Sunday, 9 February 2014

Solve for ‘riverrun,’

This one's a week late, but also early. Enjoy.

Solve for ‘riverrun,’

“the canonicity of his existence as a tesseract.”
FW 100:31

Spend any length of time reading, studying and thinking about the works of James Joyce and sooner or later you have to come to the conclusion that the person Joyce most wanted to be compared with wasn’t another author at all but the physicist Albert Einstein.

In this essay I am going to demonstrate that his final masterpiece, Finnegans Wake, should be thought of as Joyce’s General Theory of History, complimenting Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. As Einstein’s General Theory came after his Special Theory of Relativity, so I will show that Finnegans Wake is a General Theory as Joyce’s previous novel, Ulysses, is his Special Theory of History.

Like Newton before him, Einstein’s field equations of gravitation are summarised in a single equation:

G  = 8πG/c4 * T (1)

where: G is the Einstein tensor, G the gravitational constant of the universe, c the speed of light and T the energy-momentum tensor.

Solutions to this single equation result in descriptions of black holes, the big bang, the expansion of the universe, dark energy, gravitational red shifting, gravitational lensing and gravitational waves. Many of these solutions were found by scientists other than Einstein. How much of what is discussed below was meant by Joyce is of course open to question, but it is still a useful exercise to undertake.

The opening word of Finnegans Wake is, ‘riverrun,’ which can also be written as:

riverrun, =  8πG/c4 * T (2)

as when solutions are found to this single word, it unpacks itself into more complicated terms, much as Einstein’s field equations do. Indeed, it can be shown that Finnegans Wake is merely one (albeit extremely complicated) solution to ‘riverrun,’.

Equation (2) is not meant to be taken literally or to hold as being mathematically valid, but merely as a visual representation of what Joyce seems to be trying to achieve with Finnegans Wake. That said, the rest of this essay will be concerned with finding solutions for ‘riverrun,’.

The first thing we need to think about is something not always fully appreciated when considering the opening word of Finnegans Wake. ‘riverrun,’ is not a word. It is two words jammed together to create a compound word. Whether that word is even a noun or a verb is open to debate. I will deal with this issue later on, but for now I will state the opinion that it is a question of either/or.

Finnegans Wake is filled with what are known as portmanteau words, a class of word first used and described by Lewis Carroll. ‘[I]mmarginable’ is a typical example from the Wake, using the Latin prefix ‘Im’ for ‘un’ or ‘not’ to express the sense of something being so big that it is both unimaginable and without margins (Im is also used in mathematical symbolism to denote the imaginary part of a complex number).

Portmanteau words in the Wake often hover between two or more meanings. However, the opening word of Finnegans Wake is not a portmanteau word at all but compound, taking ‘river’ and ‘run’ and joining them together to form ‘riverrun,’. Why?

In the grand scheme of Finnegans Wake, femininity is represented by water and masculinity by the land. The River Liffey is the most usual representation of woman, encapsulated by the Wake’s leading female character, Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP), who is Joyce’s reimagining of Anna Liffey, the name given by Dubliners to the river which runs through their city.

The main male character in the Wake is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE). HCE lies beneath Dublin, his head out at the Hill of Howth, overlooking Dublin Bay, his feet stick up out beyond Phoenix Park to the west. Men in the Wake are represented by land and settlements established upon that land.

Assuming that the ‘river’ in ‘riverrun,’ represents femininity, then we can show that ‘run’ is in turn a representation of the male. James Joyce’s Ulysses is a modern retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, a sea based adventure which Joyce relocates to the streets of Dublin, 16 June 1904. His male lead, Leopold Bloom, spends the day walking around Dublin rather than return to his home where his wife is unfaithful to him with concert promoter, Blazes Boylan. Running is a faster form of walking (In Ulysses, Bloom manages to cover some distances walking that he would have had to be running to have travelled in the time Joyce describes). As this action occurs on land, ‘run’ therefore represents the land and, in the dream language of Finnegans Wake, masculinity.

