9,000 changes in amended 'Finnegans Wake'


AN AMENDED edition of James Joyce’s final work, Finnegans Wake, is to be published next week.

The new version of the 1939 work, which has been typographically reset for the first time in its publishing history, incorporates some 9,000 minor corrections and alterations.

These include changes to punctuation marks; fonts; spacing; misspellings, misplaced phrases and ruptured syntax.

The book, written by Joyce over a 17-year period, is renowned as difficult because of its linguistic experiments and abandonment of conventions of plot and character construction.

“Although individually minor, these changes are nonetheless crucial in facilitating a smooth reading of the book,” English publisher Houyhnhnm said.

The new edition is the summation of 30 years of work by textual scholars Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon, who have collated and clarified the 30,000 pages of manuscripts, notes, drafts, typescripts and proofs used by Joyce in completing Finnegans Wake. Mr Rose said the book was subjected to a “massive bibliographical and text-critical analysis” which had resulted in “the closest approximation to what you could describe as a definitive edition”.

“Because of the difficulty of the language of ‘ Finnegans Wake’, the syntax is not immediately apparent and the syntaxical coherence of the book was effectively lost when it was brought into print,” he said.

“This coherence has been fully restored in the new edition and results in what can be called the first definitive edition of Joyce’s final masterpiece. I think that after 90 years of learning to read ‘Ulysses’ we can now learn to read ‘ Finnegans Wake’ . . . I believe we have finally learned to become Joyce’s contemporaries.”

He said legal requirements needed to publish the book had been met with the Joyce estate. Attempts to contact the Joyce estate were unsuccessful.

Anthony Farrell, a director of Houyhnhnm, said he was delighted to be involved in the project. “I regard it as one of the most important undertakings of my career. It is endorsed by the best authorities and printed by Europe’s finest scholar printer, Martino Mardersteig of Verona.”

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan will speak at an event to mark the publication of the book in Dublin Castle next Thursday, before it is launched in London on March 31st.

The book will not be cheap, with the standard edition priced at €300 and the special edition at €900. A paperback edition is to be published by Penguin later this year.

Joycean scholar Senator David Norris said he was delighted the book had come to fruition, but added that he did not know if it would now be more accessible to readers than in the past.

“The text is so dense,” he said. “It’s written in a dream language which is very far from the ordinary written English except for its syntax. ‘ Finnegans Wake’ is like music. It’s the kind of thing you have to hear.”

Opening Lines: Famous Sentence Shows Changes


riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle Environs.


riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.