|SIMON CRITCHLEY & TOM McCARTHY
OF CHREMATOLOGY: JOYCE AND MONEY
'Der Geist, der aus der Ornamentik der Banknoten spricht.'
Benjamin, Kapitalismus als Religion
Money makes the round go a-world, as Joyce might have said. Certainly, Finnegans Wake, his book of wandering and return, of 'aloss and again'1, is awash with money. There are English pounds, 'shelenks2 and pence, American bison nickels, French louis, Russian kopecks, German grosch and 'dogmarks'3. 'Woodpiles of haypennies'4, the 'sylvan coyne'5 designed for Ireland by William Wood, circulate alongside 'ghinees'6, 'tenpound crickler's7 and 'tinpanned crackler's8. Money crinkles, clunks and rings throughout this novel in which nothing's free, this novel in which roads have tolls, museums entry fees. Belchum solicits 'tinkyou tankyou silvoor plate'9; Kathe barks 'Tip!'10. Before he'll tell Jute anything, Mutt must be bribed with 'trink gilt'11; on receiving this he shows him 'selveran cued peteet peas of pecuniar interest... pellets that make the tomtummy's pay roll'12 - then demands the cost of a tram fare. Money is the prerequisite for the passage of signs: 'You will never have post in your pocket unless you have brasse on your plate.'13 If Finnegans Wake's very content is, as its first page reminds us, 'retaled',14 then the space of recirculation in which this retaling occurs is, as Professor Jones suggests in Book One, Chapter Six, an 'economantarchy'.15
Our aim in this paper is simply to read Finnegans Wake by following the chains of coinage that litter the text: of credit, credibility, credence, debt, indebtedness, reneging on debt, bankruptcy, profit, loss, inflation, deflation and counterfeit. Finnegans Wake opens with a prophetic allusion to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 ('the fall...of a once wallstrait oldparr')16 and we would like to view the text as if it were some vast financial system. We will try and establish what we call a chrematology in this economantarchy, that is, pick out the monetary logic in Joyce's text. Our deeper, darker purpose in all this is not just to show that literature is haunted by economics, in the manner of classical Marxism and contemporary Marxist mannerism. Rather, our hypothesis is that in Joyce and elsewhere (where Joyce might be seen as the index for an elsewhere of absolutely modern literary, visual and musical art), economics is raised to the level of cultural form.17 For us, artworks are aspects of an agon as to the irreducible determination of contemporary life by economics, engaging us in a process of reflection that might, at best, achieve some distance from the fact of that determination.
Joyce himself, of course, had a strange and intense relationship with money. His parents had been rich but met with financial ruin; his mother would pawn furniture to send James money while he lived in Paris. Continually poor, he nonetheless retained expensive tastes, taking his family to eat in the best restaurants when they couldn't pay the rent on their accommodation, tipping theatre ushers ten pounds when the ticket had cost less than one. It is almost as though he willed himself into debt. He borrowed incessantly. He liked to boast that he owed money to every single person he knew. His situation is reflected in that of Ulysses's Stephen Daedalus, who, when asked by Deasy whether he could say of himself 'I payed my way', runs through a mental list of everyone to whom he is indebted:
Mulligan, nine pounds... Curran, ten guineas. McCann, one guinea. Fred Ryan, two shillings. Tempel, two lunches. Russel, one guinea, Cousins, ten shillings, Bob Reynolds, half a guinea, Koehler, three guineas, Mrs MacKernan, five weeks' board.18
For Deasy, not owing is a measure of one's subjectivity, one's sovereignty. The Englishman can boast this sovereignty precisely because he can say: 'I paid my way'. For Deasy, this is not unconnected to the fact that England never let in the Jews, a race (as far as anti-semites such as Deasy are concerned) of usurers and wanderers. Stasis and self-sufficiency are the lynchpins of Deasy's credo. Stephen falls very short of meeting this credo's terms, and so did Joyce, an exile living on perpetual credit, extended against or guaranteed by some vague promise that he'd one day write a masterpiece and become rich.
What better place to discuss this theme than Trieste, the city described by Joyce as 'Europiccola'. Is it a more Joycean city than Dublin? Obviously not, but it is intriguing to entertain the thought. As Joyce said, 'Trieste ate my liver' or 'Trieste était mon livre'. In Jan Morris's clear, still prose, Trieste becomes many things: a crepuscular, melancholy city swept by the bora wind and enwrapped in an ecstasy of the poignant; the capital of nowhere, of wistful meditation, a Triesticity located at the intersection of the cultural plate tectonics of Latinity, Germanity and Slavicity.19 The place where the young Freud tried the locate the testicles of eels, where Eichmann dragged his unexpungeable guilt away to South America and which was described by Marinetti as 'la nostra bella polveriera', 'our beautiful powder-magazine'. But, above all, Trieste is a money town, the port of Vienna, a place of trade, of human and inhuman cargo, of capital, of profit and (since 1918) of loss. The monumental Hapsburg structures of the Piazza Unità and the shoreline simply testify to the wealth that poured through Trieste. Who knows, but Joyce's errant, economantarchic preoccupations might have been better served had he set Ulysses in Treiste rather than Dublin.
