29 July, 2007


A train. It is night. There is a sudden noise outside.

Boy: Is that funder an' lightning?

Father: No.

(Pause. Noise again.)

Boy: Is that funder an' lightning?

Father: I told you, no it isn't.

(Pause. Noise again.)

Boy: That's funder an' lightning!

Father rolls his eyes: Is it?


Boy: No.

Father: Well then.

No budding Caesar, then.


Herr Ziffer said...


Beckett argued that Joyce borrowed the narrative structure for Finnegan's Wake from Vico's theory of the progression of human institutions, or imaginative universals.

Says Vico, in the New Science, "Of such natures must have been the first founders of gentile humanity when at last the sky fearfully rolled with thunder and flashed with lightning, as could not but follow from the bursting upon the air for the first time of an impression so violent.... Thereupon a few giants, who must have been the most robust, and who were dispersed through the forests on the mountain heights where the strongest beasts have their dens, were frightened and astonished by the great effect whose cause they did not know, and raised their eyes and became aware of the sky. And because in such a case the nature of the human mind leads it to attribute its own nature to the effect, and because in that state their nature was that of men all robust bodily strength, who expressed their very violent passions by shouting and grumbling, they pictured the sky to themselves as a great animated body, which in that aspect they called Jove, the first god of the so-called greater gentes, who meant to tell them something by the hiss of his bolts and the clap of his thunder. And thus they began the natural curiosity which is the daughter of ignorance and the mother of knowledge, and which, opening the mind of man, gives birth to wonder....

"In this fashion the first theological poets created the first divine fable, the greatest they ever created: that of Jove, king and father of men and gods, in the act of hurling the lightning bolt; an image so popular, disturbing, and instructive that its creators themselves believed in it, and feared, revered, and worshiped it in frightful religions."

Conrad H. Roth said...

Yes, the Beckett essay is a classic, and I'd have quoted the Vico myself if I'd had it to hand. In the introduction to the Penguin New Science (allegedly written as a favour for David Marsh, whose translation it is), Anthony "God" Grafton makes the elementary error of ascribing Viconian structure to Ulysses. The boob is repeated on the back cover, presumably to entice Joyceans; I suspect the ploy is pointless, as 90% of people buying the Penguin New Science must surely be Joyceans anyway.

Anyway, thanks for supplying the passage...

1904 said...

I had a boyfriend once, you asked him what he was doing and he'd say, "Nuffing."
"I said nuffing."
"That's wot I said int it."

He must have been on that train.

Raminagrobis said...

Anthony "God" Grafton

Is this to be spoken in tones of hushed reverence or bitter sarcasm?

I reckon if Grafton says it's Ulysses, well then it must be Ulysses!

Conrad H. Roth said...

"Is this to be spoken in tones of hushed reverence or bitter sarcasm?"

Oh, reverence, though perhaps not 'hushed'. You won't hear a moment of mockery from me about Grafton; his Joyce error is merely an infinitesimal chink in an apparently infinite armour.