James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has repeatedly been declared to be entirely untranslatable. Nonetheless, it has been translated, transposed, or transcreated into a surprising variety of languages – including complete renditions in French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, and Korean, and partial renditions in Italian, Spanish, and a variety of other languages. Impossible Joyce explores the fascinating range of different approaches adopted by translators in coming to grips with Joyce’s astonishing literary text.
In this study, Patrick O’Neill builds on an approach first developed in his book Polyglot Joyce, but deepens his focus by considering Finnegans Wake exclusively. Venturing from Umberto Eco’s assertion that the novel is a machine designed to generate as many meanings as possible for readers, he provides a sustained examination of the textual effects generated by comparative readings of translated excerpts. In doing so, O’Neill makes manifest the ways in which attempts to translate this extraordinary text have resulted in a cumulative extension of Finnegans Wake into an even more extraordinary macrotext encompassing and subsuming its collective renderings.