The Beaugency Files: Commentators on The Cat and the Devil

Janet E. Lewis
Marie-Dominique Garnier
Amanda Sigler
Marcelo Amorim
Ilaria Natali
Annalisa Sezzi
   

Janet E. Lewis, ‘The Cat and the Devil and Finnegans Wake’, in James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Summer, 1992), pp.805-14: ‘Cats, devils, bridges, and lord mayors appear frequently in Finnegnas Wake, most notably in the royal progres scene of III.4 where ‘alfi byrni’, the ‘Meynhir Mayour, our boorgomaister .. his hod hoisted, in best bib and tucker! wearing is ‘necknoose aureal, surrounded by his full cooperation with fixed bayoneets .. restrained by chain of hands’ (FW568.16-22) receives Dom King’ [...; here 808-09.] ‘Joyce, is seems, encountered an old tale and used it not onl to amuse his granson but to enhance Finnegans Wake.’ [805] Lewis quotes copious details of the life of Alfie Byrne incl. NY Herald Tribune - ‘[..] While the radio carried his brogue to the nation, Lord Mayor Byrne turned to Mayor La Guardia and remarked:- ‘Your great city reminds me of home. I’ve been meeting so many Irishmen today I might think I’m still on O’Connell Street in Dublin.’ (806). Also quotes a letter to Giorgio and Helen Joyce: ‘I see the little Lord Mayor of Dublin Alfie Byrne is going to N. Y. for the 17th. Every day I open the Irish Times I see him and his golden chain in some photograph or other. He has been Lord Mayor for 7 years but before him Mr. “Larry” O’Neill was Lord Mayor for 15 years. In my time the Lord Mayor was elected by members of the corporation to whom he owed money so that they could get a garnishee order on his salary.” (Letters, III, [1966], p.346.) Further: ‘There is no surviving evidence that he visited Beaugency but Letters III includes a photograph of Nora Joyce and two friends in Beaugency’ viz., Letters III, Illustration 52, following 480; here 812.] [For further quotations and some page-images, see attached.)

Reading notes

Cats, devils, bridges, and lord mayors appear frequently in Finnegnas Wake, most notably in the royal progres scene of III.4 where ‘alfi byrni’, the ‘Meynhir Mayour, our boorgomaister .. his hod hoisted, in best bib and tucker! wearing is ‘necknoose aureal, surrounded by his full cooperation with fixed bayoneets .. restrained by chain of hands’ (FW568.16-22) receives Dom King [...; here 808-09.]

Joyce, is seems, encountered an old tale and used it not only to amuse his grandson but to enhance Finnegans Wake. [805]

Quotes copious details of the life of Alfie Byrne incl. NY Herald Tribune - ‘[..] While the radio carried his brogue to the nation, Lord Mayor Byrne turned to Mayor La Guardia and remarked:- ‘Your great city reminds me of home. I’ve been meeting so many irihmen today I might think I’m still on O’Connell Street in Dublin.’ (806).

Quotes a letter to Giorgio and Helen Joyce: ‘I see the little Lord Mayor of Dublin Alfie Byrne is going to N. Y. for the 17th. Every day I open the Irish Times I see him and his golden chain in some photograph or other. He has been Lord Mayor for 7 years but before him Mr. ’Larry’ O’Neill was Lord Mayor for 15 years. In my time the Lord Mayor was elected by members of the corporation to whom he owed money so that they could get a garnishee order on his salary.” (Letters III, 346)

Quotes: ‘His Serenemost by a speech-reading from his miniated vellum, alfi byrni gamman dealter etcera zezera,” etc. (FW568.16-32), and remarks: Joyce adds this ‘alphabet’ to the galleys. At the same time he adds to the same galley the detail of the golden chain, the ‘necknoose aureal“ (FW568.20), the insignia he noticed Lord Mayor Byrne wearing so frequently. [Note 12: Joyce adds both these insertions to Galley 236 of Work in Progress, dated by David Hayman, following the printer’s note, 24 April 1937 (JJA, 62:212-13.) [809 & 814.]

Also quotes ‘Why we all Love our Little Lord Mayor’ (307.07-08.) [809]

The pope’s title of supreme bridgemaker echoes through the Wake; ’pontofacts massimost’ (FW532.09) and “Plentifolks Mixymost” (FW567.31).

Quoted by McHugh: ’And I cast my tenspan joys on her, arsched overtupped, from bank of call to echobank, by dint of strongbow’ (547.30-31);

The Lord Mayor’s chain is described when he appears “in court dress and ludmers chain” (FW498.28-29), and again when “Our lorkmakorhe is proformly annuysed. He is shinkly thinkly shaking in his schayns” (FW342.28-29)/Another famous passage warns HCE: “there’s al ready a big rody ram lad at random on the premises of his haunt of the hungred bordles... flourishing like a lordmajor or a buaboabay bohm” (FW28.35-29.02).

Also quotes: ’Why so mucky spick bridges span our Fluminian road’ (277.03-06.) [Here p.808]; also Mon signeur of Deublan shall impart to all, Benedktus benedicat!” (FW569.17-21). The blessing ends with a “cat.”

Quotes extensively from Henry Bett on the difficulty of building bridges (here p.809). Further cites the Wake: ‘”[...] Longtong’s breach is fallen down” (FW58.05-10), Another example combines the broken bridge with a cat reference: “broken breached meataerial” (FW274.32) is glossed almost at once by “Puzzly, puzzly, I smell a cat” (FW275.01-02) [809].

