Interview with Fritz Senn by Dirce Waltrick do Amarante
Atualizado: 17 de fev. de 2022
Interview with Fritz Senn
In 2015, Friz Senn, the most Joycean among Joyceans, gave me the following interview by e-mail.
DIRCE WALTRICK DO AMARANTE - Hermetic, obscure, complex: these are adjectives often used in referring to Ulysses. How can a common reader deal with this?
FRITZ SENN - All of them are true, but not quite. Complex no doubt, obscure in diminishing parts. A hermetic universe all right, but not impenetrable, as the term would imply, ignoring that it is also accessible and in many instances very human, in tune with daily experiences.. The first three episodes, “Proteus” in particular, do look forbidding, afterwards, with Bloom, progress runs more smoothly, on and off.
DWA - What advice would you give to a future reader of Ulysses? Do you have a strategy for reading the novel?
FS -Strategy no, but some advice. It cannot be read hurriedly, it takes time and has a leisurely pace. Give it as much attention as you can, with attention to details, that is. Don’t be discouraged by what you do not understand and don’t give up when at rough passages. Not understanding things is the norm in life, not the exception. Some things will clear up later. The best tool is a comprehensive dictionary. First look for meaning by your own wits, and then turn to annotation if you need it. Annotations provide facts, but also opinions. They are helpful but gratuitous impositions.
DWA - According to Jean-François Lyotard, Ulysses is a confusing title. Although Joyce relates the title of his novel to the Odyssey, even creating a structural scheme for his own novel starting from the Homeric plot, if we follow this correspondence between the two works, we will end up finding more differences than similarities between the two books. What’s your view on this?
FS - The title “Ulysses” is misleading, but it also adds another dimension, to take or to leave. It suggests a course. Yes, there are more differences than similarities. Joyce made selective and autonomous use of the. Comparisons can open insights. I have been leading a futile campaign against the use of a term that Stuart Gilbert unfortunately introduced — the misleading term “Homeric”: the correspondences are rarely one to one, often the reverse, capricious, and so all the more inspiring. If you don’t find them helpful, ignore them and go on regardless .
DWA - Critics tend to consider Leopold Bloom a common citizen, but in Nabokov’s opinion, ”it’s not true that the imagination of a common citizen constantly recreates itself in physiological details”. To Nabokov Bloom would be ”at the limit of his own dementia”. How do you see the protagonist of Ulysses?
FS- I don’t know about dementia orreceation . Bloom seems to be common in sense of reresenting at least some of us, a traget for empathy. (Nothing original!)
DWA - As Milan Kundera says, Joyce’s ”great microscope” knows how to stop the fleeing instant, hold it and make us see it. Joyce would analyze the present moment, which is the most palpable and tangible but also the one that completely escapes us. How is this done, on a language plane?
FS - I kind of vaguely agree, though the moments are not so much stopped but, under microscopic scrutiny, still move in a “panta rhei” fashion, still syntactically fleeting. Ulysses does not hold still in my opinion. I see it as a perpetuum mobile. The interior monologue is often pre-grammatical.
DWA -What may have been be the greatest difficulties in translating Ulysses to other languages?
FS - Literary translation is a borderline activity at best. In Joyce there is simply more, not just quantitatively, but above all there is dynamically more at play. I might call it a matter of side-effects, sound patterns, echoes, cross-references, resonances, semantic overlays, multiple meanings (I carefully avoid the term “pun” — they are merely a sub-section). At each turn there are simply more aspects to handle so that translations have to be reductive.