But what is money? Many things. It is, of course, the coins and notes rattling in our pockets, as well as the piles of real and virtual stuff lying in banks, or the smart money that tends towards disappearance and increasing immateriality, being shuffled electronically along the vectors of the financial networks.
This might serve as an empirical definition, but what is the logic of the concept of money? The core of money is trust and promise, 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of...' on the British Pound, the 'In God we trust' of the US Dollar, the BCE-ECB-EZB-EKT-EKP of the European Central Bank that runs like a Franco-Anglo-Germano-Greco-Finno-Joycean cipher across the top of every Euro note. In other words, the legitimacy of money is based on a sovereign act, or a sovereign guarantee that the money is good, that it is not counterfeit. Money has a promissory structure, with an entirely self-referential logic: the money promises that the money is good; the acceptance of the promise is the acceptance of a specific monetary ethos, a specific, yet often flexible monetary geography.
This ethos, this circular 'money promising that the money is good' is underwritten by sovereign power as its transcendent guarantee. It is essential that we believe in this power, that the sovereign power of the bank inspires belief, that the 'Fed' has 'cred' as it were. Credit can only operate on the basis of credence and credibility, of an act of fidelity and faith, of con-fid-ence. The transcendent core of money is an act of faith, of belief. The legitimacy of money is based on the fiction of sovereign power, and in this connection one can speak of a sort of monetary patriotism, which is particularly evident in attitudes in the US to the Dollar, particularly to the sheer materiality of the bill, and in the UK's opposition to the Euro and to the strange cultural need for money marked with the Queen's head.
In a deep sense, money is not. It exists empirically, but it is not essentially there at all. All money is what the French call escroquerie, swindling, it is a virtual or at best conceptual object. It is, in the strictest Platonic definitional sense (forget Baudrillard), a simulacrum, namely something that materializes an absence, an image for something that doesn't exist. Money is delusionary and faith in money is a form of collective psychosis. In the godless wasteland of global capitalism, money is our only metaphysics, our only onto-theo-logy, the only transcendent substance in which we truly must have faith. It is this faith that we celebrate, we venerate, in commodity fetishism. Adorno makes the point powerfully,
Marx defines the fetish-character of the commodity as the veneration of the thing made by oneself which, as exchange value, simultaneously alienates itself from producer to consumer...This is the real secret of success. It is the mere reflection of what one pays in the market for the product. The consumer is really worshipping the money that he himself has paid for the ticket to the Toscanini concert. He has literally 'made' the success which he reifies and accepts as an objective criterion, without recognising himself in it. But he has not 'made' it by liking the concert, but rather by buying the ticket.20
Marx describes money as the universal form of equivalence by virtue of which capitalism can exist, that goods can be exchanged. In the imperial space of what Hardt and Negri describe as 'network sovereignty', money becomes the general form of life, it constitutes the fact of Empire and money's absence defines Empire's opposite: the multitude are poor.21
For us, here and now, money has no outside, there is no pure form of economy, no barter system, somehow unsullied by money's circulation. You are always already locked into a monetary ethos, part of a contour line upon a financial cartography. There is only the sully of money. All money is dirty. From a Freudian perspective, money is deeply anal, it is shit rather than bread, you can use it to buy shit, and a general obsession with money is why people talk so much shit. For the infant, the little Freudian child, shit is money, which is why it is so proud of its soft, smelly currency. In the proto-Lockean world of anal-sadism, shit is the first form of property ownership; the labour theory of value begins in your diapers. Let's not forget, Freud is a kind of anti-Midas : where, for Midas, everything natural was transformed into gold, for Freud, all that glitters is transformed into shit. Freud touches a familiar object and suddenly - poo! - you wonder where the smell is coming from. Our favourite Freudian neurotic, the Rat Man, is obsessed with money, with repaying a misconceived debt. He is also highly aware of money's dirtiness, and anally obsessed, his fears of Rat-torture (in which a rat eats into one's anus) being verbally linked to shame about his 'Spielratte', his father's gambling debts. His very neurosis is described in economic terms by Freud, who writes,
In his obsessional deliria he had coined himself a regular rat currency. Little by little he translated into this language the whole complex of money-interests which centred around his father's legacy to him.
