Book Review – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Posted: February 14, 2015 in Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

It’s not the first time that I’ve completed reading a book which I didn’t understand anything. But it’s the first time that the first book that I took up in the year took me so long to read. Partly because of my bus driver who refused to switch on lights in the bus and but mostly because I didn’t understand. You don’t know how tough it is to go through pages and pages of the novel without anything really getting into your head. It’s like water droplets on oiled skin where the water doesn’t seep through.

a portrait of an artist as a young man

The un-understanding with respect to ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ was of different level. Being the first book of the year my concentration level was at the highest and I had got enough cues before reading the book how tough a James Joyce experience is gonna be like. With all due respect I thought I could overcome it. But by the end of the book Mr. James Joyce proved who the king is. Not that only the un-understandable authors are the kings but with Raja Rao and James Joyce you could see the genius at work. The way they put you into an emotional turmoil to be burnt in hell doesn’t happen with others.

For example with Catcher in the rye – yes I couldn’t avoid quoting it, but here it is necessary – I’m sure no one could have understood it better than me. That’s the connect with the author. I have this connect with teen age stories. Be it Catcher in the Rye or 400 blows I was instantly hooked. A Portrait…. too started in the same way. Only that it was more profound. I couldn’t judge Stephen as easily as I judged Holden. That Holden guy is me in my alternate world but with Stephan it was different. His catholic background, his alienation and all wasn’t my thing but still I felt sorry for the boy. With Stephan I couldn’t live him, I was seeing him from an elder persons point of view. A very elderly person that too. When he goes to inform about the strapping he gets in the classroom to the rector I could see myself as the rector, advising him what to do and what not to. And after that… blank!

What really happened after that? So much of catholism, was it intentional, was it a dig. It was like sermon after sermon, watching Angel TV nonstop. After a point it started getting on me. Did the author want us to appreciate how Stephen’s nature changes. Did he want us too to feel like Stephen, that it was wise to choose the Gods path or was it a parody? A parody of highest nature that I couldn’t interpret. That’s when Portrait became a failure for me. I couldn’t read sentence after sentence about the description of hell and heaven. I also lost an idea of the rate at which he was growing. After his school term I couldn’t guess how old he was becoming.

During the third part of the book where he becomes atheist or that’s what I thought, it again becomes a bright book but as I had completely lost the second part I couldn’t appreciate it either. It was like being in coma and getting happiness of seeing your family in front of you whenever you get out of the coma for a split second. I used to go through the pages and would suddenly get hold of an awesome line said by Stephen. But that’s not the way to read. I don’t know whether I would get a second chance to read this book. But for me to take a James Joyce book again would take some time. Happy new year to me!


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