Monday, June 25, 2012

   Bohumil Hrabal spoke no English. But speaking English is no problem for the international history of the novel.
   It is no problem, certainly, for the international motif of urine.
   Towards the end of Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, the narrator mentions how 'you should have seen what Olanek did when we wished him a happy fiftieth birthday and asked him how his health was holding up, right there in the main square he pulled out his member - he had ten beers in him at the time - and drenched the advertisement for Nachod Mills all the way to the accent over the a while the local notary public passed under the stream and wished us a pleasant day'. And I like to think that this tremendous achievement is an achievement for which Leopold Bloom has been practising - for in Ulysses we discover that Bloom's schoolboy arc of urine was unbeatable: 'capable of attaining the point of greatest altitude against the whole concurrent strength of the institution, 210 scholars.' And, what's more, according to Joyce's adapted system of parallels between his Ulysses and Homer's Odyssey, this arc corresponds to Odysseus's famed bow with which he killed Penelope's suitors.
   A Greek bow, therefore, became an Irish-Jewish arc of urine, and finally fell to earth, in Czech. It was a golden shower. That is one way of paying homage to Maria Weatherallova, the translator of James Joyce, whose name I like very much.

- Adam Thirlwell
The Delighted States

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