Of course, money is also indexed to desire, and there is a strong association between money and the dépense of jouissance sexuelle, and not only when you have to pay for it. Money is power, sex is power, power is sexy and so is money. And let's not forget the profound link between psychoanalysis and payment. With the exception of Karl Marx, were there ever creatures on earth more obsessed with money than psychoanalysts? Of course, they are right and the core of the analytic pact is a monetary union, a monetary act of trust: one has to pay, whatever it is that you can afford, otherwise the analysis begins to lose credibility. One cannot do analysis for free. The faith and trust of the transference, which is the key to the analytic relationship, is guaranteed by money; the promissory trust of therapy is secured through monetary exchange.
Jouissance brings us back by a commodious vicus of recirculation to Joyce. Lacan, who was unnaturally obsessed by Finnegans Wake throughout the 1970's, writes,
Joyce is in relation to joy, that is, jouissance, written in lalangue that is English; this en-joycing, this jouissance is the only thing one can get from the text. This is the symptom.
For Lacan, it is the joy in Joyce that enjoys, just as it is the Freude in Freud that freut sich. This is what one feels in reading Joyce,
Read Finnegans Wake without trying to understand...One usually reads it because one can feel the presence of the writer's jouissance.
It is the sheer pressure of this presence that suffocates and oppresses the reader of Finnegans Wake because, as is well known, Lacanian jouissance is not pleasure but suffering, an excitation or excess that is too much for the organism to bear. En-Joyce-ment, or what Joyce calls 'joyicity',22 is not enjoyable. Perhaps this is why many people think that the Wake is unreadable - is it not rather simply unbearable? Its seeming trifles are traces of psychic pain. One might go a little further with Lacan and say that jouissance is the kernal of psychotic suffering, a kernal that is non-analysable and which cannot be symbolized. For Lacan, it is this writing of psychotic jouissance that Joyce enacts,
Joyce manages to bring the symptom to the power of language, yet without rendering it analysable.
A very common behaviour of psychotics is the forging of neologisms or fresh linguistic coinages and to this extent the writing of Finnegans Wake might be viewed as some vast psychotic case history. Of course, the psychotic suffering here is not just that of Joyce (although Lacan asks, 'When does one start to be mad...Was Joyce mad?'), but also that of his daughter Lucia, whose psychotic sayings and diagrams litter the literature of Finnegans Wake.23
In a wonderful formulation, Lacan remarks that Joyce was 'désabonné à l'inconscient', namely that he abandoned or gave up his subscription to the symbolic order. In ugly Lacanese, this means that Joyce affirmed the lack in the big Other and experienced the jouissance of the Real. In more everyday parlance, we might say that Joyce progressively shed the legitimating narrative conventions and expectations of the 19th Century realist novel. For some, literature might be understood as the draining of the excitation of jouissance, the zuider zee of the unconscious in Freud, or the Dionysian womb of being in Nietzsche. Literatures symbolizes or gives beautiful Apollinian form to the chaos of desire. As such, Finnegans Wake is literature in reverse, a writing of the symptom that attempts to attend to the clamour of jouissance that subtends literary creation and which cannot be dammed up. This reversal is mirrored linguistically in Lacan's punning distinction between language (la langue) and lalangue. If the symbolic is the order of language, which is given priority in Lacan's earlier structuralist-inspired work, then lalangue is his nickname for an experience of language that is itself a form of jouissance and sheer material affect that precedes and resists symbolization, 'What I put forward, by writing lalangue as one word, is that by which I distance myself from structuralism'. We want to read the planned Babel of Finnegans Wake as a monetary lalangue, a chain of crazy coinage that both subtends and ruins the symbolic universe of literature, reducing letter to litter.24
Only one town, perhaps, could rival Trieste in its claim as ideal host for this discussion: Dublin - not Dublin, Ireland, but rather Dublin, Georgia, USA. This city, founded on the River Oconee in Laurens County by Irish emigrant Peter Sawyer, finds its way into the Wake's first complete sentence, whose second clause reads:
nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time.25
Topsawyer's rocks are a formation on the Oconee's banks; 'rocks' also means both testicles and money. 'Ochone!' is the Gaelic for 'alas!' The image here is of mothers wailing as their sons, fruits of their father's swollen loins, depart across the waters in an effort to win wealth and status in the new world, to swell their coffers. Campbell and Robinson, always keen to emphasise the 'story' of the Wake, interpret the passage thus:
A successful son of HCE emigrates from East to West, as his father before him. Settling in America, he begets a large progeny and bequeaths to them a decent, even gorgeous, prosperity.26
Joyce's own son was, of course, Giorgio. Downstream of Topsawyer's Rocks, the biologic and the economic blur together, much as they do in Shakespeare's sonnets, where 'from fairest creatures we desire increase', 'increase' being both economic profit and physical reproduction. What is 'doublin their mumper'? Rocks: balls, wealth, world in the sense of place and populace. The town motto of Dublin, Georgia is 'Doubling all the time', and Joyce keeps doubling Dublin into 'Dyoublong'27, 'durlbin'28 and 'Dybbling'29.
