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Finnegans Wake: An Illustrated Panorama

October 19, 2012 | by

I wanted to illustrate something impossible, so I chose Finnegans Wake. It would be silly for me to draw in a few panels a work that took James Joyce seventeen years to complete. So I cheated.

The name of the book comes from a nineteenth Century drinking song, “Finnegan’s Wake” (note the apostrophe). The song is about death and rebirth, and ends in a whisky-fueled brouhaha. There is little in agreement, on the other hand, on what Joyce’s book is about. Reading a page at random from Finnegans Wake is a bit like trying to read while drunk. But death and rebirth are undoubtedly major themes, as the book begins halfway through its final sentence. So here’s a single strand of DNA—perhaps the first—in Joyce’s impossibly dense opus infinitum.

Jason Novak works at a grocery store in Berkeley, California, and changes diapers in his spare time.



  1. Peter | October 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I was hoping this post would be about the wonderful work artist Stephen Crow has been doing illustrating EACH PAGE of the Wake, see here:

  2. Pádraig Ó Méalóid | March 15, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Whiskey, rather than Whisky. An important distinction!

  3. David Bruce | March 15, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    “Tim Finnegan’s Wake
    by Dr. Thom Dedalus

    When God reeled in good auld Tim Finnegan,
    And looked into his green Irish peepers,
    Said He, “Now, what was I thinkin’?
    Poor lad, he ain’t one of the keepers.”

    To hell Tim descended without any fear,
    To the devil, whom not much is lost on,
    Said he, “I’m sure you’ll be comfortable here,
    Among all your old friends from South Boston.”

    Tim’s jokes night and day caused Satan to swear,
    As migraines crept behind blood red eyelids,
    “An eternity with you is just too much to bear.
    You’re going home to your wife and your nine kids.”

    So up pops Tim at his wake from his casket.
    “It can’t be,” went a howl from his wife.
    When he belched the sea from his own breadbasket,
    Said she, “Someone, hand me a knife.”

    Now Tim’s fishing off George’s Banks
    Catching codfish, haddock and hake.
    The happiest folk in town to give thanks,
    Is John Hancock for Finnegan’s wake.

    Finn’s now a legend among life underwriters,
    In Beantown and all over the States.
    In him beats the heart of a fighter.
    Sad to hear how they increased his rates.

    Finn’s tale is best told with a dram of Jameson.
    You’re entitled to whatever sense you can make.
    Just cause you’re dead, it don’t mean you’re gone.
    You may take comfort in Finnegan’s wake.”
    ― David Lentz, Bloomsday: The Bostoniad

8 Pingbacks

  1. […] Novak illustrates Finnegans Wake…in a way, I think. Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here, […]

  2. […] An illustrated panorama of Finnegans Wake. [via The Paris Review] […]

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