Also quotes Patricia Dale-Green (The Cult of the Cat, Heinemann 1963), a specialist in “catlore”, who traces stories about a Devil’s Bridge and even specifies the bridge at Beaugency which attracted Joyce’s interest. (809)

Many bridges are reputed to have been built by the Devil, and the name “Devil’s Bridge” is attached to structures found in England, France, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. Sometimes, as in the case of the Pont de Valentre at Cahors in France, the Devil was entirely responsible for the construction. At other times, he intervened when human engineers,who had started building a bridge, came to the end of their resources. [809]
 There was, however, a snag in accepting the Devil’s help: for he demanded, as the price of his work, the soul of the first creature to cross the newly-built bridge. A trick commonly played on the Devil was to send across a black cat, so that he received, in exchange for the bridge he had built, not a Christian soul but something he already possessed Although, on the whole, the Devil seems to have resigned himself to this compromise, a story is told of a case where he lost his temper. At Beaugency, a town on the River Loire, Satan was so furious when he found he had been fobbed off with a cat, that he tried to kick down the new bridge. He failed, however, and as he carried off the cat, it tore at his hands and face with its claws. When the Devil could endure the pain no longer, he let the cat go and it took refuge near Sologne. As a result, the locality came to be known as Chaffin (Chatfin), and the inhabitants of Beaugency were called “cats.”

Patricia Dale-Green, The Cult of the Cat (London: Heinemann, 1963), pp. 131-32.

DG: A trick commonly played on the Devil was to send across a black cat, so that he received, in exchange for the bridge, not a Christian soul but something already possessed. ...

Bellysbabble is ‘belzey babble’ FW64.11.

George C. Sandelescu has noticed this connection of the Wake’s languge with Joyce’s pun in The Cat and the Devil. (810)

DG: Celtic believed that cats were on intimate terms with all inhabitants of the invisible world, and that cats’ eyes were the windows of the fairy kings palace. (n20; here 810)

Joyce gives us a vision of linguistic hell where not even puns and riddles can save us: ’[...] oaths and screams and bawley groans with a belchybubhub and a hellabelow bedemmed and bediabbled the arimaining lucisphere. Helldsdend, whelldselse! Lonedom’s breach lay foulend up uncouth not be broched by punns and reedles.’ (239.32-36.)

Dick Whittington in the Wake (811-12) ‘Turn again, wistfultone, lode mere of Doubtlynn!’ (248.07; here 812.)

Budgen: ‘he had considerable sympathy or the cat with its persuasive manners and its compact self-sufficiencies.’ Budgen tells that a waiter at Fouquets gave the Joyces a black cat which evicted Joyce from his living room chair. (Budgen, JJ and [...] Ulysses, indiana UP 1967, p.321; here 812.)

The pope’s title of supreme bridgemaker echoes through the Wake; “pontofacts massimust” (FW532.09) and “Plentifolks Mixymost” (FW567.31) are just a couple of these references. Building bridges in the Wake can also represent a sexual union. McHugh points to FW547.30-31, a passage where the sexual feat combines with archery and architecture: “And 1 cast my tenspan joys on her, arsched overtupped, from bank of call to echobank, by dint of strongbow” (FW54730-31) {McHugh, Sigla, p.21]. But even Dublin’s actual bridges are important. Mink lists nine road bridges, including Sara’s bridge (FH567.03), two railway bridges and a footbridge spanning the Liffey as part of the book’s Dublin geography: “;Why so mucky spick bridges sfmn our Fluminian road” (FW277.03-06). [Bibl. Louis O. Mink, A “ Finnegans Wake” Gazetteer, (Bloomington and London: Indiana Univ. Press, 1978), pp. 240-41.)

[...]

And so Joyce wrote the story The Cat and the Devil while on holiday at Villers s/mer. There is no surviving evidence that he visited Beaugency but Letters III includes a photograph of Nora Joyce and two friends in Beaugency. (LIII, ill. 52, following p.480; here 812.)
  And so, Joyce retells an old story for his grandson and, and, at the same time, adds another layer of reference to Finnegans Wake. and, at the same time, adds another layer of reference to Finnegans Wake. His version of the Devil’s Bridge story brings together the Liffey and the Loire. The Loire river appears in its own right in the collection of river names gathered into Anna Livia’s beauty preparations: “she send red her boudeloire maids to His Affluence” (FW207.11); the name joins together the lady’s boudoir and the French poet Baudelaire. The Loire is found again in the Ondt and the Gracehoper episode in a combination that underlines its connections with folklore: “How farflung is your fokloire?” (FW419.11-12; here 812.) [NB: This is more like foclóir - Ir. dictionary - than folklore. BS]

Lewis ends by reciting the legend (812-13), apparently after Etienne Hamel [as infra], but in a form recognisably akin to Joyce’s including the Balgentien/belle gens pun: ‘“You Balgentiens - you are not good people at all - you are only cats!” He retreats in a huff to a nearby tower that still bears his name.’ The text of the poem describing this legend is proudly displayed by the merchant of la rue du Pont.

In the middle of the tenth century, during the reign of the last Carolingians, a bridge was built which makes passage possible from north to south. A legend of the Middle Ages concerns the origin of this bridge. The townspeople of Beaugency still like to hear it told. It demonstrates the cunning and determina tion which they have shown then and since, all during their history. [812] The devil is attracted by the reputation of the town and decides to help the inhabitants. He flatters them that a wooden bridge would be unworthy of them and promises to build a stone bridge in only one night. His salary will be nothing but “L’âme de la premiere personne qui le traversera” [the soul of the first person to cross it]. The mayor, having signed the pact, does not sleep all night. In the morning, followed by all the Balgentiens, he approaches the bridge. The devil, black, monstrous, and laughing, waits on the other side. The people wonder if the mayor intends to sacrifice his own soul but he opens his coat and a cat leaps out and runs across the bridge. The devil is furious and swears, “You Balgentiens -you are not good people at all -you are only cats!” He retreats in a huff to a nearby tower which still bears his name. (Citing Etienne Hamel, Heures de Beaugency, Heures de la France (Briare: Les Impressions Modernes, 1976), pp.9-11.)
This content downloaded from 179.186.253.216 on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 21:23:09 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms.

[...] far from being insulted by their nickname, the peole of the town proudly call themselves ’les chats de Beaugency’. (813. end.)