So many of the Wake's themes are touched on in these twenty-three words. So, too, perhaps, are the workings of the novel's very text. Finnegans Wake is an accumulative novel, a novel in which characters, events, reports and interpretations multiply incessantly, doublin their mumper all the time. Mutt, discussing the relation between printed 'papyr'30 and the significations generated by it, tells Jute:
you need hardly spell me how every word is bound to carry over threescore and ten toptypsical readings throughout the book of Doublends Jined.31
Meaning itself, it seems, is an accumulation: profit, a return on a text's investment to the tune of seven thousand percent, of threescore and ten - also, coincidentally, the average return (in years) on the investment of biological existence.
What we have here, then, is a glowing annual report, a multi-levelled tale of profit. But lurking between the lines of this report is another, contradictory one, a tale of loss. To return to our opening twenty-three words, the Latin exaggerare may mean to pile up, but the English exaggerate suggests that the wealth is overstated, perhaps even non-existent. Hiding inside the 'mumper' of fertile rocks is mumps, an illness which makes men infertile. The book's next sentence shows us not aggrandisement but collapse, the fall of 'a once wallstraight oldparr'32 - a reference to Wall Street crashes. The great crash of 1929 was lurking round the corner when Joyce wrote the passage. Values, now as then, have plummeted, 'one sovereign punned to petery pence'33. The opulent, accumulating landscape of Laurens County gives way to a retreating one whose length 'lies under liquidation',34 whose typical inhabitant, 'living in our midst of debt',35 will
'loan a vesta and hire some peat and sarch the shores her cockles to heat and she'll do all a turfwoman can to piff the business on.'36
The line separating gorgeous bourgeois splendour from frugal poverty, as Joyce knew all to well, is thin.
Finnegans Wake, then, is a tale of two economies, two co-existing ones: one characterised by surplus, profit, wealth, and another characterised by bankruptcy and debt. This is true semantically as well: alongside a great glut of meanings runs a continual failure to establish any:
The unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our incertitude, the evidencegivers by legpoll too untrustworthily irreperible... our notional gullery is now completely complacent, an exegious monument, aerily perennious.37
In the Wake's negational language, 'Sense' becomes 'sinse'38 - without (sin) sense, senza: 'Enquiring' becomes 'unquiring';39 Fiat (it was thus) becomes 'fuit'40 (it eluded us, escaped) and, eventually, 'pfooi'41 i.e. 'rubbish!' 'In this scherzarade of one's thousand one nightinesses,' we are told, 'that sword of certainty which would indentifide the body never falls.'42 The book fails to return its readers' investment with fixed dividends of meaning, instead 'borrowing a word and begging the question and stealing tinder and slipping like soap',43 sliding further and further into the red of indeterminacy.
Finnegans Wake is a tale of two economies in more ways than one. Not only do the economy of surplus and that of loss tussle with one another for supremacy: so, too, do two differing versions of economy itself. We will call these versions 'economics' and 'chrematistics' respectively. The distinction is borrowed from Aristotle, where, crudely stated, it is the difference between the good natural economy of the oikos and the bad, artificial economy that arises when money (to khrema) appears on the scene. Derrida, in a fascinating passage from Donner le temps - la fausse monnaie, summarises Aristotle's distinction between economics and chrematistics thus:
For Aristotle, it is a matter of an ideal and desirable limit, a limit between the limit and the unlimited, between the true and finite good (the economic) and the illusory and indefinite good (the chrematistic).44
Economics comes from oikos - home, hearth, seat of the family, the household, indeed of all those things that Derrida lists under 'the proper', the sovereign - and 'chrematistic' from to khrema, money, the unlimited exchangeability of goods that occurs when money appears on the scene. The distinction between economy and chrematistics is reflected not only in that between the limited and the unlimited but also in that between, continuing the above quote, 'the supposed finiteness of need and the presumed infinity of desire'. Once money, to khrema, has appeared on the scene, the infinity of desire will always transcend the finitude of need. Money is the desire of desire itself, apriori unsatisfied by any object one might actually need - behold, the logic of shopping! The fact that Derrida's language recalls that of Levinas (need/desire, finitude/infinity) is perhaps not accidental, for in opposition to an anti-monetary tradition in philosophy that begins with Aristotle and culminates with Marx (recall that a communist society would be a society without the spectrality of money), Levinas is one of the rare thinkers who reserves a privileged place for money in his work. He writes in 'The Ego and Totality' and I quote at length,
Money then does not purely and simply mark the reification of man. It is an element in which the personal is maintained while being quantified - this is what is proper to money and constitutes, as it were, its dignity as a philosophical category.
