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A new look for ‘Ulysses’


MADRID — James Joyce once said he hoped his groundbreaking and famous novel ‘Ulysses’ would “keep teachers busy for ages arguing over what I meant.”

Since its publication 100 years ago, almost every line has certainly continued to intrigue its readers. There was also some debate about whether the book could be illustrated and which artist could take it over. Now, a new edition of “Ulysses” presents the work in a new light.

Planned to commemorate the centenary of the publication of “Ulysses” by Sylvia Beach in Paris, this new edition contains more than 300 images by Eduardo Arroyo, a famous Spanish painter and graphic designer who died of cancer in 2018. Fascinated by “Ulysses” , Arroyo said in a 1991 essay that imagining the illustrations kept him alive when he was hospitalized in the late 1980s with peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdominal lining.

This new “Ulysses” edition was published late last month in Spanish and English, by Galaxia Gutenberg, a Spanish publisher based in Barcelona, ​​and Other Press, an independent publisher in New York. The book’s release — more than three decades after Arroyo produced his images — was long delayed due to copyright disputes.

Arroyo had originally hoped his drawings, watercolors and collages might be published as a new “Ulysses” in 1991, to mark the 50th anniversary of Joyce’s death. But Joyce’s estate objected to the idea of ​​an illustrated edition. Without this approval, Arroyo initially had to limit himself to printing his images in a book based on Joyce’s work, written by Spanish author Julían Ríos.

Arroyo was able to revive his “Ulysses” project only a decade ago, after the novel entered the public domain and Joyce’s heirs could no longer stop him from using the original text. Stephen Joyce, the author’s grandson and last direct descendant, died in 2020.

Joan Tarrida, the publisher of Galaxia Gutenberg, said in an interview that it’s not clear why Stephen Joyce had opposed an illustrated edition, since his grandfather had sought to convince two of the most famous artists of his time to produce illustrations for his novel.

Joyce was turned down by Pablo Picasso – probably on the advice of his friend Gertrude Stein, who was not a fan of Joyce, according to Tarrida. He doesn’t fare much better with Henri Matisse, who is more interested in illustrating “The Odyssey” and its ancient Greek heroes than in “Ulysses”, whose structure recalls that of the epic poem of ‘Homer.

Yet after an American judge in 1933 lifted a ban on the import of “Ulysses”, which had been censored on the grounds of obscenity, Matisse accepted an offer of $5,000 from George Macy, an American publisher, for incorporate some of his “Odyssey” prints into an illustrated, limited, deluxe edition of “Ulysses”. In 2019, a copy of Macy’s edition was sold to auction by Christie’s for $13,750.

Meanwhile, signed copies of Beach’s 1922 edition “Ulysses” were among the Very expensive Twentieth-century first-edition books have sold for over $400,000. The new edition costs $75.

Until his death, Arroyo worked on the draft of the book with Tarrida, who had also previously published some of Arroyo’s writings. Other Press joined the project after Judith Gurewich, its editor, accidentally came across some of Arroyo’s cartoons during a visit to Tarrida’s office in 2018.

While waiting for it, “I saw all these outstanding paintings and drawings scattered around the room, and I fell in love with them,” she said in a phone interview.

After completing his “Ulysses” pictures, Arroyo wrote an essay in 1991 to explain his fascination with the novel, as well as the difficulty he had in turning Joyce’s words into pictures, leaving him worried at one point that ” Odysseus” “would end”. what peritonitis had not reached.

He added: “At various times I almost threw in the towel, only to finally free myself from such an important undertaking forever.”

Tarrida said readers might treat Arroyo’s work as “a parallel reading” to Joyce’s words. Gurewich said she would recommend even first-time readers of ‘Ulysses’ to admire Arroyo’s vibrant watercolors and evocative drawings and then try to tie them to a specific passage in the novel, rather than reading first. the text.

“You can look at an illustration and then find on the page what Arroyo chose to illustrate,” she said. “If you’re intimidated by ‘Ulysses’ – like me – it’s a really fun way to reconstruct the book.”

Just as Joyce used an array of styles to write ‘Ulysses’, Arroyo deployed an array of techniques to portray the author’s characters as they wind their way through Dublin, from collage on paper to ink and brush. ‘watercolor.

Some of Arroyo’s black-and-white illustrations are printed in the margins of the book’s pages, while others are double-page spread paintings whose bright colors recall the Pop Art that inspired him. He also filled his version of “Ulysses” with eclectic imagery of shoes and hats, bulls and bats, as well as sexually explicit depictions of scenes that angered censors a century ago.

Megan Quigley, an assistant professor of English who teaches in Villanova University’s Irish Studies program, said she welcomes the release of an illustrated “Ulysses.”

“I tell my students to find anything they can that will help us understand Joyce’s main novel – literature or music mentioned, historical references, later novelists influenced by Joyce (like Sally Rooney), maps , graphics, ancient minds that fought and argued. and written about Joyce in everything from academic articles to blogs and fanfics,” she said in an email. “Joyce’s universe is for the obsessive reader who will find all the clues to make their way through the novel.”

She added: “I’m happy to throw my hat in to support an edition of ‘Ulysses’ with pictures.”