A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man represents the transitional stage between the realism of Joyce’s Dubliners and the symbolism of Ulysses, and is essential to the understanding of the later work.
This novel is a highly autobiographical account of the adolescence of Stephen Dedalus, who reappears in Ulysses, and who comes to realize that before he can become a true artist, he must rid himself of the stultifying effects of the religion, politics and essential bigotry of his background in late 19th century Ireland.
‘Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo ‘ So begins one of the most significant literary works of the twentieth century, and one of the most innovative’…
A masterpiece of modern fiction, James Joyce’s semiautobiographical first novel follows Stephen Dedalus, a sensitive and creative youth who rebels against his family, his education, and his country by committing himself to the artist’s life.
“I will not serve,” vows Dedalus, “that in which I no longer believe…and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can.”
Likening himself to God, Dedalus notes that the artist “remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.”
Joyce’s rendering of the impressions of childhood broke ground in the use of language. “He took on the almost infinite English language,” Jorge Luis Borges said once.
“He wrote in a language invented by himself….Joyce brought a new music to English.” A bold literary experiment, this classic has had a huge and lasting influence on the contemporary novel.
About the Author
James Joyce, the twentieth century’s most influential novelist, was born in Dublin on February 2, 1882. The oldest of ten children, he grew up in a family that went from prosperity to penury because of his father’s wastrel behavior.
After receiving a rigorous Jesuit education, twenty-year-old Joyce renounced his Catholicism and left Dublin in 1902 to spend most of his life as a writer in exile in Paris, Trieste, Rome, and Zurich.
On one trip back to Ireland, he fell in love with the now famous Nora Barnacle on June 16, the day he later chose as “Bloomsday” in his novel Ulysses.
Nora was an uneducated Galway girl who became his lifelong companion and the mother of his two children. In debt and drinking heavily, Joyce lived for 36 years on the Continent, supporting himself first by teaching jobs, then through the patronage of Mrs. Harold McCormick (Edith Rockerfeller) and the English feminist and editor Harriet Shaw Weaver.
His writings include :
Chamber Music (1907), Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Exiles (1918), Ulysses (1922), Pomes Penyeach (1927), Finnegan’s Wake (1939), and an early draft of A Portrait of a Young Man, Stephan Hero (1944).
Ulysses required seven years to complete, and his masterpiece, Finnegan’s Wake, took seventeen. Both works revolutionized the form, structure, and content of the novel.
Joyce died in Zurich in 1941.