Danis Rose, who has been working for 16 years on a critical edition of Finnegans Wake, believes that Joyce began and abandoned a collection of stories, Finn's Hotel, in 1923. He then went on to write Finnegans Wake and did not return to the intermediate work until 1938, when he stitched parts into his new epic.
Mr Rose, who has assembled a 100-page book which he believes is as close as possible to the original, said: 'Joyce buried the dismembered limbs of the hidden work in the vast humus that is Finnegans Wake.'
The material has never been seen in this form or sequence and even the fragments would be familiar to only a dozen Joycean scholars.
His discovery was based on analysis of documents which were believed to be work in progress for the Wake.
Finn's Hotel will be published by Viking, which paid 'a healthy five-figure sum' for it, next spring. The stories deal with incidents from the mythology and history of Ireland, from legends of St Patrick to the tale of Tristan and Isolde. Mr Rose said one of the stories, about the four annalists who are guardians of Irish history, 'vies with Joyce's earlier The Dead as the most accomplished piece of short prose fiction ever written'.
Finn's Hotel was 'not written in the dense, all but impenetrable language of the Wake or even of Ulysses. It is extremely lucid and eminently readable, parallel to Dubliners but universal, transcending the provincial bounds of those stories. It is Dubliners for the whole world.'
Finn's Hotel was until now believed to be only an earlier title for Wake, and the stories themselves merely focal points or 'nodes' for the body of Finnegans Wake. But Mr Rose said that the nodes were inserted in a 'cannibalised, clumsy and distorted version' into the later book and 'stick out like sore thumbs'.
Each Finn's Hotel story was refined to a level beyond the fragments that were cannibalised for the Wake. On its own, Finn's Hotel was a beautifully written work; squeezing parts of it into Finnegans Wake 'arguably spoilt both books'.
The book was also significant, as marking the middle ground between Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, which clearly entailed a new intellectual departure. Mr Rose said: 'Between the 'Day Book', Ulysses, and the 'Night Book', Finnegans Wake, Finn's Hotel is the 'Twilight Book'.' While it illuminated this transitional phase, it was also obviously separate. 'Even where characters have the same name as they do in Finnegans Wake - such as the hero Earwicker (pronounced Erica) - they are quite different people.' The existence of this volume follows the pattern of the rest of Joyce's career, of writing a major book and then a minor one. The title comes from the hotel at which Joyce's wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, was working when Joyce first met her, and the discovery clarifies Joyce's assertion in a letter that he had named his new book as a tribute to his wife.
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