I want to make a parenthesis at this point, as the title of this entry suggests, to make reference to two greats: James Joyce and Vincent Van Gogh. A couple of days ago, these two artists only shared in my mind the distinction of being members of that high elite of jugglers of language; that worldly Mount Olympus where Shakespeare, Kurosawa, Beethoven… are all Kings. However, recently, through the works of another great, Jorge Luis Borges, I stumbled upon a sentence that has finally made me realize of a connection between the irish with the dutch: a sentence of Joye’s Finnegans Wake, one of his most obscure works. The sentence is thus: “Beside the rivering waters of, hither and thithering waters of, night.”
Apart from the magnifiscent grammatics and its poetic prose, the fact that it belongs to the most experimental and plot-elusive work of Joyce makes it more significant. Finnegans Wake is a puzzle of abstract forms in the shape of a book. And this sentence represents one of those forms. It is the result of the linguistic abstraction of an image, of an impression. That impression, which Joyce extracted from nature and printed out in the form of literature in a moment of inspiration (he had lots of those…), had also been extracted, decades before, by Vincent Van Gogh.
The Starry Night is one of Van Gogh’s masterpieces. It has been praised by many artists, writers and painters alike, just as Joyce’s masterpieces. Still, we scarcely find them (Joyce and Van Gogh) together in an academic discussion or in an artistic treaty. That is, because of all their differences (historic, thematic, artistic (form)), it would seem somehow presumptious to connect the painter and the writer; however, they are indeed connected, connected by that ‘aesthetic bliss’ Nabokov talked about, that “sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.” That’s where both parts meet; their –the painter and the writer; the painting and the passage– connection runs deep within their blood, not in the superficial qualities that English professors try to hammer down upon their pupils. That night, that state of being of the world which I will not venture to describe lest I make a fool of myself having Joyce and Van Gogh in the same post; that texture of time is the norm where Van Gogh and Joyce converge.
“Beside the rivering waters of, hither and thithering waters of, night.”