Bibl.: In note 30, Lewis references letter from Le Docteur Jarsaillon, Mayor of the City of Beaugency, who confirmed the nickname in a letter of 3 Aug 1978 and sent two pubications, Andre Bezard and Daniel Vannier, Beaugency sur la Loire en Orleanois (Paris: Les editions Nouvelles, 1977) 44-45; and Etienne Hamel, Heures de Beaugency, Heures de la France (Briare: Les Impressions Modernes, 1976), pp.9-11. Also C. George Sandulescu, in The Language of the Devil: Texture and Archetype in Finnegans Wake (Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire: Colin Smythe, 1987), who traces The Cat and the Devil to Corsican Folklore (p.vi; here n.22, p.814.)

See page images - as attached.

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Marie-Dominique Garnier, ‘The lapse and the lap: Joyce with Deleuze’, in James Joyce and the Difference of Language, ed. Laurent Milesi (Cambridge UP 2003), pp.97-111: ‘In the letter to Stephen Joyce dated 10 August 1936 already referred to (SL382-84), Joyce tells his grandson the story of the cat of Beaugency, in distant relation to a present he sent him a few day before - a cat filled with sweets. A number of linguistic twists and threads in the letter connects its nonsensical overtones to the mainstream of Joycean fiction, as well as to remotely Deleuzian features. A river runs through the story, most about building bridges and about waking. Its three main characters, the may of Beaugency, the devil and the cat, somehow make up a mock-Oedipus (or Oedi-puss) triangle complete with mère (mayor), father (Joyce) and (grand)son. Both the mayor and the devil as shown to be compulsive dressers, as bearers of Joycean fetishes, wearing scarlet robe, golden chain, and long spyglass. The bridge connects two opposite ends of a linguistic spectrum, ranging from proverbs, or order-words which the letter apply deconstructs into pass-words, to the opposite end, here called “Bellsybabble” - the word [100] appears in a post-script appened to the body of the letter, the reading of the letter itself amounts to a crossing process. / A literal reading of proverbs is at work Joyce’s story - a lateral procedure in which the proverb, the “order-word”, is levelled out into a pass-word, a horizontal, paranomastic device, a linguistic bridge - a chou-chat. Joyce’s devil speaks a minor language, a prototype Wakean tongue or “belzey babble” (064.11), one “he makes up as he goes along” (cf. FW 268.F2), a bellsbabble which sounds like the end product of a disassembly-line distorting Beaugency into belles gens (“Balgentiens”) and “bellsy” - where Beelzebub overlaps with balls, bells and belles. The letter provides a tight network of associations and passages where the cat-and-devil nexus uncannily brings up a father/son or grandfather/grandson pattern of proximity (“mon petit chou-chat”). Polarities that would normally organize and construct meaning are here shown to enter modes of interaction and connection: several “lines of flight” or fluid elements generate lateral readings, such as the water which circulates both above and beneath bridge level.’ (pp.100-01.)

Marie-Dom Garnier1 Marie-Dom Garnier1
Available online; accessed 05.11.2017.


Note: Amanda Sigler quotes Garnier to the effect that both the mayor and the devil in the story ‘are shown as compulsive dressers’ and ‘as bearers of Joycean fetishes’ (Sigler, ‘Crossing Folkloric Bridges: The Cat, the Devil and Joyce’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 45, 3/4, (2008), pp.537-55, p.544, citing Garnier, p.100 [as here]. See Sigler, op. cit., infra.

Note: Annalisa Sezzi quotes Garnier: ’Il racconto nella lettera al nipotino è dunque un fiume in grado di stimolare interpretazioni laterali, presentando travasi e confluenze con le opere maggiori di Joyce [The story in the letter to the grandson is therefore a river which can stimulate lateral interpretations which flow into and along with the major works of Joyce (Garnier, 2001, p.101). ] (Garnier, 2001, p.101; here p.141). [See further under Sezzi - infra.]

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Amanda Sigler, ‘Crossing Folkloric Bridges: The Cat, the Devil and Joyce’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 45, 3/4, (Spring-Summer 2008), pp.537-55: ‘Joyce’s letter, and its entertaining evocation of Copenhagen, acts as a substitute for the would-be souvenir cat, just as the folkloric Beaugency cat stands in for the human soul. By either replacing or being replaced by desired objects, cats not only allow for Balgentiens to cross the extraordinarily wide River Loire on firm stone but also permit the writer to bridge the geographic distance separating him from his grandson with both epistolary and sweetfilled cats.’ (p.539; quoted in Marcelo da Silva Amorim, ‘O Gato de Beaugency ou uma carta de James a Stevie: biografia de uma traducao’, in Ensaois: Proceedings of Bloomsday 2104, UFRN 2015, p.34 & n.9 [p.44; see longer extract, infra].)

Reading notes [28.10.2017]:

Its posthumous book publication put the story that began as a private letter to Stephen James Joyce into a new, illustrated context, but even in its "original" epistolary form, the tale already had its antecedents. This essay traces the story’s development from its roots in folklore to Joyces 1936 letter and the 1964 children’s book. [...] enriches our understanding of folkloric tradition even as he modifies that tradition to create a subtle yet penetrating, critique of modernity. (537.)

As folklorists note, The Cat and the Devil falls under the Aarne Thomspon tale type 1911, stories known as “Devil’s Bridge” variants. [...] In Joyce’s version, which follows the medieval legend of Beaugency, it is (as the title suggests) a cat. But Joyce imbues the cat - the chosen animal of several “Devil’s Bridge” variants - with personal significance for his grandson [...] the treat-filled cat sent to Stephen Joyce may explain why Joyce chose as is source text the Beaugency tale, with its heroic cat, over the other “Devil’s Bridge” variants he may have read about in Henry Bett’s Nursery Rhymes and Tales, a copy of which he owned. (537; n.4.) he might instead have written about the ‘gilt cock which many travellers have noticed upon the Sachsenhausen Bridge at Frankfurt’ [...], the Reuss in the S. Gothard’s Pass, at Aberystwyth or at Kilgrum Bridge in North Yorkshire (Bett, 35). [...] suggesting both that he had a different source for The Cat and the Devil and that he had reasons for preferring the cat over other animals. (Sigler, pp.537-38.)

