Telemachus 0028

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Again here, an explanation of what’s going on in the comic beggars what the comic itself does on this page.  Stephen is caught up in his “brooding brain,” [another example of the Uncle Charles Principle, as the word “brooding,” which ostensibly comes from some kind of narrator, has been very much part of Stephen’s thoughts in this scene.]  Stephen does another deep dive into memories of his mother’s death, bringing up wonderfully precise images–the “shapely fingernails” (Q: what are shapely fingernails?) stained red with the blood of squashed lice, etc.

The question I’ve been asking myself about this moment is “If we look at Stephen as a writer struggling to come into his own, can we better understand his struggle with the memory of his mother?”  Certainly his command to her to leave him alone and let him live makes some sense.  I imagine Stephen here is struggling between  a writer’s impulse to record every detail of what he remembers of her (almost in the style of an epiphany), and his terror at bringing back the horror-movie-style guilt and terror of her death.

And about that Latin… Professor Gifford gives us a translation from the “Layman’s Missal”: May the glittering throng of confessors, bright as lilies, gather about you. May the glorious choir of virgins receive you.” It is a prayer for the dying, which can be said (according to the missal via Gifford) to commend the dying person to God if there is no priest present.  This is what Stephen should have prayed, if he had prayed.

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9 thoughts on “Telemachus 0028

  1. ah, but there IS a priest present! The issue Stephen is having is with the kind of priest he wants to become. He refuses to say that prayer, but he sings Fergus’ song because he knows she wants to hear it. He’s given up the church, but he approaches his art the way he would approach priesthood (the “jesuit strain…injected the wrong way”)
    My favorite panel on this page is “Her eyes on me to strike me down.” By the end, Stephen will have a memory of his living mother looking at him when he’s a little boy (Bloom remembers seeing them that same day), and he comes to realize her look is more protective than judgmental. Whether it’s deliberate or not, I think that look comes across in this panel.

  2. A minor point: the comic panel quotes Stephen as saying, “No, mother. Let me be and live.” The book text (Gabler 9.79) says” No, mother! Let me be and let me live.”

  3. Frank – you’re right about the missing second “me.” We’ll fix that. But for the record we’re using the 1922 edition, and that doesn’t have the exclamation point.

  4. Mike, thanks for the follow-up.

    Looks like, with you following the 1922 edition (which I don’t have) and me using the Gabler edition, there’ll inevitably be uncertainties and differences in terms of accuracy and proofing. But, I know you’ll do the best possible with the text.


  5. Thank you for the illustration! Lovely fingernails indeed. It reminds me of Stephen’s comments in *Portrait,* of how the true artist remains aloof from his creation, “paring his fingernails.” Man seems to have a thing about nails.

  6. Traduction française / French translation

    Ici encore, on ne saurait expliquer ce qui se passe dans notre BD sans appauvrir ce que la BD montre elle-même dans cette planche. Stephen est rattrapé par son “cerveau en pleine rumination” (autre exemple du Principe d’Oncle Charles, puisque le mot “brooding” signifie “sombre, cafardeux”, ce qui provient apparemment du narrateur, et que cela gouverne les pensées de Stephen dans cette scène). Stephen refait une immersion profonde dans le souvenir de la mort de sa mère, faisant remonter à la surface des images merveilleusement précises – tels ses ongles manucurés rougis par le sang de poux écrasés, etc.

    La question est alors de savoir si le fait de voir Stephen comme un écrivain en train de lutter pour prendre possession de lui-même, nous permet de mieux le comprendre là, aux prises avec le souvenir de sa mère. L’ordre qu’il lui donne de le laisser tranquille et de le laisser vivre, a certainement du sens. J’imagine que Stephen est tiraillé entre la tendance de l’écrivain de consigner chaque souvenir d’elle en détail (presque dans le style d’une épiphanie), et sa terreur de faire ressurgir la culpabilité effrayante de sa mort, comme dans un film d’horreur.

    Quant aux mots en latin, le professeur Gifford nous donne la traduction du missel Layman : “Sois entouré de la foule étincelante de tes intercesseurs immaculés comme le lys ; sois accueilli par le chœur glorieux des vierges” (NDT : traduit par nous). Il s’agit d’une prière pour les défunts, qui peut être prononcée (d’après le missel, selon Gifford) pour recommander le mourant à Dieu en l’absence d’un prêtre. C’est la prière que Stephen aurait dû faire, s’il avait prié (NDT : pour sa mère).

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