On this day…12 June

On 12 June 1930 Anna Livia Plurabelle was published in London by Faber & Faber.

The ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ chapter of Finnegans Wake (pp. 196-216) is one of the best known and most popular in the book, and was almost certainly Joyce’s favourite. He paid a great deal of attention to the drafting and revising of this chapter, and it was published in its own right more often than any other complete chapter.

‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ opens with the large ‘O’ and following words arranged in a triangular shape, repeating the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet,  ‘delta’ (Δ), which was also the shorthand siglum that Joyce used to indicate Anna Livia in his notes. This ‘O’ is the opening of the gossip of the two washerwomen, one on either side of the river, washing dirty linen as they gossip and exchange rumours about Anna Livia and HCE.

Joyce sent a draft of this chapter to Harriet Weaver at the beginning of March 1924, and it was first published as ‘From a Work in Progress’ in the Navire d’Argent in Paris in October 1925. It was published again as ‘A New Unnamed Work’ in Samuel Roth’s Two Worlds in March 1926.

After these publications, it was revised again before it was published in transition no. 8 in November 1927 as ‘Continuation of a Work in Progress,’ and it formed the last part of Work in Progress Volume I, published in New York by Donald Friede in January 1928, in order to secure American copyright.

Early in 1928 it was being revised again, this time in preparation for its first publication in book form by Crosby Gaige in New York on 20 October 1928. The following year, Joyce made a recording of the three last pages of this chapter for CK Ogden, the only recording of him reading from Finnegans Wake. The book Anna Livia Plurabelle was finally published in London by Faber & Faber in June 1930.

Writing to Harriet Weaver in 1927 Joyce said that either ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ was something, or he was no judge of language. But it was Joyce’s language that critics often found bewildering. Sean O’Faolain, writing in the Virginia Quarterly Review in April 1928, said this language “has one reality only – the reality of the round and round of children’s scrawls in their first copybooks, zany circles of nothing.” Arnold Bennett, writing in the London Evening Standard in September 1929, said “Anna Livia Plurabelle will never be anything but the wild caprice of a wonderful creative artist who has lost his way.”


Sources & Further Reading:

Deming, Robert H: James Joyce – The Critical Heritage, vol. 2, 1928-1941, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970.

Higginson, Fred: Anna Livia Plurabelle – The Making of a Chapter, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1960.

Joyce, James: Anna Livia Plurabelle, London: Faber & Faber, 1930.

McCarthy, Patrick: ‘Making Herself Tidal – Chapter I.8,’ in How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake – A Chapter-by-Chapter Genetic Guide, edited by Luca Crispi and Sam Slote, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007.