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James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ turns 100 years old with illustrated edition

On the shelf

Ulysses: An illustrated edition

By James Joyce, illus. by Eduardo Arroyo
Second Press: 720 pages, $ 75

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James Joyce’s landmark modernist novel “Ulysses” turns 100 years old this year. The occasion will be marked by readings, discussions and a Bloomsday that blooms like no other before (June 16, the day of Leopold Bloom’s peregrination). The book itself takes precedence over encomiums and recitations, costumes and nostalgia, 710 pages of inner monologue and dialogue, stream of consciousness, blank verses, Greek classics and Dublin’s venues, 1904.

The 6-pound Centennial Edition, which weighs 6 pounds, is likely to cut off circulation in your thighs and force a meal over (for $ 75), but it’s worth the extra. “Ulysses: An Illustrated Edition” includes 134 color illustrations and nearly 200 in black and white by Spanish artist Eduardo Arroyo, his final project before his death in October 2018.

“In 2004, we were working on the first five books of the Bible,” recalls Joan Tarrida of Galaxia Gutenberg, who had been collaborating with the artist since the 1980s. “And then Eduardo always talked about, ‘my ideal, the dream project would be Ulysses’.” Arroyo suffered from decades of peritonitis, and “the work on ‘Ulysses’ gave him the strength to survive. This ‘Ulysses’ has been a project for a long time.”

Three months before Arroyo’s death, Judith Gurewich, publisher of the independent Other Press, was in Spain to meet her colleagues. When she arrived early for a visit with Tarrida at his home in Barcelona, ​​she was waiting in his office and found herself surrounded by Arroyo’s exquisite reproductions, some framed on the walls and others lying on the sofa and chairs.

From “Ulysses: An Illustrated Edition.”

(Courtesy of Galaxia Gutenberg)

“There must have been 30 or 40 of these drawings or paintings now in the book,” Gurewich says. “Joan arrived and I did not even say hello. I said, ‘What is it?’ We started talking about it and I said, ‘Do you think we can do this together?’ “

Arroyo’s playful, colorful works share a palette with pop art that was prevalent in the 1960s, when he mainly began showing in Paris. His first American exhibition was in 1975 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Madrid Museum of Contemporary Art has him in their permanent collection, as does the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern. His formats run the entire spectrum – paper collage, chalk, ink, watercolor and graphite. Images are flattened and replace depth with collage-like layers, as seen in the cover portrait of Joyce, a studio in green and beige.

The effect – of wealth within simplicity – fits “Ulysses”, the formidably complex account of a simple advertising agent on his daily routine in Dublin. The narrative occasionally shifts to Bloom’s unfaithful wife, Molly, or an acquaintance, Stephen Dedalus, an author separated from Joyce’s autobiographical “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Not much happens to Bloom during the novel – he goes to the butcher shop, a funeral, gets feces and masturbates later on the beach.

The apparent coincidence of events, along with the free-flowing style (one of the first uses of the stream of consciousness), contradicts a structure that is literally classical – using its source, Homer’s Odyssey, as a heroic template applied to a humdrum Irishman, thereby bringing the epic into everyday life, poetry into prose. Obscurantist and yet down-to-earth enough to have been considered obscene, it has become a cultural touchstone without becoming easier to read.

“I remember the first time we read ‘Ulysses’ it was like it was Shakespeare and we had to understand the cadence and the nuance and it got complicated,” the novelist Adrian McKinty recalls when he met the novel as a student. He grew up in Belfast before becoming a bestselling author (from “The Chain” to the upcoming “The Island”). “To understand this book, I have to understand who the clergy were in the 1890s ?! For me, it’s a communication failure on the part of the author. Shut up!”

But his second time reading it, McKinty broke through, trapped in the transcendent verbal embroidery, lacking dozens of references but capturing others. “Just like the reader would like to do, spend a year and go one page a day or fly through it and go 40 pages a day and miss out on most of the references. Either way, that’s perfectly acceptable. “

Eduardo Arroyo just died as a lifelong project, an illustrated version of James Joyces "Ulysses," was finally underway.

Eduardo Arroyo just died as a lifelong project, an illustrated version of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was finally in the works.

(kike palads)

“Ulysses” was hardly written for modern attention, and Arroyo’s pictures provide a welcome respite in the Other Press edition. When Buck Mulligan asks Dedalus’ handkerchief to wipe his razor clean, the artist gives us a two-sided collage of a black sleeve that pulls a spotted white cloth from a pocket. The reference to their roommate’s dream of a black panther is portrayed in a black-and-white doodle of a gun, in which the smoke from its run transforms into a cat with a human face – Joyce’s smooth surrealism was expressed.

Of course, there are graphic nude photos, especially in later chapters – a penis writes the words “wet dream” – but also more abstract treatments of sex; bats and fireworks, motifs taken from the text, illustrate Bloom’s climax on the beach. And there are classic references that reflect Joyces, such as the full-page painting of a bull in the style of the ancients to illustrate a passage about a famous cattle stud.

An image that accompanies Bloom in the maternity ward animates the development from sperm to pacifier, boots, baby, boy and man – a kind of temporal compression within a single frame that is hardly unique to graphic novels. Tarrida regards it as a tribute to Italian Renaissance masters who did pretty much the same thing. “He uses a lot of different ways of painting,” Tarrida says. It may be a reflection of the many years Arroyo spent making the pictures.

Arroyo's illustration of a maternity ward scene in "Ulysses: An illustrated edition."

Arroyo’s illustration of a delivery room scene in “Ulysses: An Illustrated Edition” compresses the stages of childhood in a surreal mirror.

(Courtesy of Galaxia Gutenberg)

Joyce’s own eclectic masterpiece came together pretty quickly, but the road to release was famously bumpy. It began as a short story in his collection “Dubliners” from 1914 and was largely written when the author was out in World War I in Zurich. “Ulysses” was completed around 1920 and was published in magazines in both England and the United States – the latter resulting in a lawsuit under the Comstock Act. It was not until the mid-1930s that both countries judged that the novel could be published. Its fame thus went a decade before its release.

“If it had come out and there was no scandal, I do not think it would have been as successful as it is,” McKinty says. Joyce’s response to his critics was, “If ‘Ulysses’ is not fit to read, then life is not fit to live.” He died in 1941, two years after the release of his even more abstract epic, “Finnegans Wake.”

Arroyo never got to see his illustrated masterpiece; he died just a few months after Other Press started the project. He managed to see the first 200 pages of his deathbed.

“It was amazing just because I had time to tell him that the book would be published, the English version. For him, it was paradise,” Tarrida recalls. “For him, it was a dream come true; in his last minute he knew ‘Ulysses’ would be released. “

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