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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin Classics)by James Joyce
Synopses & Reviews
James Joyce's first and most widely read novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the story of Stephen Dedalus, a young man struggling to decide between a religious vocation and an artistic one. The aftermath of the struggle that is so poignantly and unflinchingly recorded forms a large part of the story of Joyce's masterwork, Ulysses, in which Stephen reappears as a main character.
In A Portrait of the Artist, Joyce renounces an episodic framework in favor of a group of scenes which radiate backward and forward. As such, the book more closely resembles a random series of portraits than a chronological narrative. Using his own childhood and adolescence as the basic theme of the story, Joyce attempts to recreate the past by embracing it.
"A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man is in fact the gestation of a soul." Richard Ellman
"Mr. Joyce...presents his people swiftly and vividly, he does not sentimentalise over them, he does not weave convolutions. He is a realist. He gives the thing as it is." Ezra Pound, The Egoist, 07/15/1914
"Joyce dissolved mechanism in literature as effectively as Einstein destroyed it in physics. He showed that the material of fiction could rest upon as tense a distribution and as delicate a balance of its parts as any poem. Joyce's passion for form, in fact, is the secret of his progress as a novelist. He sought to bring the largest possible quantity of human life under the discipline of the observing mind, and the mark of his success is that he gave an epic form to what remains invisible to most novelists...Joyce means many things to different people; for me his importance has always been primarily a moral one. He was perhaps, the last man in Europe who wrote as if art were worth a human life... By living for his art he may yet have given others a belief in art worth living for." Alfred Kazin
"The first page, which looks like a long passage of baby talk, is an elaborate construct that relates the development of the senses to the development of the arts." Frank O'Connor
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man portrays Stephen Dedaluss Dublin childhood and youth, providing an oblique self-portrait of the young James Joyce. At its center are questions of origin and source, authority and authorship, and the relationship of an artist to his family, culture, and race. Exuberantly inventive, this coming-of-age story is a tour de force of style and technique.
Published in 1916 to immediate acclaim, James Joyce's semi-autobiographical tale of his alterego, Stephen Dedalus, is a coming-of-age story like no other. A bold, innovative experiment with both language and structure, the work has exerted a lasting influence on the contemporary novel.
About the Author
James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, in Rathgar, Dublin. He was one of ten children. He was educated at Jesuit schools and at University College, Dublin. A brilliant student of languages, Joyce once wrote an admiring letter in Norwegian to Henrik Ibsen. He went to Paris for a year in 1902, where he discovered the novel Les Lauriers Sont Coupes by Edouard Dujardin, whose stream-of-consciousness technique he later credited with influencing his own work. Following his mother's death, he returned to Ireland for a brief stay, and then left with Nora Barnacle, with whom he spent the rest of his life. They had two children, George and Lucia Anna, the latter of whom suffered in later years from schizophrenia. (Joyce and Nora were formally married in 1931.)
Joyce lived in voluntary exile from Ireland, although Irish life continued to provide the raw material for his writing. In Trieste, he taught English and made the acquaintance of the Italian novelist Italo Svevo. His first book, the poetry collection Chamber Music, appeared in 1907. The publication of the short story collection Dubliners was delayed repeatedly, and eventually the Irish publisher destroyed the proofs for fear of libel action; this prompted Joyce's final visit to Ireland in 1912. The book was eventually published in 1914 and greeted with acclaim by Ezra Pound, whose enthusiastic support helped Joyce establish a literary career. In 1915 Joyce and Nora moved to Zurich, and at the end of World War I they settled in Paris. His only play, Exiles, was published in 1918 and staged in Munich the same year without success. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, an autobiographical novel (developed from the embryonic, posthumously published Stephen Hero) tracing the artistic development of Stephen Dedalus, was published in 1916. By this time Pound and W. B. Yeats had succeeded in obtaining for Joyce some financial support through the Royal Literary Fund, but he continued to be in need of money for most of his life.
Joyce began to suffer from serious vision difficulties due to glaucoma; he would eventually be forced to undergo many operations and long periods of near-blindness. Ulysses, the epic reconstruction of the minutiae of a single day in Dublin--June 16, 1904--was serialized in The Little Review starting in 1918, and published in Paris (by the American Sylvia Beach through her bookstore Shakespeare & Company) in 1922, on his fortieth birthday. Due to censorship it remained unavailable in the United States until 1934 and in the United Kingdom until 1936. Except for a small volume of verse, Pomes Penyeach (1927), Joyce published nothing thereafter except extracts from the enormous work in progress that emerged as Finnegans Wake in 1939. In his later years he was closely associated with the young Samuel Beckett, whom he had met in 1928. After the German invasion of France, Joyce and Nora moved back to Zurich, where he died on January 13, 1941.
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