliche plunged into