By compounding these two symbols of the female and male together, ‘riverrun,’ represents fertilisation. Within this one word is the entire plot of Finnegans Wake, which, just like the fertilised egg, divides and subdivides from word to sentence to page to book, containing all of the genetic material required to create the plot of the novel.

Once we accept that ‘river’ is female and ‘run’ is male, then we can also see that the two halves of the opening word have a single letter in common, ‘river’ containing two rs and ‘run’ containing one. It might already be possible to appreciate the significance of this, but recourse to some basic geometry illuminates the point even further:

Pythagoras Theorem

where: a2 + b2 = c2

But in Cartesian and polar coordinate systems:

where: x2 + y2 = r2


x = rcosθ

y = rsinθ

If we therefore translate the three rs of ‘riverrun,’ into xs, we can see that these represent the x chromosome, two in the female half, one in the male half. Moreover, whereas we talk today of women having two x chromosomes and men having an x and a y chromosome, originally the y chromosome was known as the o chromosome. So the o chromosome becomes 0 (zero) and as in English ‘un’ means ‘not’ or ‘lacking’ (unsympathetic, unhappy, unlucky etc), we can show via substitution that ‘run’ becomes xo to represent the male set of chromosomes.

As well as employing countless portmanteau words, certain letters of the alphabet in Finnegans Wake can be thought of as interchangeable. The letters p and k/c are one example. In the Goidelic language family (of which Irish Gaelic is a member), the letter p was abandoned in the ancient past and not reintroduced until after the introduction of Christianity. Saint Patrick himself was for a time known as Catraige or Cotraige.

The most interesting interchange of letters within Finnegans Wake is between the letters v, f and s. This can be seen, for instance, in the title of the book itself, where Finnegan can also be Vinnegan, reflecting the cycle of birth and death, where we will all be dead and rotting in the ground eventually, like fine wine reduced to sour vinegar (‘Sennday’s eve and, ah, you’re vinegar’.).

As the letter f was written without a cross stroke in English script until the seventeenth century, f’s could also look like an s. Finnegan then becomes Sinneagan, because sin is as circular as death. However, sin is also shorthand for sine, which in geometry gives us y when multiplying by r. Y represents masculinity and so the title is also telling us that the idea of original sin is a male invention.

Finnegans Wake could refer to the funeral wake for a man named Finnegan, or to a family called Finnegan awakening (hence the lack of an apostrophe). Yet it could also be a plea for the men of the world to awaken from their collective fantasy that original sin is literally true, rather than an invention to divest them of any responsibility for their own actions.

Ulysses is a book of the day and Finnegans Wake is a book of the night, the latter taking place as it does during the course of a dream. Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity deals with photons of light moving at speeds at or close to the speed of light. The General Theory of Relativity deals with gravity. Ulysses can be thought of a equating to the Special Theory as it takes place during the daylight and therefore deals with light. If we perform some further linguistic transposition on the ‘run’ in ‘riverrun,’, noticing that not only is ‘un’ a Middle English word for ‘not’, but also the French male form of the indefinite article, ’a’, then ‘run’ also becomes, ‘ra’ or ‘Ra’, the Egyptian God of the Sun.

Finnegans Wake equates to the General Theory of Relativity as it takes place at night, dominion of the moon, whose gravitational pull causes the tides of the oceans, seas and some rivers. The River Liffey is a tidal river (unlike the Amazon for instance) which can vary in height and depth by as much as three and a half meters during the course of a day. It is then entirely appropriate that the Wake begins with reference to the river, which feels the influence of the moon (as Ulysses begins with the words, “Stately, plump” suggesting the stability of land).

Ulysses is not only a book of the day, but a book of men, taking place during the daylight, where male considerations dominate the human sphere of existence even to this day. It is Joyce’s Special Theory of History, as its action takes place in daylight, amongst the realm of men, where woman’s only role is as temptress or unfaithful wife or whore. It is only when Leopold Bloom has fallen asleep at the end of the Ithaca chapter that his wife, Molly, is allowed to tell her own story in the dark, becoming Penelope, faithful wife to her husband’s Odysseus. By day she is Calypso, the nymph who kept Odysseus as her sex slave for many years.