No surviving evidence that Joyce had been to Beaugency [at 1992; citing Janet E. Lewis]; may have heard the local legend there [538)]; cites ferragosto (August holiday) on PC from Beaugency to Giorgio; not only drawing upon folklore tradition [...] but also integrating his recent travel experience into the narrative; Roger Norburn records that Joyce stayed in the city from approximately 30 July to 7 August; furthermore, Norburn cites a postcard Joyce sent on 3 August to Carla Giedion-Welcker which shows a photograph of the bridge at Beaugency” (Norburn, A James Joyce Chronology, Palgrave Macmillan 2004, p.175; here 538).

The cat of Beaugency thus fills both a personal and a richly symbolic role. Folkloric tradition often places cats in a liminal space, and their ability to negotiate between the human and demonic worlds makes them particularly strong candidates for the animal of choice in certain Devil’s Bridge variants. For several reasons, the cat may be viewed as an ideal crosser of waters. As Lewis notes, following Patricia Dale-Green, cats are themselves bridges between forces of good and evil (Lewis, 810; citing Dale-Green).

Furthermore, Joyce’s correspondence indicates that he continued to think about cats and their relation to the written word even after he finished the story. On 5 September 1936, when Joyce was in Copenhagen, he sent a letter to his grandson, regretting that he could [538] send him a cat because, as he explained, not felines were to be found in that city. (pp.538-39; see her end-note expressing gratitude to Fritz Senn at the Zurich James Joyce Foundation for bringing [her] attention to these and other unpublished letters: p.500.)

Indeed, although Janet Lewis wrote in 1992 that there is “no surviving evidence that he visited Beaugency” apart from an inconclusive photograph taken of Nora and two friends, one of Joyce’s newly discovered unpublished letters in the Zurich James Joyce Foundation carries a dateline from Beaugency, indicating that he visited the French town and may have heard the local legend there. This letter to Giorgio from the Hôtel de l’Abbaye in Beaugency also indicates that Joyce was composing his children’s story based on personal associations and not from distant sources. The letter, thought to have been composed in the summer of 1936, suggests that the story would have been fresh in Joyce’s mind when he wrote to Stephen Joyce on 10 August. A postcard Joyce sent from Beaugency to Giorgio, also held by the Foundation, is dated “ferragosto” (August holiday) 1936, and Roger [sic] Norburn records that Joyce stayed in the city from approximately 30 July to 7 August; furthermore, Norburn cites a postcard Joyce sent on 3 August ‘to Carola Giedion-Welcker which shows a photograph of the bridge at Beaugency.’ Joyce, then, was not only drawing upon folkloric tradition as he composed what would later become The Cat and the Devil but was also integrating his recent travel experiences into the narrative.
 The cat of Beaugency thus fills both a personal and a richly symbolic role. Folkloric tradition often places cats in a liminal space, and their ability to negotiate between the human and demonic worlds makes them particularly strong candidates for the animal of choice in certain Devil’s Bridge variants. For several reasons, the cat may be viewed as an ideal crosser of water [...; 538]
...
Joyce’s letter, and its entertaining evocation of Copenhagen, acts as a substitute for the would-be souvenir cat, just as the folkloric Beaugency cat stands in for the human soul. By either replacing or being replaced by desired objects, cats not only allow for Balgentiens to cross the extraordinarily wide River Loire on firm stone but also permit the writer to bridge the geographic distance separating him from his grandson with both epistolary and sweetfilled cats.’ (p.539.)

On Bridges (539; as supra); to some extent this editions appear to be in dialogue with each other (540); Stephen Joyce [Introd.]: We never had any trouble understanding each other (Reader [Intro.], n.p.); Byrne appears 78 times in 1935 acc. Janet Lewis. (JJQ, Summer 1992; here 543); JJ does not portray the decorated Mayor sympathetically in either his correspondence or The Cat & the Devil ... he is a ridiculous figure; overly fond of his wardrobe - like the king in Hans Christian Anderson; Garnier writes: both the mayor and the devil ‘are shown as compulsive dressers’ and ‘as bearers of Joycean fetishes’ (100; here 544); the devil reading the newspapers to obtain essential information for his own plots - arguably among the most significant changes Joyce made to the tale; As Garnier notes, the use of French allows Joyce to introduce multilingual puns, as he distorts “Beaugency into belles gens” (‘Balgentiens’). (101; here 547.) Cites Spanish illustrator Torres.

Suzette A. Henke’s suggestion that Joyce’s Dubliners “satirizes an authoritarian power structure defended by blustering and impotent males” could equally apply to The Cat and the Devil [Henke, ‘Through a Cracked Looking-Glass: Sex-Role Stereotypes in Dubliners,’ in International Perspectives on James Joyce, ed. Gottlieb Gaiser, NY: Whitston Publ. 1986, p. 2] which critiques [544] the ruling authority of Dublin, just as Joyce’s famous declaration that the Irish people need “one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass” (Letters, I 64), while referring to his short stories for adults, carries additional resonance for his child-oriented short story. Though the townspeople in The Cat and the Devil are supposedly Balgentiens, the fact that they have a Dubliner as a Lord Mayor aligns them with the Irish people, and the letter’s frequent references to gazing and to visuality both highlight the story’s suitability for illustration and point to the devil’s spyglass as a locus of visual power.

[On illustrations showing the multilingualism of the Devil in different scripts:] By literalizing the multiple interpretative possibilities of Joyce’s language, the illustrators establish the text as a realm of play much like that of Finnegans Wake. (547.) We do not have any samples of Bellsybabble in Joyce’s 1936 letter, except the word “Ballysbabble” itself; Though it is a children’s story with its roots in folklore, The Cat and the Devil is also a product of and a commentary on twentieth-century modernism (548); [T]he connection between the story’s aesthetics and modernist experimentation while also indicating that there may be further untapped points of intersection between the children’s book and modernism (548); Lewis [...] also suggests that The Cat and the Devil was designed by Joyce ‘not only to amuse his grandson but to enhance Finnegans Wake.’ (Lewis, 805; here 548).

