Grant McDermott bio photo

Grant McDermott

Assistant Professor
Dept. of Economics
University of Oregon

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This one comes via my friend and rival literatus, Bloomsboy[*]. It concerns James Joyce's relationship with protégé and Waiting for Godot playwright, Samuel Beckett, at the time when the latter's failing eyesight had left him dictating his words to others:
Once or twice [Joyce] dictated a bit of Finnegans Wake to Beckett, though dictation did not work very well for him; in the middle of one such session there was a knock at the door which Beckett didn't hear. Joyce said, `Come in,' and Beckett wrote it down. Afterwards he read back what he had written and Joyce said, `What's that "Come in"?' 'Yes, you said that,' said Beckett. Joyce thought for a moment, then said, `Let it stand.' He was quite willing to accept coincidence as his collaborator.
Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York, 1959), pp. 661-662.

A beautiful sentiment that, coincidentally, goes some way towards explaining the incomprehensibility of Finnegans Wake.

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[*] Self-styled in a moment of apparent irony.