A Book Club Took 28 Years to Read ‘Finnegans Wake.’ Now, It’s Starting Over.

A book club in California has spent almost three decades reading James Joyce's challenging novel 'Finnegans Wake' and is now starting all over again.


A Never-Ending Experience

A book club based in Venice, California, began reading James Joyce's 'Finnegans Wake' in 1995 and recently completed the novel after almost 28 years.

However, instead of celebrating their accomplishment, the group has decided to start the book all over again, considering it as an ongoing experience.

Gerry Fialka, the founder of the club, believes that the novel, like a Möbius strip, represents the cyclical nature of time, and that all times are happening simultaneously.

Untangling the Meaning

The book club in California is not the only group that has dedicated itself to the challenge of 'Finnegans Wake.' There are several reading groups around the world attempting to collectively untangle the meaning of Joyce's complex novel.

With its dense neologisms and allusions, the book has been considered perplexing by critics. It is not uncommon for reading clubs to take several years to complete a single reading.

Samuel Slote, a professor in Dublin, who started reading the book in 2016, noted that there are extreme difficulties within the text and that no one person can fully master it.

The Unique Language of 'Finnegans Wake'

'Finnegans Wake' is known for its unique and complex use of language. Margot Norris, a Joyce scholar, describes it as 'dramatic poetry' that plays with the very nature of language.

Some phrases in the novel may seem nonsensical, but they serve a purpose in challenging the reader's perception of language and its meaning.

Fritz Senn, the founder of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, compares reading 'Finnegans Wake' to studying a religious text, with the intention of revisiting it multiple times.