All of Joyce’s previous works deal with female oppression and emancipation. From Eveline in Dubliners, to Bertha in Exiles to ‘Dante’ and the Bird Girl in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, right through to Molly Bloom, whose unpunctuated soliloquy ends Ulysses and is still regarded as one of the most accurate characterisations of female sexuality and sensuality to be written by a male author, Joyce clearly thought a lot about the plight of women. This was probably as a result of the untimely death of his own mother from cancer, which he blamed on the Irish Roman Catholic lifestyle and caused him to flee the city and Ireland altogether, eloping with his girlfriend, Nora Barnacle. In doing so, Joyce saw himself as having rescued Nora from the same fate as his mother in the process.

This isn’t to say that James Joyce was the most enlightened man of his generation on the issue of female emancipation. He could be as sexist as anyone. Yet when compared with his contemporaries, like the real life treatment of women by Henry Miller or Ernest Hemingway, or the stereotypically one dimensional female characters to be found in the novels of George Orwell (amongst others), Joyce was decades ahead of his time. Whatever their subject matter, Ulysses had Nora as its muse (the novel being set on the day of the couple’s first date), whereas his daughter, Lucia, serves as muse to Finnegans Wake, where much of the arcane language is based on the secret language that James and Lucia used to communicate.e He He

‘riverrun,’ represents the fertilised egg, which can only survive inside the womb, giving further weight to the idea that Finnegans Wake is principally concerned with women. Indeed, we might also think of ‘riverrun,’ as a river of semen exiting the vagina after sex. The Wake might be an inclusive history of women, but it is also, ultimately, a book about male domination over women. For women during most of recent human history, their only contribution to history has been in the production of male heirs. Produce the wrong type of child and it could mean a trip to the executioner’s block.

This is another reason why the Wake takes place at night. It is the time during which such activities take place. Women were only allowed to contribute to civilisation in the bedroom. Yet it was also the place where they could gain freedom. As Molly only tells her story as Leopold sleeps, so women throughout history have only experienced any kind of freedom through their dreams. Finnegans Wake then is the story of a river dreaming.

Much has been made of the fact that Finnegans Wake begins with a lower case word. Not, Riverrun, but ‘riverrun,’. The usual explanation for this is that the first sentence of the Wake is only the second half of a sentence whose first half is the final, unfinished, sentence at the end of the novel:

A way, a lone, a last, a loved, a long the

The Wake moves through a series of circular stages to reflect the circular movement of Dante’s Divine Comedy and reference to Giambattista Vico’s New Science, which postulates four cycles to human history that repeat themselves. If the opening of the novel is the second half of the concluding sentence, then riverrun must be a noun. Yet if this is true the question becomes, what is a riverrun? Is it the movement of the river? Or the riverbank or pavement running parallel to the river’s edge? Things become even more confusing when we consider how the Wake’s opening sentence develops:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay...

which sounds like the description of the movement of the river, making ‘riverrun’ more verb than noun.

My feeling is that there are a number of other reasons why the Wake begins on a lower case word. Firstly, as the Wake is on one level the entirety of recorded human history compacted into a single book of 626 pages, so it begins on a lower case word to reflect the fact that civilisation already existed before the invention of the written word. Any attempt to encapsulate history can only ever be partially successful. We can only retell that which has been remembered and what is remembered can usually only be told if our ancestors wrote it down. The Wake ends on an incomplete sentence because history has not finished being written and was still in progress as the Wake was set down. Today’s news headlines are the historical chronicles of tomorrow.

The opening page of Finnegans Wake is three paragraphs long and I can’t shake the feeling that Joyce meant the opening page to serve as a kind of Rosetta Stone to the rest of the book. The Wake is tortuously difficult at times, but some of that pain can be alleviated by studying the opening page in as much detail as possible. Many of the ciphers to unravelling the Wake are in that first page and those ciphers lead to further codes that need to be solved, substituted and transposed throughout the book.

