A Shorter Finnegans Wake
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From the publisher
Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are usually found in most lists of the great classics of the twentieth century. But, as Burgess points out in his introduction: “they are highly idiosyncratic books and ‘difficult’ books, admired more often than read, when read, rarely read through to the end, when read through to the end, not often fully, or even partially, understood. This is of course especially true of Finnegans Wake. …This present reduction of Finnegans Wake to the length of an ordinary novel-garnished with an introduction and a running commentary- is my own attempt to bring a great masterpiece to a larger audience…” [the reduction is to that of about 1/3 of its original length].
It took Joyce 17 years to create this extraordinary book (and his final work), written in Paris after the publication of Ulysses. It is written not so much in English as in a language which combines, very often as puns, English with several other languages.
Burgess was a huge admirer of Joyce’s work and a great interpreter. His introduction to the shortened version throws a massive light on the structure and meaning of the work and perhaps, most importantly, its position in the literary canon as a great comic book.
“ Before we start reading we ought to put off the mask of solemnity and prepare to be entertained. This is one of the most entertaining books ever written”. [Burgess]