Thus, Joyce’s version of the Devil’s Bridge forges links between his adult and children audiences, between the mythic and the histtorical, between the Loire and the Liffey, between the devil and the artist-links reinforced by the story’s illustrations. (549.)

Lists editions: Hebrew - trans. Avraham Yavin, ill. Blachon (Tel Aviv: Am Oved Publ. 1981); Japanese trans. Maruya Saiichi (Tokyo: Shueisha 1978); El Gato y el Diablo, ill. Carla Torres (Quoto: Ecuador: Libresa 1988); El Gato y el Diablo, trans. Julian Rios, ill. Gerald (Barcelona: Editorial Lumen 1974); Rose Il Gatto e il Diavolo, trans. Enzo Siciliano, ill. Flaminia Siciliano (Milan: Emme Edizioni 1967); Kattene fra Beaugency, trans. Ole Wahl Olsen, ill. Kirtsten Ruth (np. Ravnesbjerk Tryk & Scanprint 1969) [recte Ravnesbjerg: Tryk &c.]; Die Katze under der Teufel, trans. Fritz Senn, Die besten klasischen und modern Katzengeschicten (Zurich: Diogenes 1973),pp.97-99; Kocha a cert, tran. Jarmila Rosikove, ill. Sasa Svolikova (Praha: Argo 1999); A Letter to Stephen Joyce, Eng & Jap. trans. N. Watanabe, Abie Quarterly 3 (Spring 1999), 67-70; Mmacek in hucic (slovenian) trans. Ales Pogacnik, James Joyce: Poezija in kratka proza Ljubljana Zaloznistvo Literature DZS 2000), pp185-89; A Macska es a Odrog (Hung.) trans. Imre V. Szilvia, ill. Peter Vladimir (Budapest AB OVO 1997).

Bibl. incls. Henry Bett, Nursery Rhymes and Tales: Their Origin and History (London: Methuen 1924); Thomas Edmund Connolly, The Personal Library of James Joyce (Buffalo 1957); Janet Lewis,‘The Cat and the Devil and Finnegans Wake’, JJQ, 29 (Summer 1992); Roger Norburn, A James Joyce Chronology (Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan 2004); Alison White, ‘The Devil has a Dublin Accent’, in MLA (1973).

Notes: Joyce’s postcard to Stephen in 1934 was a colorful folkloric puss in boots presenting a gift to the king (JJ Foundation, Zurich) [Sigler, p.552, n.9]. Stephen Joyce, “Dear Reader”, in The Cat & the Devil (London Moonlight Publ. 1990), n.p. dated ‘Feb. 1989’ copyright as an Introduction.

Available at JSTOR - online [password required]; accessed 28.10.2017.

Note -Amorim remarks: ‘Questionamos se não serie levar longe demais fazer com que o paralelo entre a ponte e a carta sugira uma alusão ao próprio fazer literário, uma reflexao de propria autor que magistralmente cruza dois planos suspostamente fortuitos, nessa interseção que seria uma métaphora para além de um único leitor - Stephen. Era, entanto, essa a ideia que paraiva em nossa imaginação na epoca em que se fez a tradução’ (Marcelo Amorim, op. cit., p.41.)

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Marcelo da Silva Amorim: ‘O gato de Beagency ou uma carta de James a Stevie: biogragia de um tradução’ [Extract], in Bloomsday Ensaíos, ed. Ana Graca Canan & Marcello Da Silva Amorim (Editora da UFRN 2013), pp.25-47; p.43ff.

[Speaking of Lygia Bojunga, trans., O gato e o diabo, São Paulo: Cosac Naify 2012, ill. Lélis.][...] Dizemos “se” porque — apesar de o texto, de autoria desconhecida, na contracapa do livro de Bojunga dizer que “A carta originalmente escrita em 1936 ganha nesta edição a tradução exclusiva e inédita de Lygia Bojunga, que parece ter firmado um pacto de cumplicidade com o autor [Joyce]” sugerindo, com isso, um trabalho baseado em originais — parece haver uma inconsistência desse dado diante da informação apresentada na ficha catalográfica, que registra, sem maiores detalhes, The Cat and the Devil como título original. Ora, The Cat and The Devil é o nome de pelo menos duas edições — uma americana e uma inglesa — da história contida na carta, não o nome da carta original. Seja como for, a primorosa edição da Cosac Naify e a bela tradução de Bojunga são merecedoras de grande admiração por terem apresentado, com excelente qualidade, em língua portuguesa, a história de Joyce ao nosso público infantojuvenil. [sect. break.]

Em geral, não é natural ao gênero epistolar apresentar títulos. E a carta de Joyce não é exceção. É já na segunda oração, todavia, que encontramos a pista que daria nome à nossa edição: “Alguns dias atrás, mandei para você um gatinho recheado de doces, mas talvez você não conheça a história do gato de Beaugency” (JOYCE, 2013, p.13, grifos nossos). Ao contrário da estratégia adotada para as edições comerciais da história relatada na carta, que em sua maioria são denominadas, em suas respectivas línguas, ao que se traduz por “O Gato e o Diabo”, Joyce deixa claro que a sua narrativa tratará da história de um gato — o Gato de Beaugency. Trata-se de uma questão de foco, e já se viu um pouco do papel que gatos desempenham [43] nas duas narrativas joyceanas que comentamos. Aqui, o Diabo não se apresenta senão mais adiante, depois de descritas a cidade e a dificuldade do povo em atravessar o rio. Não quer isso dizer que o papel do Diabo seja secundário na narrativa. Ao contrário: é ele quem movimenta toda a trama e se destaca inclusive por suas características tipicamente humanas, inesperadas em um ser de poderes sobrenaturais, como o fato de falar francês ruim quando está nervoso, de precisar ler jornais para se manter bem informado, de usar uma luneta para enxergar do outro lado da ponte ou mesmo de dançar enquanto espera o prefeito do outro lado da ponte. O personagem do Diabo, assim, afasta-se do prototipicamente demoníaco, já que Joyce descreve-o sem chifres, rabo ou pés de bode virados para trás, como é comum em suas aparições nas narrativas folclóricas. Com exceção do fato de ser capaz de construir a ponte em uma só noite, o Diabo, atendendo por qualquer outro nome, poderia se passar por um cavalheiro qualquer, habitante da cidade. Na visão do Stephen adulto que escreve a introdução à história (JOYCE, 1957), o Diabo chega a ser “kind and considerate to animals” — bondoso e atencioso com os animais.

