One hundred years ago, James Joyce’s first novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) was published.
It’s a specific kind of a buildungsroman (a novel of growth/formation) called künstlerroman (a novel about the artist’s growth).
In brief, it’s a story in which we witness Stephen Dedalus’s physical, spiritual and artistic development. The narrative is highly symbolic (with modernist elements) and beautifully written.
It’s built around various contrasts, such as religious constraint and artistic freedom, or aesthetic beauty versus carnal sinfulness.
This is my favourite passage:
A girl stood before him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird. Her long slender bare legs were delicate as a crane’s and pure save where an emerald trail of seaweed had fashioned itself as a sign upon the flesh. Her thighs, fuller and soft-hued as ivory, were bared almost to the hips, where the white fringes of her drawers were like feathering of soft white down. Her slate-blue skirts were kilted boldly about her waist and dovetailed behind her. Her bosom was as a bird’s, soft and slight, slight and soft as the breast of some dark-plumaged dove. But her long fair hair was girlish: and girlish, and touched with the wonder of mortal beauty, her face.
She was alone and still, gazing out to sea; and when she felt his presence and the worship of his eyes her eyes turned to him in quiet sufferance of his gaze, without shame or wantonness. Long, long she suffered his gaze and then quietly withdrew her eyes from his and bent them towards the stream, gently stirring the water with her foot hither and thither. The first faint noise of gently moving water broke the silence, low and faint and whispering, faint as the bells of sleep; hither and thither, hither and thither; and a faint flame trembled on her cheek. (source)
What I always loved about it is its style and the colours with which Joyce creates the imagery of the novel. You might expect green (as a symbol of Ireland, but also of rebirth, of a new life), but there is also a lot of gold, maroon, ivory and white.
It’s an Easter post, and I’ve decided to use this novel as a pretext to present to you tablescapes in this colour palette – a top trend this season, as it seems. All of the photos are downloaded from Pinterest and you can find them (with full credits and further info) on my Pinterest board called Stephen Dedalus.
Perhaps you’ll feel inspired:
Happy Easter, everyone! Don’t forget to check out my Facebook fanpage for more Easter inspration.