For instance, consider this single sentence, from page 5 (the novel begins on page 3, probably reflecting the Divine Comedy’s obsession with the number three):

What then agentlike brought about that tragoady thundersday this municipal sin business?

I’ll return to this sentence in a little more detail later on, but for now, concentrate on that word, ‘agentlike’. This word proved difficult for a while, as I knew there was something about it that I wasn’t seeing. The only thing that the standard texts, like Roland McHugh’s Annotations to Finnegans Wake, have to say on this word is that it is comparable to the German word, ‘eigentlich’, meaning ‘really’.

The solution comes when we consider the portmanteau word ‘tragoady’, which plays on the fact that the English word ‘tragedy is thought to originate in the Greek word, ‘tragus’, meaning goat. Greek tragedies were traditionally written to be performed during festivals dedicated to Pan, the Greek deity often represented as a goat.

If we then look at the word ‘agentlike’ with a little knowledge of how Greek words have influenced the formation of certain English words, we can see that ‘agentlike’ is a negation, like apolitical, atypical, asexual, etc. If we then perform the reverse type of transposition that we performed to make ‘run’ become ‘Ra’, ‘agentlike’ becomes ungentlike, or ungentleman like. We’ll consider what is so ungentlemanly about ‘this municipal sin business’ shortly.

I would advise that if you intend to study the Wake in any detail, the first task to perform should be to memorise the opening page. This works for many authors, memorising certain key speeches from Shakespeare can help with understanding the language that Shakespeare uses, because in learning his speeches you will gain an understanding of the rhythms of his speech and end up looking up the words you don’t understand.

The same is true of the Wake and the task is easier today than ever before thanks to the many resources available online. Even Wiktionary, the dictionary companion to Wikipedia, is a great help as it lists the definitions for any word in all languages in which that word is spoken. The language of the Wake contains streams from more than sixty languages and Wiktionary is invaluable in this regard (though as with anything on Wikipedia, it should only ever be used as a stepping stone to more reputable sources of information). See also Finnegans Wiki.

As anyone knows who’s ever been to the British Museum in London, the Rosetta Stone is broken off at the beginning. It repeats the same text in three language scripts, hieroglyphics, demotic Egyptian and Greek. Similarly, the opening page of Finnegans Wakes uses Vico’s theory of historical cycles to tell three versions of human history, erasing female involvement at each stage. The lowercase in ‘riverrun,’ is then partially to mimic the look of the Rosetta Stone.

The main reason why ‘riverrun’ is lowercase is exactly because Finnegans Wake is feminine to the masculinity of Ulysses. The characters HCE and ALP appear throughout the Wake, spelling out hundreds of acrostic phrases: Here Comes Everybody, Haunted, Condemned and Excoriated, Hic cubat edilis; Apud libertinam pavulam, A Laughable Party, Anna was, Livia is, Plurabelle’s to be, as well as many, many others. Yet the first ALP acrostic is on page 4 and is in lower case: ‘addle liddle phifie Annie’. By contrast HCE first appears in capitals as ‘Howth Castle and Environs’, ending the opening sentence. So the first sentence, also the first paragraph, begins with the lower case ‘riverrun’, alluding to ALP, but ends with HCE (‘Howth Castle and Environs’).

The second paragraph starts with the name ‘Sir Tristram’, its capitalisation expressing masculinity, but ends with the lowercase word, ‘aquaface’, returning us to the feminine river. This roughly approximates the movement of the chorus in Greek drama (chorus, from the Greek ‘kora’, for girl). The chorus was originally made up entirely of women, who would move from one side of the stage to the other (strophe and antistrophe), as they spoke.

The third and final paragraph of the opening page begins with the Fall of Man, but ends on the word, ‘livvy’, a portmanteau compaction of Liffey, Livia, Issy (daughter to Anna Livia) and Iffy, or Irfana, a Persian girl’s name meaning ‘believer’. Whilst the opening paragraph tends to turn the female towards the masculine, the subsequent two paragraphs turn the action back towards the feminine.