No polo contrário está o Prefeito Alfred Byrne, que, aparentemente humano, preza demasiadamente a vaidade — nas roupas e nas pompas e circunstâncias; pratica a desonestidade e a mentira, como no pagamento da dívida; e, ademais, ainda negocia com bens que não lhe pertencem — a alma do primeiro transeunte. As qualidades de Alfred Byrne, notadamente humanas, mas de reconhecida inspiração maligna, contrastam com as do Diabo, em especial pela maneira cruel como o prefeito trata o pobre felino, atirando-lhe em cima a água do balde, forçando-o em direção a um destino inexorável e, até segunda ordem, trágico. Já o Diabo, acolhedor, recebe o pobre animal com palavras de efeito calmante, chamando-o de “querido” (chou chat), “pequeno” (petit) e “pobrezinho” (pau[vre]), perguntando-lhe se estava com frio e medo, cuidando dele e aquecendo- o. Em suma, um Diabo humanizado, apesar da cólera de que fora acometido ao descobrir o embuste. [44]

O gato, por sua vez, parece funcionar como um elo entre o humano e o sobrenatural. É ele quem potencializa as atitudes dos personagens, evidenciando os seus vícios e qualidades estereotipicamente atribuídos a um e a outro e sua surpreendente subversão. Ele é também o símbolo que expõe a venalidade humana levada às últimas consequências. Quando, portanto, nos decidimos pelo título O Gato de Beaugency, e não por outro qualquer, tínhamos em mente, embora não se forma organizada, o quadro descrito anteriormente. Pode-se dizer que, em relação aos nomes escolhidos por outros tradutores para suas versões, nossa opção por não colocarmos lado a lado “gato” e “diabo” no frontispício do volume deixa de contemplar as possíveis pré-inferências a que o leitor poderia chegar mesmo sem iniciar a leitura da história. Sabíamos assim que apagávamos do título a propositada associação entre a figura de um felino e a do ser demoníaco, conhecimento (ou crença) ordinariamente compartilhado em quase todo o mundo e, por isso mesmo, astuciosamente explorada nas edições comerciais.

Enquanto nossa intuição nos dizia que “O Gato e o Diabo” seria comercialmente mais eficaz, por todos os motivos expostos anteriormente, O Gato de Beaugency revelava-se mais adequado como autenticação para a forma como nós mesmos havíamos nos apropriado da história. Assim, “Beaugency” ganhava maior visibilidade na capa, ainda que os leitores provavelmente não soubessem que o nome remetia a uma cidade. E assim ganhava mais corpo a ideia do título, não apenas pela pista deixada por Joyce, mas por já reconhecermos que Beaugency não remetia apenas à simples origem de um gato: prefeitos, diabos, gatos, pontes e povo existem em qualquer lugar. Beaugency, todavia, extrapola seu sentido literal, concreto e mundano. Deixa de ser apenas uma pequena e obscura cidade no interior da França para assumir a forma de uma metáfora, porque representa um palco congregante para atores, fortunas e fatalidades que se desenrolam em qualquer parte. Beaugency é o fulcro onde se encontram a universalidade e a atualização da lenda, local de onde fala uma voz narrativa investida da grande autoridade de 46 quem testemunha, ainda que por breve passagem, o espaço-teatro das ações da história. (pp.43-46.

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Ilaria Natali, ‘Joyce’s “corpo straniero”: The European dimension of Irishness in four border crossings’, in Joyce Studies in Italy, 13 [Why Read Joyce in the 21st Century?, ed. ed. Franca Ruggieri & Enrico Terrinoni] (Rome: Edizioni Q, 2012): ‘Because of its dynamism, Joyce’s constant transnational dialogue also acquires a new relevance. [...] Indeed, from his standpoint of a national and cultural “in-betweener”, Joyce seemed to perceive borders as places of alternative significations, where no perspective acquired predominant value. In other words, Joyce’s cosmopolitism and transnationalism open new possibilities without establishing “alternatives” to Irish culture. His writings show no signs of replacement of a mainstream discourse with another; rather, they question the concept of mainstream discourse  per se and demystify it through sarcasm and parody. Language, a salient element in this procedure, also escapes any “official” frame with its varying and often distorting shapes.’ (pp.115-16.) Also [earlier], on The Cats of Denmark [2012]: The whole text revisits several clichés about Denmark and its population, including the fact that Danish police were seemingly well-known for undergoing little or no supervision. At the same time, though, this fairy tale is meant to fascinate the child and let his imagination approach different realities, or picture other, foreign dimensions. (p.110.) Natali earlier quotes macaronic text from the letters to Giorgio and Helen: Mi rallegro della [sic] buone notizie datemi di Stefanuccio and also the other members of the colony.’ (19.07.1932.) Also notes that ‘Italian is also the language of playful comment or verbal provocation’. (Available at Academia.edu - online - or see copy as attached; and Research Gate - online [accessed 20.10.2017]. Note: the article is based on a great familiarity with the Hans E. Janhke Bequest of letter and papers to the James Joyce Foundation, Zurich. There is a pdf download copy in Ricorso [office].

