Apr. 2, 2010

Molly Bloom's soliloquy

by James Joyce

"I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

"Molly Bloom's soliloquy" is presented in the eighteenth, and final, chapter of Ulysses by James Joyce. © Random House. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Émile Zola, (books by this author) born in Paris (1840). He wrote a 20-novel cycle, which includes The Drunkard (1877), Nana (1880), and Germinal (1885). Zola said, "If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud."

It's the birthday of Giacomo Casanova, (books by this author) born in Venice (1725). In 1785, he retired to a castle in Bohemia, where he set out to write his memoirs. He left behind 4,000 pages of manuscript, later published as The History of My Life. His memoir made him into a legendary hero, famous for seducing women.

It's the birthday of the author of many of our best-known fairy tales, "The Little Mermaid," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Snow Queen," "Princess and the Pea," and "The Ugly Duckling," Hans Christian Andersen, (books by this author) born in Odense, Denmark (1805).

On this day in 1932 James Joyce (books by this author) wrote to Random House's Bennett Cerf a famous letter detailing the tribulations of getting his novel Ulysses published. It was written in lieu of an Author's Preface, to be included in the first legal edition of Ulysses in the English-speaking world, the version published by Random House in 1934.

Ulysses had been in print for 10 years by the time Joyce wrote this letter. It was published in 1922 by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, but the book was banned in the English-speaking world. Plenty of Americans were reading the book anyway — they were buying bootlegged copies printed by unscrupulous printers — and Joyce had spent the last decade deprived of his rightful royalties as his book's popularity surged.

Someone suggested to Joyce that he could avoid legal trouble by publishing an expurgated version of his novel Ulysses, doing away with the passages deemed offensive. Joyce turned to him and replied: " My book has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Which would you like to cut off?"

Even though it would subject him to criminal prosecution, Bennett Cerf decided that he wanted Random House to legally publish Ulysses in the U.S. He sent word to James Joyce explaining his intentions, and Joyce responded with a famous letter on this day in 1932, which began:

Dear Mr. Cerf,
I thank you very much for your message. ... You ask me for details of the story of the publication of Ulysses and since you are determined to fight for its legalisation in the United States and to publish what will be the only authentic edition there, I think it just as well to tell you the history of its publication in Europe and the complications which followed it in America.
... You are surely well aware of the difficulties I found in publishing anything I wrote from the very first volume of prose I attempted to publish: Dubliners.
...Without the collaboration of the Egoist Press Ltd. London, conducted by Miss Harriet Weaver, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man might still be in manuscript.
... I wish you all possible success in your courageous venture ...

After he received this letter from Joyce, Bennett Cerf devised a test case, a legal battle that would result in the removal of the ban on the book. He arranged for a copy of Ulysses to be sent from Paris, and he told customs officials working at the docks to make sure to seize it. But when the ship arrived, the people at customs enforcement did not want to bother seizing it since, they said, everybody brought that book. Cerf had to convince them to seize a copy of the book so that he could have a court battle.
But even then, the government attorney who was assigned to prosecute the case did not want to have to do the prosecuting — he himself felt that Joyce's book was "a literary masterpiece" even if it was obscene according the language of the law. Eventually, he brought an unenthusiastic lawsuit in district court in New York.

Judge John Woolsey wrote the famous decision, in which he said that with "respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of [Joyce's] characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season spring."

So Ulysses was now legally not obscene and could be published in the United States, the first legal publication of the novel in an English-speaking country. Bennett Cerf heard the verdict, and 10 minutes later he had the typesetters at Random House working on Ulysses.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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