‘riverrun,’ is also a reminder of how human civilisation got started. It is a reminder that we were once a nomadic species, following the migrating animals that we hunted for meat. However, at some point ten or twenty thousand years ago humans started to turn away from being nomadic and instead settled and slowly those settlements became villages which became towns which became cities and megacities and nation states. Recent archaeological evidence has shown that the first settlements probably came about thanks to the planting of cereal crops, a task which would have been carried out by the gathers in a tribe, not the hunters. As men hunted and women gathered, women can be said to have invented civilisation.

Joyce would have known about an earlier form of this theory from James George Frazer’s classic text on comparative world mythology, The Golden Bough. As part of The Golden Bough, Frazer traces back the worship of corn gods to what he believed were the two earliest corn gods, Demeter and Persephone, not gods at all but goddesses. Frazer states that as they were goddesses, women must have been the first farmers, because at that time in history men exclusively worshiped male gods and women worshipped goddesses.

Later, of course, the Abrahamic faiths adopted the idea that Eve was responsible for man’s ejection from the Garden of Eden and therefore responsible for original sin and the end of mankind’s immortality. Joyce reflects all of this in the opening two clauses of Finnegans Wake:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s,

As with ‘riverrun,’, the significance of ‘past Eve and Adam’s’ tends to get overlooked. For a start, past is misspelt. For the clause to make sense, it should be spelt, ‘passed’. Some have speculated that the words have been bent out of shape to fit the name, ‘Steven’, the name of Joyce’s grandson. We’ll probably never know for sure, but I think this is either a coincidence, or if not a coincidence then it is Joyce being more insulting than complimentary, including his own grandson’s name to indicate that patriarchal domination is unlikely to end at any time in the near future. Much more likely is that the misspelling of ‘past’, plus the swapping around of the traditional order of Adam and Eve is pretty good evidence that the whole thing is backwards and should read:

Adam and Eve’s past, riverrun.

In a universal, general theory of history, men and women were at one time equals (as reflected in the parity of ‘riverrun,’), but then men invented the myth of Adam and Eve to steal any equality or any claim to women as having been the progenitors or civilisation, reducing them to the level of seed bearers, as they were once seed planters. I can’t think of a more perfectly feminine profession than the nurturing role of gardener, yet in the Garden of Eden story it is Adam who is gardener and, by extension, farmer, not Eve, whose only role is as the destroyer of paradise.

Joyce is telling us in the Wake’s opening two clauses that sometimes we have to look beyond what seems like a natural termination point, like Genesis and the Garden of Eden (again reflected in the lower case opening word, which isn’t quite the beginning it appears to be). It’s what humans tend to do when looking for explanations. We will follow a chain of events backwards only for as long as it takes us to find a comforting result. Poverty causes crime, so why bother to look at what causes poverty? God created the universe, no need to know what created God.

We can now see what is so ungentlemanly about ‘this municipal sin business’. Municipality refers to a city, which is a form of settlement. Yet in the backwash of words within the Wake, ‘municipal sin’ becomes ‘original sin’ in our minds and we are reminded of Adam and Eve, overwriting the historical fact of our female gathering ancestors settling society. If we also remember that ‘agentlike’ sounds like the German word, ‘eigentlich’, to mean really, then the full translation of the sentence we look at earlier is, ‘What then really happened to cause this ungentlemanly conduct that resulted in woman’s claim to having established stable settlements and civilisation in general being replaced with this myth of Man’s fall at the Garden of Eden?’.

‘Municipal’ also refers to Phoenix Park in Dublin, a park managed by the council, serving as a stand in for the Garden of Eden. Here HCE has committed some crime, the nature of which has been open to much speculation. Yet the true crime committed in the park is the creation of the Garden of Eden itself and the historical theft which it and original sin helped to cover up.

