Telemachus 0003

[cf. Gabler 3:1, 1922 p. 3]

Some pudgy guy is carrying a bowl to the top of a tower.  So begins the most important novel of the twentieth century. A ceremony of sorts is about to happen.

This is not our first main character, but is instead a secondary one–this is his biggest scene. He’s based on a real acquaintance of Joyce’s Oliver St. John Gogarty, a physician and writer who would go on to be a Senator in the Irish Free State.  In 1904, he rented an abandoned military fortification outside the city, which he lived in and would use as a kind of salon for over twenty years.  Joyce lived there, but only for a week in September 1904.

Let us say something obvious. Living in an unheated Napoleonic fortification, 7 1/2 miles from the center of town as the crow flies, is not a practical decision.

And one more obvious thing–there’s a practical reason Mulligan comes to the top of the tower to shave. It’s very dark and smoky in the living quarters below, not to mention the heady aroma of one rather unclean Dedalus (more on that later) and a sleeping Englishman.

Rob’s drawing gives us an intriguing birds-eye view that conveys at least two important pieces of information: a) we’re out in the middle of nowhere, and b) Mulligan is putting on a show without an audience. Not having an audience is intolerable for Mulligan, so he will shortly summon Stephen Dedalus to serve as an altar boy to his perverse shaving mass. Making the “S” extra big, like Random House did when they designed the first American edition of Ulysses, Rob really makes it stand off the page.  Some scholars have taken the fact that the book begins with an S to suggest that Stephen is the focus of the early chapters… we just like the way it looks and how it lends an epic feel.

I’ve always thought Mulligan gets a bad rap… and I identify with him in a way.  Here, at the beginning of the day, he seems a little glib,  a little snobby, but he’s more sensible than Stephen. And he’s funny and stately and plump.
We’ll meet Stephen in a minute, who is skinny and anxious. If we were casting Mulligan, we’d need someone a little officious, with a touch of wickedness and a sharp wit, a little aristocratic, a little paunchy, someone not entirely in control of their appetites but who’s comfortable with that…. a young John Malkovitch, perhaps?

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Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus


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10 Responses to “Telemachus 0003”

  1. avatar robberry237 says:

    I like the Malkovitch casting, though I’m glad you didn’t mention it earlier. Good casting picks have a way of cluttering up an artist’s (or a reader’s) imagination and Buck is such a fun character throughout that i wanted to get a look for him that was totally my own.

  2. avatar jlev says:

    I think Mulligan is entertaining, as well, but I’m not sure that the bad rap he gets (from readers and from Simon Dedalus) is unfair. He very obviously has no real respect for Stephen at all, and despite his the fact that he has access to more financial resources than Stephen does, he has Stephen pay the rent for the Tower. He is privileged, and doesn’t seem to care much about the feelings of others.

  3. avatar rob berry says:

    Interesting point worth making here is that while Stephen (young Joyce) is said to be paying the rent on the tower it is, in fact Gogarty (Mulligan) to whom the tower was leased in 1904. The name on the property needs to be Stephen’s to carry off the “usurper” connection to Telemachus in the ODYSSEY, Gogarty was the man behind this hellenesizing thing on paper as well as in spirit. But he needed, and should support for, an artist of Joyce’s caliber and potential to make it really work.

    The metaphor is played out more directly in American folk music later, something Joyce would’ve certainly loved, when Bob Dylan proclaims that he “aint gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more.”

  4. avatar Le Photon says:


    Un gars un peu rondouillard apporte un bol en haut d’une tour. Ainsi commence le plus important roman du 20ème siècle. Une cérémonie incantatoire est sur le point de se tenir.
    Ce n’est pas le héros principal, mais un personnage secondaire dont c’est la scène la plus importante. Il est inspiré d’une des réelles connaissances de Joyce, Oliver St John Gogarty, un physicien et écrivain qui, par la suite, deviendra sénateur de l’Etat libre d’Irlande. En 1904, il loua une fortification militaire abandonnée à l’extérieur de la ville, dans laquelle il vécut et tint salon pendant plus de vingt ans. Joyce y séjourna mais seulement pendant une semaine, en septembre 1904.
    C’est une évidence : il est peu commode de vivre dans une fortification de l’époque napoléonienne sans chauffage, à une douzaine de kilomètres du centre-ville, à vol d’oiseau. C’est typiquement le genre de décision que peut prendre une bande de jeunes de vingt ans. Avant d’avoir une petite amie. Ou un petit copain. Mulligan vit pleinement son rêve, tirant le meilleur parti de sa tour en bord de mer – ou du moins essaye-t-il.
    Et chose encore plus évidente : c’est pour une raison pratique que Mulligan monte au sommet de la tour pour se raser. Les pièces à vivre sont sombres et enfumées, sans parler de l’odeur prenante d’un Dedalus à l’hygiène douteuse (nous en reparlerons plus tard) mêlée à celle d’un Anglais endormi.

    La scène, telle que représentée par Robert Berry (Rob), nous donne une curieuse vue panoramique embrassant deux informations importantes : a) nous sommes au milieu de nulle part ; b) Mulligan se lance dans un spectacle sans public. Pour lui, il est insupportable de ne pas avoir de public, si bien qu’il ne tarde pas à ordonner à Stephen Dedalus de lui servir d’enfant de chœur pour sa messe de rasage un peu perverse. Rob dresse, sur toute la hauteur de la page, un gigantesque S, rappelant celui de la première édition américaine d’Ulysse chez Random House. Certains spécialistes avancent que le livre commence par ce S pour signifier que Stephen est au centre des premiers chapitres… Nous nous contenterons d’en admirer l’effet, dans sa dimension épique.

    J’ai toujours pensé que Mulligan faisant l’objet d’injustes critiques, et je m’identifie à lui d’une certaine manière. Ici, au lever du jour, il semble avoir la parole facile et être un peu condescendant, mais plus sensible que Stephen. Et il est amusant, majestueux et… rondouillard.

    Nous sommes sur le point de faire la connaissance de Stephen, maigrichon et anxieux. Si on faisait passer une audition pour jouer le rôle de Mulligan, on aurait besoin d’un acteur un peu empressé, doté d’un soupçon de malice et d’un esprit aiguisé, un peu aristocratique, un peu bedonnant, qui ne contrôle pas tout à fait ses appétits mais ne s’en porte pas plus mal, un jeune John Malkovitch, peut-être ?

  5. avatar George A. Trosper says:

    Thank you for this work! The best I can contribute (no irony intended) is a complaint:

    The “I identify with him in a way” link, to , doesn’t work.

  6. avatar Pascal Champavert says:

    Peut-être convient-il de traduire le mot “officious” par “qui en fait un peu trop” plutôt que “empressé”.

  7. avatar Rob Berry says:

    Thanks, George. We’ll look into it.

  8. avatar Ray Pavitte says:

    At last! I have been waiting for the iPad version ever since Kickstarter. What a great start to 2012.

  9. avatar Rob Berry says:

    Thank you, Ray! Have you seen the new pages we did with the National Library of Ireland for Bloomsday?

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