chapter  53
Review in New Age 1917
Pages 2

If this book had been written by Dostoieffsky, it would have been a masterpiece; and we invite Mr. Joyce to read that famous thirteenth chapter of Corinthians and apply to himself the teaching. For his wilful cleverness, his determination to produce kinematographic effects instead of a literary portrait, are due entirely to a lack of clarity. He fears to surfer, and will not, therefore, put himself in the place of his hero; he will record with wonderful fidelity, and frequently with remarkable dramatic skill, what happened around or to Stephen Dedalus, but as it is all objectively viewed and objectively rendered, the character has no continuum, no personality. Even the introspective passages have the same character of objectivity; Stephen only observes the thoughts that come to him, only suffers the impact of external emotions, but never do his experiences reveal him to himself or to the reader. There are passages in this book comparable with the best in English literature; the scene wherein Mr. Dedalus carves the Christmas turkey is perfectly rendered, the Jesuit sermons on Hell are vivid intellectual tortures, Stephen's first experience in a brothel, and the whole history of his sexual obsession are given with pitiless accuracy. But Mr. Joyce never answers the reader's: 'Why?': he keeps on the circumference of his hero's mind, and never dives to the centre of his soul. So this portrait seems to be a mere catalogue of unrelated states; there is everything in it that becomes a man, but it never does become the man, Stephen Dedalus. Samuel hewed Agag to pieces, but the pieces were not Agag; and the fragments here offered of the experience of Stephen Dedalus are no substitute for a 'portrait of the artist as a young man.' It is a composition that does not hang together, a creation into which the creator has forgotten to breathe the breath of life, and, therefore, Stephen Dedalus never becomes a living soul. He never 'shows forth' anything but a furtive lust; his occasional exercises in theories of aesthetics have an interest that is not personal, his mind has no apparent relation to his experience. Yet if it fails as a personal portrait, the value of the book as a portrait of young Ireland, Catholic Ireland,