‘riverrun,’ is very specifically ‘riverrun,’. It is not, ‘riverran,’ or ‘riverruns’. Not past tense or present tense, but future tense. A hope for the future. It is also imperative. ‘riverrun,’ is a command, imploring the river to tell its tale (‘the meander tale’). In the backwash of words, the response to this opening command is answered by the final words of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of Ulysses: ‘riverrun,’; ‘yes i said yes i will yes’. Indeed the influence of the Wake runs backward as far as Ithaca, the penultimate chapter of Ulysses, which takes the form of a series of questions and the answers to those questions. We only find out why Ithaca takes the form it does when Bloom gets into bed, wakes Molly, who quizzes him about his day until he falls asleep, leaving her to finish the novel in an unpunctuated, uncapitalised stream which flows into and mingles with the uncapitalised beginning to the Wake. As ‘riverrun,’ flows backwards into ‘yes.’, so Molly’s questioning at the end of Ithaca flow backwards to the beginning of the chapter to give it form.

In physics and maths, a vector is a quantity that has both a size and a direction. 20mph, north is a simple vector. The reason we do this is to be able to compare and contrast vectors. If you are travelling 20mph, north and I pass you at 30mph, south, then we pass each other at 20mph + 30mph = 50mph. This is relativity in its most basic form.

We can describe a vector by drawing two points on a graph, naming each point (A & B for instance), drawing a line between those points and an arrow to denote direction. A vector quantity is then named by combining the two points, with an arrow above them to show the direction. For instance:

‘riverrun,’ is a vector quantity. It should really be written with an arrow over it (which blogger isn't sophisticated enough to be able to do). The flow of history is from female to male, from the sea to the land, from hunter/gatherers to Adam and Eve. Man is borne by and born of woman. Life started in the oceans and certain forms evolved to survive on land. The parity of ‘riverrun,’ was destroyed when worship to a pantheon of female deities was outlawed by the priests of emergent male monotheism (and ultimately defeated by the adoption of worship of the Virgin Mary, who is Diana, who is Artemis, who is Isis, who is Demeter).

Taken in purely female terms, the ‘riverrun,’ vector also runs backwards in time. The name Demeter means ‘mother earth’, ‘De’ originally being ‘Ge’ for earth (as in geology) and ‘meter’, meaning ‘mother’. In the story of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone is kidnapped and taken down to the underworld. Demeter must travel into hell to rescue her. It reflects the way in which seeds (the mother) are planted in the ground and from the seed shoots new life (Persephone), ready for harvest.

Whereas women originally held dominion over the land and its cultivation, men usurped this position and took over farming. The various retellings of the journey into the underworld replacing mother and daughter with male protagonists, Odysseus, Orpheus, Aeneas, Jesus, is reflected by placing HCE under the land, whereas ALP is relegated to the river at the margins of the land. HCE’s burial is both a metaphor for sleep and of ALP’s desire to see him dead and buried, heralding her return to dominion over the land.

ALP’s daughter, Persephone here becoming Issy, is represented in Finnegans Wake by the clouds in the sky that will fall as rain to flow into the river and share the mother’s fate. In placing Issy or Isabelle in the clouds, Joyce once again inverts world history. The full name of the Greek god, Zeus, was originally Zeu pater, meaning father Zeus or sky father. Jupiter, father Jove, was once Iupiter, sky father (piter here meaning father). Sanskrit also has a word, Dyau piter, also meaning sky father, which comes into Old English as Tiw, from where modern English gets the word, Tuesday. All of these words have their origin in an Indo European phrase, Dyeus peter, meaning father of the daytime sky, our linguistic roots identifying our ancestors as sun worshipers. Words like day, diurnal and divine all come from the same root word. Again, the sun and the light are the preserves of masculinity. Gravity and the moon are feminine.

Men once looked to the sky for divinity. Women found life through planting and harvest. Later, men took over the job of farming and women were left with only the pain of childbirth and original sin. God came down from the sky and took up residence in temples and churches. With the position now vacant, Joyce relocates his heroines to rain and river, the most elemental of all life's essentials. Without womb or water, human existence would not be possible.