And further on the same page,
Money allows us to envisage a justice of redemption to be substituted for the infernal or vicious circle of redemption or pardon. We cannot attenuate the condemnation which from Amos II, 6 to the Communist Manifesto has fallen upon money, precisely because of its power to buy man. But the justice which must save us from economy, that is, from the human totality, cannot negate its superior form, where the quantification of man appears, the common measure between men, for which money, whatever be its empirical form, supplies the category. It is indeed shocking to see in the quantification of man one of the essential conditions for justice. But can one conceive of a justice without quantity and without reparation?45
Connecting this line of thought with Derrida, he continues the passage with a gesture that will be familiar to readers of his work: 'As soon as there is the monetary sign - and first of all the sign - that is, différance and credit, the oikos is opened and cannot operate its limit'. Money, in effect, is deconstruction, opening the closure of the oikos, what Levinas calls totality, to the unrestricted 'economy' of desire where money circulates and where wealth is accumulated or squandered.
However, we would like to go a little further and think of deconstruction as a monetary sign and indeed to think of money as one of the names for that incalculable excess that precedes any restricted economy of meaning. In this sense, money might even be thought of as a quasi-transcendental structure rendering the activity of a restricted economy of the proper both possible and impossible. It is with this thought in mind that one might redescribe grammatology as chrematology, as a logic of money. Money is a kind of deconstruction, opening the totality of the proper's economy, but is not the reverse of this proposition also plausible, namely that deconstruction is a kind of money? For what is money, if not a spectre, namely the spectrality of difference that haunts the 'real' value of the notes and coins in our pockets, the spectrality that has been at the heart of so many of Derrida's texts, particularly his reading of Marx's political economy? Doesn't the force of Derrida's argument against what he sees as Marx's essentializing 'ontology' of life, praxis, labour and the organicism of community, entail a commitment to what he coins the 'hauntology' of money, and thereby capital itself? What is deconstruction, on this account, if not a cipher for capital?46
Turning back to Joyce, this movement from the oikos to khrema, breaching the possibility of Home Rule in all senses of the word, occurs constantly in Finnegans Wake. HCE, the patriarch, 'Highup Big Cockywocky Sublimissime Autocrat',47 finds himself repeatedly turned inside out, 'allaroundside upinandoutdown'.48 His private life is made public, subject to speculation. He is tried, fined, bankrupted. He has to pawn his furniture, the landscape of his oikos. It gets auctioned off - that is, assigned value according to how much and how many other people desire it, becomes currency. He becomes currency himself: people, first blackmailing him and then selling his story, make money from him (from him, they make money). He is coined, stamped, circulated, sent abroad and then called back again. As a fallen, broken Ur-god (Humpty Dumpty, or 'Hump Cumps Ebblybally')49 he becomes a tip, a scrapheap full of items of 'pecuniar interest'50 through which other people sift. His fall, a fall into both sin and debt (the German Schuld, combining both these terms, crops up in several guises), makes him 'oblious autamnesically of his very proprium':51 it is a fall from the limited propriety of economics into the an-economic openness of chrematistics. Finnegans Wake is a retale that is retailed - again and a gain - a story of 'One sovereign punned to petery pence': the sovereign economy of meaning punned chrematistically into grubby public circulation.
This rupture of the limits of economics, which are the limits of the family, hearth and home rule, makes possible, writes Derrida, 'the chance for any kind of hospitality... the chance for the gift itself. The chance for the event.' Derrida is suggesting here that money is the possibility of a form of an-economic giving, for a donation without return, for an event. As a long and intriguing footnote to Donner le temps makes clear, the word 'event' is to be understood in its Heideggerian sense as das Ereignis. Derrida associates money, to khrema, with der Brauch or usage, to khreon, which, according to Heidegger, names Being as the presencing of the present in early Greek thinking. Thus, the possibility of money, that is to say, the possibility of 'différance and credit', breaking the restricted economy of finite need, is also the possibility of the gift, of another ethicality of the gift, hospitality. What Joyce calls 'creed crux ethics'52 might be replaced with a new 'ethical fict'53 - and here a further series of connections with Levinas's work might be imagined.