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Annalisa Sezzi, ‘Quello stregone che non era altri che lui, James Joyce di Dublino’: le traduzioni di The Cat and the Devil in Italia’, in Italica Wratislaviensia: Wratislaviensia: Letteratura per l’infanzia: adattamenti, didattica, letture, mercato letterario, ed. Katarzyna Biernacka-Licznar & Justyna Łukaszewicz, 8 (1) (Lubicka: Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek 2017), pp.137–71; here pp.141-44.
[...]

Nella leggenda di Beaugency, di epoca medievale, la vittima sacrificale, come già osservato, è un gatto. Joyce venne a conoscenza della storia molto probabilmente durante un viaggio nella cittadina francese. [6] La storia deve averlo attratto non solo per la nota predilezione verso i felini. [7] Non è casuale che la lettera faccia seguito a un “gattino” pieno di dolcetti che lo scrittore aveva spedito all’adorato Stevie [8] in precedenza. Come rileva Franco Marucci (2015, pp.37–38), Joyce opera “subito sul filo dell’associazione, o per meglio dire di quello stream of consciousness che è la sua invenzione tecnica più nota: dal gatto di dolciumi a un certo gatto di una certa Beaugency”. [9] La figura del “gatto”, negoziatore tra il bene e il male nello spazio liminale attribuitogli dalla tradizione folklorica (Lewis, 1992, 810), diventa il catalizzatore dell’affetto di Joyce per il nipote, creando un “ponte” simbolico che permette allo scrittore di superare la distanza geografica da Stevie [10] (Sigler, 2008, p.539).

Il suo potenziale metaforico, tuttavia, non si esaurisce nel rapporto epistolare con il nipote. Il legame con la parola scritta è, infatti, ben più complesso. Il gatto è anche, come scrive Marie-Dominique Garnier (2001, p.101), rifacendosi a Deleuze e Guattari, una sorta di “ponte linguistico” tra l’inizio e la fine della lettera dove il linguaggio viene decostruito per creare giochi di parole e sovrapposizioni plurilingui. A conclusione della storia, il diavolo, gabbato, rivolge la sua ira nei confronti dei cittadini di Beaugency in francese:

Messieurs les Balgentiens, he shouted across the bridge, vous n’êtes pas de belles gens du tout! Vous n’êtes que des chats! And he said to the cat: Viens ici, mon petit chat! Tu as peur, mon petit pau chou-chat? Viens ici, le diable t’emporte! On va se chauffeur tous les deux. (…. .)

Ecco che “Balgentiens” viene scomposto e confluisce per assonanza (“beaux gens”) in “belles gens”, “bella gente”, per dare luogo a un gioco di parole bilingue: il toponimo, infatti, non descrive per nulla le persone che abitano nella cittadina francese (Barai, 2014, p.180). Da qui si giunge a “bellsy” e a “Bellsybabble” nel poscritto, che sono il prodotto finale di uno smontaggio progressivo della parola (Garnier, 2001, p.101):

The devil mostly speaks a language of his own called Bellysbabble [sic] which he makes up himself as he goes along but when he is very angry he can speak quite bad French very well though some who have heard him say that he has a strong Dublin accent” (Ellmann, 1992, p.382).

Nella lingua utilizzata, il demonio si disvela: è nonno Joyce (Melchiori, 1992, p.16) e il gatto è perciò il piccolo Stevie (“mon petit pau chou-chat”). Il francese traballante (“pau” al posto di “pauvre”) parlato con accento dublinese della maledizione di Satana è quello dello scrittore che in quel periodo viveva a Villers sur Mer nella Bassa Normandia. Il “Bellsybabble”, ulteriore pun [11], che vede l’unione di “Bellsy/Belzey”, eco di Belzebù, e “babble”, “balbettio”, permette di proseguire l’assimilazione con il personaggio mefistofelico. Joyce non è estraneo a questa identificazione. Anzi. Gli piaceva vedersi come una “devil-figure” e dare, allo stesso tempo, questa impressione agli altri (Raleigh, 1981, p.107).

Il “Bellsybabble” rimanda per assonanza anche alla Torre di Babele [12]; è quindi una “poly-language” (Hodgkins, 2007, p.362), una lingua poliglotta, che si ritrova, anche se non viene descritta nel testo, materializzata all’interno della parte finale della storia in cui sono utilizzate ben tre lingue in poche righe: l’inglese della narrazione, il francese dell’invettiva del diavolo, e l’italiano perché Joyce, nella lettera, si firma “Nonno”. Questa lingua polisemica e polifonica è il “banchetto dei linguaggi” (cfr. Melchiori, 1992, p.1; Melchiori, 1994, p.3) che caratterizza Finnegans Wake [FW], in fieri in quegli anni, in cui ritorna questo [141] neologismo con una diversa ortografia, “Belzey babble” (Joyce, 1982 [1975], p.64). “Babble” è anche, però, il linguaggio tipico dei bambini. Il diavolo è pertanto un bambino, anche se l’uso che fa delle parole è molto preciso perché nella richiesta al sindaco, per evitare fraintendimenti, non chiede un’anima, ma una “person”. Nonostante ciò, lo scambio comunicativo fallisce, sussumendo un’idea di linguaggio come “mezzo di comunicazione imperfetto” (Barai, 2014, p.180–181).

