James Joyce

"Finnegans Wake"

Published October 5, 2000 7:00PM (EDT)

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born on February 2, 1882. Between the years of 1904 and 1907, Joyce wrote "Dubliners," his famous series of short stories. "Ulysses," widely acknowledged as one of the greatest novels ever written, was completed in 1922. In 1923 Joyce began "Finnegans Wake," perhaps the most baffling of his works. With a wonderfully dizzying array of multilingual puns and arcane allusions, Joyce proclaimed it was "a history of the world." Because of the innovative and unusual fragmentary nature of the novel, many of Joyce's supporters abandoned him with the belief that he was wasting his talents.

In December 1940 Joyce was diagnosed with a perforated duodenal ulcer. Although an operation was apparently successful, he weakened, passed into a coma, and died on January 13, just before his fifty-ninth birthday. He was buried in the Fluntern cemetery above Zurich.

Listen to an MP3 audio excerpt from "Finnegans Wake," read by James Joyce, available on the collection "James Joyce Reads" (HarperAudio).

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