Finnegans Wake, like many of Shakespeare's plays - or, for that matter, Hergé's Tintin books - abounds in instances of host-guest encounters, often fraught. As Hosty, publican perhaps of foreign origin, HCE plays host to people who, turning on him, become an alien host; Mutt, playing host to Jute's Danish invader, 'trumple[s] from rath'.54 It also abounds in instances in which a gift is sought, a line of credit opened. One of the primal events of Finnegans Wake is the encounter in the park between HCE and the cad. The episode is replayed at least twice (in Book One, Chapters Two and Four). It is based on a report Joyce found in a regional Irish newspaper, The Connaught Enquirer, which told of how a drunk accosted another man demanding money, and a scuffle followed, after which the other man agreed to lend him some. This small news item caught Joyce's eye as it echoed a story his own father had told him about being accosted by a tramp (who John Stanislaus described as a 'cad') in Phoenix Park one evening. Joyce told Frank Budgen that these twin events - or, rather, twin second-hand accounts, formed the basis of the novel.55 In Joyce's versions of the incident (or incidents, the one which 'prerepeated itself')56, HCE plays the lender. In the second, the accoster is described thus:
Whereupon became friendly and, saying not, his shirt to tear, to know wanted, joking and knobkerries all aside laying, if his change companion who stuck still the invention of his strongbox, with a tenacity corrobberating their mutual territorial right, happened to have the loots change of a tenpound crickler about him at the moment, addling that hap so, he would pay him back the six vics odd.57
Woowoo would you be grossly surprised, Hill, to learn that, as it so happens, I honestly have not such a thing as the loo, as the least chance of a tinpanned crackler anywhere about me at the present mohomoment but I believe I can see my way, as you suggest, it being Yuletide or Yuddanfest and as it's mad nuts, son, for you when it's hatter's hares, mon, for me, to advance you something like four and sevenpence between hopping and trapping, which you might hust as well have, boy baches, to buy J. J. and S. with.58
In the first account of the encounter, too, HCE is well-to-do, 'billowing across the wide expanse of our greatest park'59 - billowing like Antonio's ships' sails, but also, like the overstretched Antonio, bill owing. The cad asks him for the time - a veiled demand, perhaps, to hand over his watch, for time is money. HCE asks the cad to 'credit' him in believing that there is no truth 'in that purest of fibfib fabrications'.60 What fibfib fabrication? It seems HCE is giving over more than he was asked for - and, in doing so, rendering himself accountable, indebting himself.
What's at stake in this encounter? HCE's reputation, certainly, as well as his money, his watch and his life. The cad's next drink is in the balance too: J.J. and S. denotes Jameson's whiskey. But it also denotes James Joyce and Son. There's a sense that Joyce is writing his own history, opening a line of credit, the continuum in which his mumper can be doubled. The cad's words 'I have met with you, bird, too late, or if not, too worm and early'61 echo those Joyce claims to have said to Yeats on their encounter ('I have met with you too late to help you',62 folding literary history itself, its struggles of succession and anxieties of influence, in which pretenders to the literary crown are recipients of 'loans' unwillingly made by - and unlikely to be returned to - their predecessors, into the mix.
The cad asks for ten pounds, and is offered four and sevenpence: the encounter involves not just indebtedness and impropriety (Schuld) but also bartering, like the bartering Heidegger describes when discussing the Anaximander Fragment. Beings come, then go back whence they came, thus rendering justice and paying penalty to one another for their injustice, according to the ordinance of time, the fragment tells us. 'Thus,' Heidegger writes, 'they exhibit a kind of barter system in Nature's immutable economy.'63 What the Fragment, an incomplete account from deep, deep in the past - just like the Wake's accounts of the encounter, or encounters, of which Joyce himself only received partial accounts - represents to Heidegger is the dawn of that destiny whereby Being, the presencing of what is present, is sent to us - the dawn, that is, of the possibility of the Ereignis, the event, 'in which the history of the Western world comes to be born out, the event of metaphysics'.64 Finnegans Wake, the book of history, of knowledge and of ignorance, of rereadings, repetitions and exegeses, turns around the possibility of the event: of the event that might have happened way back in the park, or might happen again, or maybe is continually happening and has never stopped - and round the possibility of understanding it, of finally containing it in thought. In Joyce's text, the event unfolds as possibility, as destiny. It comes round again and again; it is retaled. But what it brings round is not Being, presencing and presence - rather, it reopens all lines of difference and credit around a monetary sign, an event of economic exchange. It is a tale that is retailed, again and a gain. Joyce's Ereignis is not that of presence, but rather of différance. In it, es gibt Sein becomes es gibt Geld.