You will notice that throughout I have been pedantically referring to the opening word of Finnegans Wake as ‘riverrun,’ always including the comma at the end of the word. This is deliberate. I mentioned that the Wake begins on page 3, probably to reflect Dante’s obsession with the number 3 in The Divine Comedy. The number 3 represents the Holy Trinity in Christian mythology and to Dante the number 9 represented the profundity of God’s creation, as it represents the sole root of 3 (3 x 3 = 9). The Wake begins on page 3 and its opening page has three paragraphs. The first five letters of ‘riverrun,’ represent woman and the next three represent man. As this compound word represents the fertilised egg, the comma is the beginning of the process of subdivision and attaches to the letters to give an opening word nine characters in length. The opening sentence, which is also the opening paragraph, is twenty seven words long (3 x 9 = 27). The opening chapter is twenty seven pages long. The Wake has 626 pages. 6 x 2 x 6 = 72; 7 + 2 = 9.

The Wake concentrates on its five family members. As well as husband and wife HCE and ALP and their daughter Issy, there are the male twins, Shaun and Shem. Something interesting happens when we assign numerical values to their names. If each letter is given a number, such that a =1, b= 2 etc., all the way up to z = 26, then we find that each of the children’s names add up to a multiple of 9. Issy = 72 (9 + 19 + 19 + 25 = 9 x 8); Shaun = 63 (19 + 8 + 1 + 21 + 14 = 9 x 7); Shem = 45 ( 19 + 8 + 5 + 13 = 9 x 5).

Moreover, not only do all six letters of the parent’s names, HCE & ALP, add up to 45, but their initial letters also add up to nine.

If we adopt the theory that the Wake is a feminine history, the story of Echo rather than Narcissus (‘The echo is where in the back of the wodes; callhim forth!’), we see that HCE is the first three letters of Echo read backwards. The Wake is a circle, signifying the womb, and by reading HCE backwards, the o of Echo is to be found in the fertilised egg of ‘riverrun,’.

Adding up the numbers for each of the children (72 + 63 + 45) gives a total of 180, which  averages out to 180/3 = 60. If we add the final ‘o’ of Echo (with a numerical value of 15) to HCE and ALP, we get a total also equalling 60 (60 x 3 children = 180).

Mathematically then it can be shown that HCE + ALP = Issy, Shem and Shaun, but only with the addition of a nourishing womb, inside of which life can get started. It’s another mathematical joke, given the impact of the number zero in the history of mathematics. Yet by remembering how the y chromosome was originally called the o chromosome, life cannot start without either the womb or male genetic input. In the society in which Joyce was writing and, to a lesser extent, the society of today, the only place where female/male parity is preserved is in that moment of creation.

It took Einstein eleven years after the publication of the Special Theory of Relativity (the  paper is actually titled, ‘The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’) to learn the mathematics necessary to be able to put his ideas on gravity into academic form. Joyce spent seventeen years writing Finnegans Wake once he had finished with Ulysses, inventing a new language in the process. By the time Joyce was writing the first snatches of the Wake, General Relativity had made Einstein the most famous man alive. Yet by the middle of the twentieth century, the General Theory had become unfashionable, scientifically speaking. Einstein’s greatest achievement was so monumental that it had to wait for the technology to be invented that was sophisticated and sensitive enough to fully vindicate General Relativity.

A similar case can be made for Finnegans Wake. Of course the Wake will never have the impact upon our view of the universe that General Relativity has achieved, but I do think that in many ways the Wake is a book so far ahead of its time that only with the arrival of the internet and hypertext has the world become sophisticated enough to stand any chance of understanding its densely complicated text. It doesn’t have a traditional narrative and is as much a twenty year Masters Degree in language, semiotics and comparative mythology as it is a novel. Much of the Wake is obscure beyond the point at which we will ever be able to decipher it. Yet there is as much in the Wake that is perfectly understandable, if you decode the right ciphers.

That decoding process begins with the opening page and with ‘riverrun,’. 

Get it done.

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