Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, Translation

Interview with Marcelo Zabaloy, Spanish translator of James Joyce

A two-part interview by Derek Pyle with Marcelo Zabaloy, Spanish translator of Finnegans Wake and Ulysses. First published by the Massachusetts Review Blog (to read on their site: Part 1 and Part 2).

“If I did that shamething it was on pure poise”

Marcelo Zabaloy must be a remarkable man, with no shortage of literary ambition and ability. Having completed an unabridged translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (published in 2015 by el Cuenco de Plata in Buenos Aires), Zabaloy is in the final stages of his next translation. The book? James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

While Ulysses is a certainly a difficult book to read, it nonetheless retains a modicum of accessibility in its native tongue—the language may seem rather dialectically Irish, but at least it is more or less a form of English. We might imagine a dedicated translator working on Ulysses as his magnum opus. To translate Finnegans Wake, however, is much more difficult to imagine. How does one translate a book in which the original text already appears as some idiosyncratic kind of language? What inspires someone to even attempt such an undertaking?

In an attempt to answer these questions, I interviewed Marcelo Zabaloy over the course of numerous e-mail exchanges. We discussed his interest in Joyce; his translations of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake; his professional life, working for his son’s travel agency; and his collaboration with Edgardo Russo, the highly regarded late editor of el Cuento de Plata.

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Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, Madness, Psychoanalysis

Monism, Humpty Dumpty, and Finnegans Wake: In Defense of the Arcane, Pt. 2

by Derek Pyle

Finnegans Wake is concerned with the primordial. James Joyce’s book is an expository dramatization of the cosmic elements, as if depicting the sands that give rise to Ozymandias, only to collapse again later. As I suggested in the first section of the current essay, Finnegans Wake is about how ocean turns to desert, desert turns to Las Vegas, and Las Vegas eventually runs out of water and collapses back into desert–a land which in turn births the great T. S. Eliot epic, “The Wasteland.” Continue reading

Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, Pioneer Valley

Big Foot, Loch Ness, and Finnegans Wake: In Defense of the Arcane, Pt. 1

by Derek Pyle

The crown of Hipster Creation, I guess: nonsensical, witty, I-don’t-give-a-fuck cool. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce is the ultimate “shit on canvas and call it art.” An honest admission of admiration for the book seems too arrogant–because after all, I really don’t know what’s going on–and yet I can’t simply write off the work as gibberish. Mirroring this internal conflict, when discussing the book with others I unwittingly slip into a pretentious yet self-effacing brogue. As if arcane is equated with cool, I say stupid shit like, “It’s the most difficult book in the English language.” From Wikipedia:

The entire book is written in a largely idiosyncratic language, consisting of a mixture of standard English lexical items and neologistic multilingual puns and portmanteau words… Despite these obstacles, readers and commentators have reached a broad consensus about the book’s central cast of characters and, to a lesser degree, its plot. Continue reading