Joyce believed that Finnegans Wake would be the last book, the one in which the destiny of literature realised itself. We would argue that he was exactly wrong: Finnegans Wake is the first book, the very possibility of literature become visible: as letter and as litter . One could almost say that it is money, the currency (to khrema) that has haunted literature's home and hearth since its beginnings, enabling its various closed economies (the Homeric epic, the picaresque adventure, the nineteenth century novel, etc. etc.) as it lays them waste.
The way in which Finnegans Wake is offered to us is economic: it is not just retailed but also entailed. The second sentence of the novel's second paragraph tells us this, with a further allusion to Wall Street crashes:
The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man.65
What is the meaning of this word 'entailed'? The OED defines 'entail' as
The settlement of the succession of a landed estate, so that it cannot be bequeathed at pleasure by any one possessor; the securing (an office, dignity, privilege) to a predetermined order of succession; to carve, sculpt, engrave.66
It seems we are being treated, right from the outset, to a drama of inheritance, a drama of inheritance engraved in writing. This drama, acted out around the struggles between Shem and Shaun, is alluded to as soon as the first paragraph, in which we are told that
not yet, but venisoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac.67
The reference is to Jacob ('Shem is as short for Shemus as Jem is joky for Jacob')68 robbing Esau of his inheritance by bringing a lamb to his blind father Isaac while dressed in a hairy sheepskin: Isaac felt the hair, thought Jacob was Esau and gave him his estate. Wile, trickery and subterfuge will make themselves felt throughout the struggle.
Let's take a closer look at Shem and Shaun, these twin representatives of economic poles. Shaun is dubbed 'the Post', the one controlling the economy of messages, of signs, of currency. He is wealthy. Shem, by contrast, is poor, and constantly in debt. He 'lives off loans'.69 He is prodigal, a spendthrift, 'foe to social and business sucess',70 'making encostive inkum out of the last of his lathings and writing a blue streak over his bourseday shirt'.71 As Burrus, Shaun inherits bread and honey; as the Ondt, he smokes 'Hosana cigals'.72 Shem, as Caseous, inherits shit; as the Gripes, he relies on 'the fortethurd of Elissabed',73 the poor relief law or, as it was known, the 43rd Statute of Elizabeth. Biographically, Shem corresponds to James, Shaun to Stanislaus Joyce. Shem is a penman, a writer. He is also a forger. For Joyce, the two are synonymous: ever since Portrait it has been axiomatic for him that art is forgery. Shem's literary apprenticeship is one and the same as his development as a forger: perusing other writers' work, he decides to,
study with stolen fruit how cutely to copy all their various styles of signature so as one day to utter an epical forged cheque on the public for his own private profit.74
The epical cheque denotes Joyce's own novel, the shady trading zone in which all literature becomes chrematised currency.
Identity and difference, twin principles of money. That money - every single penny, zloty, dinar, lira and shekel - must be exactly the same as another, and yet different. Money's sameness is constituted through a repetition that makes it distinct: again and a gain. And Shem and Shaun are almost twins; it is suggested that what occurred in the womb was not a splitting of the egg but rather superfetation, the fertilisation of a second egg while the first was already gestating: doubling mum (superfetation also means profit, accumulation). As children, they are twin-like, 'jimminies'.75 'Why do I am allok alike two poss of porterpease?'76 the Prankquean asks Jarl van Hoother/HCE as she swaps them for one another under his very nose.
