Katherine Mansfield on Joyce

The following is a letter written by the writer Katherine Mansfield – who had spent the afternoon with Mansfield and her husband:

“Joyce was rather … difficile. I had no idea until then of his view of Ulysses — no idea how closely it was modelled on the Greek story, how absolutely necessary it was to know the one through and through to be able to discuss the other. I’ve read the Odyssey and am more or less familiar with it but Murry [Mansfield’s husband] and Joyce simply sailed out of my depth. I felt almost stupefied. It’s absolutely impossible that other people should understand Ulysses as Joyce understands it. It’s almost revolting to hear him discuss its difficulties. It contains code words that must be picked up in each paragraph and so on. The Question and Answer part can be read astronomically or from the geologic standpoint or — oh, I don’t know!”

— Katherine Mansfield.

An amusing coda to Mansfield’s vehement opinion: Joyce had a different take on his afternoon spent with the Mansfields, and told a friend: “Mrs. Murry understood the book better than her husband.”

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