Reading James Joyce''s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was a real pleasure. As everyone knows, this novel tells about young Stephen Dedalus'' adventures, the author''s alter ego.
Later, 100 years accomplished of the famous Bloom''s day in 2004 (a full century had passed since that June 16, 1904 that houses the adventures of the novel Ulysses hero, Leopold Bloom, of Joyce himself), I bought, to commemorate it, this book in J.Subirat Salas'' translation, Colophon Publishing Company, 2001. This novel is, to some extent, The Portrait continuation, since Stephen Dedalus, not being the main character, appears as Bloom''s non innate child, and he cares about him as if he actually were his biological father, perhaps having lost his own, Rudolph, eleven days old.
Well, the book in question was a real torment for me. With great difficulty and frustration I started reading it for, a few days later, giving up totally disappointed. I got it back several months later determined not to pull out. I got to page 269 (of 806) without understanding much more. It was stupid to be reading nonsense words, one after another, with the sole purpose of completing the "reading" of one of the most famous books of world literature, yes, with capital letters.
I left the book, "forgotten", on the table in the hotel restaurant where I had gone to spend a short vacation and take the opportunity to concentrate on its reading, only to have the waiter reaching me after a few steps and returning it to me with a ''you must live eternally grateful to me'' look. Next day, taking advantage of leaving my place of retreat, I threw the book into the room dustbin determined not to get involved any more with Joyce. Unfortunately, at the hotel reception, when making the checkout, and once the boy had verified in situ nothing had been consumed from the minibar, looking identical to the waiter, he handed me the book saying "it had fallen" into the dustbin. Upon arriving home, I buried it ''once and for all'' at the bottom of a drawer, with a bookmark in the referred page 269.
Some time later, reading Slavador Elizondo''s unpublished diary that Letras Libres published monthly for a year, I found out the praise he made of Joyce''s masterpiece, without going into greater detail. This stirred up the old frustrations that I kept inside long ago. However, in another issue of the same newspaper, the very Elizondo mentioned Elizabeth Stuart Gilbert''s book James Joyce''s Ulysses/A Study, publisher Vintage, 1955, also without further comment.
Curiosity made me ask for Elizondo''s reference to Amazon. Unfortunately, I chose as a means of delivery, for pecuniary reasons, ordinary mail, and the book was lost. I was so angry at that time against the Postmaster General of Mexico, the ineffable Purification Carpinteyro, that some time later I was led to believe that the book had appeared and they sent it to me, wrapped in a single package. It was so blatant maneuver that they sent me, to my fortune, Ulysses/The 1934 text as corrected and reset in 1961, publisher Modern Library, 1992.
In the meanwhile, I reread The Portrait and read Dubliners, also by the brilliant Irishman, and, secondly, I asked a friend to send me, through customized service from the United States, Gilbert''s study on Ulysses, which I finished in one sitting, once it arrived.
Light had come to me!
Then, I reread Gilbert''s study, alternating its chapters with each of the 18 sections in three parts that make up Joyce''s work, but now in the English edition that the Mexican Mail Service had kindly sent me , not in the Spanish one by Colophon.
How wonderful! No doubt this work initially demonized by moralists, to the point of having to be approved for publication by the U.S. Courts on December 6, 1933 (Joyce wrote it between 1914 and 1921), and then by the conformist and conventional likes of masses (the very Joyce''s wife, Nora, asked him: James, why don''t you write books people can read?, according to Gabriel Zaid''s masterful compilation in Letras Libres, Admirable Colleagues, No.125, May 2009) is one of the greatest aesthetic pleasures you can enjoy in life.
It is not idle the comparison made by Gilbert Stuart of the maturity over time by Joyce with major painters'', such as Picasso, although emphasizing that Joyce''s is probably unique in literature.
It took me almost five years to understand fully James Joyce''s work, and yet I had to reread one of its 18 sections (the fourteenth, The oxen of the sun) in Colofon Spanish edition, as, otherwise, it would have been unintelligible for me. Joyce said for some reason that his readers should take, to understand his work, at least the same time that he had taken to write it, so he declined to read his last job Finnegans Wake, which consumed something like 17 years of his existence.