This problem of identity vs. difference comes to a head in Book One Chapter Six, as Shaun/Jones answers his eleventh question: Would you give money to an exiled, wandering beggar to save his soul? No, replies Shaun/Jones, before launching into an elaborate explanation in which time and space are discussed in terms which are both economic and concerned with principles of equivalence and likeness. In his 'cash-dime' speech Shaun/Jones starts by belittling Bergson ('the sophology of Bitchson'),77 Einstein ('the whoo-whoo and where's hairs theorics of Winestain')78 and Proust ('who the lost time we had the pleasure we have had our little recherché brush with...).79 They are all temporalists and all Jews, and hence, by 'Deasian' association, wanderers, exiles. As is the Professor Levy-Bruhl ('Professor Loewy-Brueller', 'Professor Levi-Brullo, F.D. of Sexe-Weiman-Eitelnaky'),80 whose work on les mentalités primitives and the experience of the mystical is dispatched on the next pages, 'by what I have now resolved to call the dime and cash diamond fallacy'.81 This preoccupation with time, Shaun/Jones argues, is solipsistic and sentimental, in another swipe that makes Proust's madeleine crumble,
When Mullocky won the couple of colds, when we were stripping in number three, I would like the neat drop that would malt in my mouth but I fail to see when (I am purposely refraining from expounding the obvious fallacy as to the specific gravitates of the two deglutables implied nor to the lapses lequou asousiated with the royal gorge through students of mixed hydrostatics and pneumodipsics will after some difficulties grapple away with my meinungs). Myrrdin aloer! As old Marsellas Cambriannus puts his. But, on Professor Llewellys ap Bryllars, F.D., Ph. Dr's showings, the plea, if he pleads, is all posh and robbage on a melodeontic scale since his man's when is no otherman's quandor (Mine, dank you?) while, for aught I care for the contrary, that all is where in love as war.82
Which is to say the following: an intense memory of eating a madeleine does not entitle its author to claim insight into all of human experience. The fact that Proust can hold up his two bits, his tiny dime, does not mean that he owns all the world's time, its thought-wealth, for dime is money. In arguing this, Shaun/Jones claims, Shem is
a mere cashdime... to this graded intellektuals dime is cash and the cash system (you must not be allowed to forget that this is all contained, I mean the system, in the dogmarks of origen on spurios [dogmas of spurious origin, Deutschmarks of dodgy origin, dog marks, i.e. shit, and Darwin's Origin of Species - TMc/SC], means that I cannot now have or nothave a piece of cheeps in your pocket at the same time and with the same manners as you can now nothalf or half the cheek apiece I've in mind unless Burrus and Casseous have not seemaultaneously sysentangled thmselves, selldear to soldthere, once in the dairy days of buy and buy.83
Thus, juggling the questions of likeness, self-sameness and difference that currency brings into play, Shaun refutes Shem's claim to his wealth. It is he, and he alone, who will inherit. One Dubliner will be doubling his mumper, while the other will be doubled with mumps.
Shaun repeats this claim in Book Three, Chapter One. There, setting out his own 'last will intesticle',84 he 'spinooze[s]'85 the fable of the Ondt and the Gracehoper. Shaun reinvents himself as the industrious Ondt, a truly anti-Schellingian idealist with 'a schelling in kopfers'86, whose 'raumybuilt'87 riches contrast strongly with the Gracehoper/Shem's 'jungle of love and debts'88. Encountering the Gracehoper while he, the Ondt, smokes 'a spatial brunt of Hosana cigals', he mocks him with what Joyce calls his 'comfortumble phullupsuppy'89:
Flunkey Footle furloughed fould, writing off his phoney, but Conte Carme makes the melody that mints the money. Ad majorem l.s.d! [pounds, shillings, pence - TMc/SC] Divi gloriam [divi as in dividend paid in former time by the Co-Operative Society, a share or portion - TMc/SC].90
The Gracehoper/Shem admits defeat, his capitulation also expressed economically:
As I once played the piper I must now pay the count...
I pick up your reproof, the horsegift of a friend
For the prize of your save is the price of my spend
He ends, though, with a caveat:
As I view by your farlook hale yourself to my heal...
Your genus is worldwide, your spacest sublime
But, holy Saltmartin, why can't you beat time?91
Shem/Gracehoper, down to his last dime, is countering that Shaun/Ondt may inherit space, the 'sees of the deed'92 the exiled Gracehoper has 'twicycled', the 'vico's onto which he's 'tossed himself',93 but the time in which the world goes round remains the preserve of the artist.
Which of these two claims does Joyce's text prefer? Ultimately, neither. Each time Shaun and Shem's battles over inheritance replay themselves, they fade away to be replaced by Isabelle, Issy, Nuvoletta, Margareen: the sons give over to the daughter. And what does the daughter do? Long for the father, his 'roturn', 'I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father'.94 She longs not for the world to come around to her, but for the round to go a-world again, 'Onetwo moremens more'.95 For the ISA figure, HCE is experienced not as an economic legacy, a fortune or a debt-mountain to be inherited, but rather as a gift, an accumulative gift, a donation without return, 'Till thousendsthee'.96 This is how the novel ends: with an invocation of the gift, its recirculation. The last complete sentence in the novel consists of a single word: 'Given!'97 The next phrase tails off incomplete, unclosed, improper, entailing the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, once more, bequeathing one more time his debris, his pecuniary litter, the unconverted currency that makes the round go a-world, as gain and loss, again.
© Simon Critchley & Tom McCarthy
|volume 4, issue 1, 2003|