MADRID — James Joyce once said he hoped his seminal and famously provocative novel ‘Ulysses’ would ‘keep professors busy for centuries arguing about what I meant’.
Since its publication 100 years ago, almost every line has certainly continued to amaze its readers. There has also been debate as to whether the book could be illustrated, and which artist could take it. Now a new edition of “Ulysses” presents the work in a new light.
Timed to commemorate the centenary of Sylvia Beach’s publication of “Ulysses” in Paris, this new edition features over 300 images of Eduardo Arroyo, a celebrated Spanish painter and printmaker who died of cancer in 2018. Fascinated by “Ulysses,” Arroyo said in a 1991 essay that coming up with the illustrations kept him alive when he was hospitalized in the late 1980s for peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdominal wall.
This new “Ulysses” edition was published late last month in both Spanish and English by Galaxia Gutenberg, a Spanish publishing house based in Barcelona, and Other Press, an independent publisher based 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 initially hoped that his drawings, watercolors and collages would be published in 1991, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Joyce’s death, as a new “Ulysses”. But Joyce’s legacy opposed the idea of an illustrated edition. Without that approval, Arroyo initially had to limit himself to printing his images in a book based on Joyce’s work, written by the Spanish author Julían Ríos.
Arroyo couldn’t revive his “Ulysses” project until ten years 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, passed away in 2020.
Joan Tarrida, the publisher of Galaxia Gutenberg, said in an interview that it was unclear exactly why Stephen Joyce was against an illustrated edition, given that his grandfather had tried to convince two of the most famous artists of his time to create artwork for his novel. †
Joyce was turned down by Pablo Picasso – probably on the advice of his friend Gertrude Stein, who Tarrida said wasn’t a fan of Joyce. He didn’t do much better with Henri Matisse, who was more interested in illustrating the “Odyssey” and its ancient Greek heroes than “Ulysses”, whose structure resembles that of Homer’s epic poem.
But after a US judge lifted a 1933 import ban on “Ulysses,” which had been censored for obscenity, Matisse accepted a $5,000 offer from George Macy, an American publisher, to print some of his “Odyssey” etchings in an illustrated, limited, and deluxe edition of “Ulysses.” In 2019, a copy of Macy’s edition sold at auction by Christie’s for $13,750.
Meanwhile, signed copies of Beach’s 1922 edition of “Ulysses” were among the most expensive 20th-century first-edition books sold, grossing over $400,000. The new edition costs $75.
Until his death, Arroyo worked on the concept of the book with Tarrida, who had also previously published some of Arroyo’s writings. Other Press joined the project after Judith Gurewich, the publisher, accidentally came across some of Arroyo’s drawings while visiting Tarrida’s office in 2018.
As I waited for him, “I saw all these exceptional paintings and drawings scattered around the room, and I just fell in love with them,” she said in a telephone interview.
After completing his “Ulysses” images, Arroyo wrote an essay in 1991 to explain his fascination with the novel, as well as how difficult it was for him to turn Joyce’s words into images, which at one point made him worry. made “Ulysses” to “finish”. which the peritonitis had not achieved.”
He added: “At several times I came close to throwing in the towel, to finally free myself from such a bulky undertaking forever.”
Tarrida said readers might view Arroyo’s artwork as “a parallel reading” of Joyce’s words. Gurewich said she would even recommend that new readers of “Ulysses” admire Arroyo’s vibrant watercolors and evocative drawings and then try to associate them with a specific passage in the novel, rather than start by reading 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 – this is a really fun way to reconstruct the book.”
Just as Joyce used a range of styles to write ‘Ulysses’, Arroyo used a range of techniques to depict the author’s characters as they wander through Dublin, from paper collage to ink and watercolor.
Some of Arroyo’s black-and-white illustrations are printed in the margins of the book’s pages, while others are double-page paintings whose vibrant colors are reminiscent of the pop art that inspired him. He also filled his version of “Ulysses” with eclectic depictions of shoes and hats, bulls and bats, as well as some sexually explicit depictions of scenes that drew the ire of censors a century ago.
Megan Quigley, an assistant professor of English who teaches in the Irish Studies program at Villanova University, said she welcomed the release of an illustrated “Ulysses.”
“I tell my students to find anything that can help them understand Joyce’s master novel – called literature or music, historical references, later novelists influenced by Joyce (such as Sally Rooney), maps, charts, past minds who have struggled and debated and wrote about Joyce in everything from science articles to blogs and fanfiction,” she said in an email. “Joyce’s universe is one for the obsessive reader who will find all the clues to work their way through the novel.”
She added: “I’m happy to throw my hat into the fray to support an edition of ‘Ulysses’ with images.”