Questa prima intersezione tra l’ultima opera di Joyce e la lettera, individuata da Constantin George Sandulescu (1987, p.vi), è lo spunto per ulteriori studi che hanno evidenziato di fatto il loro stretto rapporto. Nella lettera-fiaba e in FW si ritrovano, per esempio, il fiume – rispettivamente la Loira e il Liffey (Lewis, 1992, p.812) – e il diavolo, che in entrambi i testi coincide con la figura dell’artista [13] (Sigler, 2008, p.542). In The Cat and the Devil e in FW sono, inoltre, presenti il gatto e il sindaco (Lewis, 1992, p.806) e quest’ultima figura ritorna spesso all’interno dell’opera [14] (Lewis, 1992, pp.807–808). Il sindaco di The Cat and the Devil è, però, particolare. Si chiama come il sindaco di Dublino in carica negli anni in cui la lettera è stata inviata al nipote e del work in progress (FW) di Joyce [15], Alfred Byrne. Sono anacronismi o “scarti flagranti” (2015, p.41) all’interno della versione di Joyce della leggenda che riconducono alla sua vita e alla sua opera; leggenda e realtà si fondono, quindi, in una commistione deliberata (Sigler, 2008, p.543). Alfred Byrne, personaggio storico, era spesso sui giornali in quegli anni (Lewis, 1992, p.806), come conferma lo stesso Joyce in una lettera al figlio del febbraio 1935 che mostra l’irritazione nei confronti dello sfarzo esibito dal sindaco come si vede in alcune fotografie. Con la sua “golden chain”, diventa l’ispirazione per la descrizione del sindaco di Beaugency che porta anch’egli una grossa catena d’oro attorno al collo, su una veste scarlatta. Anche qui si trova una deviazione di registro che in questo caso sfrutta la ripetizione dei dettagli dell’abbigliamento al fine di delineare un personaggio caricaturale (Marucci, 2015, p.41), che non si toglie i vestiti e i gioielli neppure per andare a letto e dorme “in una posizione che assomiglia a quella dell’avaro che stringe a sé i suoi averi” (Marucci, 2015, p.38). È, infatti, una figura ridicola che ricorda l’imperatore di Hans Christian Andersen (Sigler, 2008, p.543) e gli impiegatucci e i dirigenti locali della piccola borghesia (Marucci, 2015, p.38).

Eppure, anche il diavolo è un “compulsive dresser” (Garnier, 2001, p.100); ama l’eleganza e i vestiti. È però un diavolo “socialmente utile” (Marucci, 2015, p.38): leggendo, “anacronisticamente”, i giornali viene a sapere della necessità dei balgenziani di avere un ponte e si offre di costruirlo. Mostra, inoltre, alla fine del racconto, compassione nei confronti del malcapitato gatto, anche se, tramite l’animale, viene ingannato dal sindaco gretto e spilorcio. Invertendo i ruoli narrativi tradizionali, Joyce ritrae Satana come una figura moderna positiva, la cui situazione ricorda quella dell’artista esiliato e mal ripagato (Sigler, 2008, p.547), mentre i balgenziani rimandano inevitabilmente agli irlandesi (Sigler, 2008, p.545).

Il racconto nella lettera al nipotino è dunque un fiume in grado di stimolare interpretazioni laterali, presentando travasi e confluenze con le opere maggiori di Joyce (Garnier, 2001, p.101). Non è, infatti, esclusivamente scritto con lo scopo di divertire Stevie, ma probabilmente anche “to enhance Finnegans Wake” (Lewis, 1992, p.805), per arricchire FW [16], accennando alla possibile reazione all’uso che si fa della lingua (Reynolds, 2007, p.28) nella sua “‘storia universale’ la suprema sintesi verbale del creato” (Melchiori, 1982/1975, p.iv), da parte dei critici che forse si troveranno a “donner sa langue au chat” (Sandulescu e Vianu, 2016, p.5), a gettare la spugna [17]. Le incursioni nella realtà contemporanea e nel mondo letterario dell’autore mostrano, dunque, la “fluidità” del progetto modernista [143] e la sua “essentially international, multilingual nature” [18] (Sigler, 2008, p.548). Se da una parte l’adattamento di Joyce della leggenda medievale è forse un tentativo di fornire, già in tenera età, all’intelligente nipotino, erede della memoria storica e letteraria dell’autore nonché delle sue opere, la chiave interpretativa della sua vita e dei suoi scritti, dall’altra suggerisce e apre orizzonti più vasti.

Per paradosso, seppur in relazione con la più “intraducibile” delle sue opere (Zacchi, 2002, pp.89– 91), The Cat and the Devil è, infatti, epitome di diversi tipi di traduzione: il racconto affonda le proprie radici sia nella traduzione del racconto folklorico da forma orale a forma scritta sia nella traduzione modernista (Barai, 2014, p.177). L’esistenza del folklore scritto, come osserva Emer O’Sullivan (2006, p.160), viene, infatti, garantita dalle diverse versioni che man mano sostituiscono le precedenti, non tramite la severa conservazione del testo e della sua unicità, come avviene invece in letteratura: il testo di partenza non è dunque autoritario, ma addirittura necessita di varianti locali per rimanere in vita (Barai, 2014, p.177). In modo simile, la traduzione modernista si discosta dal testo di partenza per dare rilievo a quello di arrivo (Barai, 2014, p.70). La traduzione abbandona in questo modo il suo status ancillare per configurarsi come una forma letteraria a sé stante, un testo autonomo e indipendente che s’inserisce in un programma culturale preciso (Venuti, 1999, p.247). Tutti i modernisti, e fra questi anche Joyce, si cimentarono nella traduzione che in questo periodo, come sottolinea Yao (2013), non era più mezzo di affermazione dell’autorità dei classici, ma tecnica compositiva autonoma per scoprire nuove possibilità di espressione. L’addomesticamento [19] del sindaco e del diavolo nel racconto di Joyce rientra in questa duplice ottica e favorisce la sovrapposizione tra Beaugency e Dublino (Barai, 2014, p.178). La tensione che si viene infine a creare con l’estraniamento costituito dall’ambientazione e dall’invettiva finale in francese crea un “ponte” ancor più indicativo, [144] che fa convivere le due strategie opposte e che configura la lettera di Joyce e, più in generale, la traduzione come narrativa cross-culturale (Barai, 2014, p.178), un gioco, un divertissment, indirizzato a un bambino poliglotta che è anche momento di riflessione per lo stesso Joyce sulla sua poetica. Nel paragrafo seguente, si offrirà una panoramica sulle traduzioni intersemiotiche della lettera-fiaba di Joyce che diventa così un “ponte” simbolico tra Joyce e non un bambino particolare, ma una moltitudine di bambini.

Available as pdf. online; accessed 30.11.2017.

 
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