FINN’S HOTEL FAQ: Answers to commonly asked questions

Why the title Finn’s Hotel?

Mainly because this is the title James Joyce had in mind when he wrote the pieces in 1923.

The book deals – in comic mode – with various aspects of Irishness. Irish history is a history of successive invasions from abroad.  The invaders moved in and made themselves comfortable. Hence Ireland as a ‘hotel’, and ‘Finn’s Hotel’ after Finn MacCool, the mythical ancient Irish hero.

Finn’s Hotel was also the name of the establishment in Dublin where Nora worked when she first met Joyce (in June 1904).

Although Joyce abandoned the pieces (all but one) in 1924 when he started on what became Finnegans Wake, he hung on to the old title for a few more years, although it did not suit the longer work.

Is Finn’s Hotel an early version of Finnegans Wake?

Not really, as can easily be ascertained from just reading it, and then reading (or trying to read) Finnegans Wake: they are clearly distinct works, although the shorter book does concern early avatars of the principal characters in the later work.  Thus the break between the two works is not clean-cut, but this should be expected since the one led on to the other. That an earlier work provides fodder for a latter one (eg., as Dubliners and A Portrait did for Ulysses) does not undermine the distinct existence of each work. On the contrary, this was Joyce’s regular practice.

Did Joyce ever finish Finn’s Hotel?

No. He abandoned it. What we have is all we have. Happily, however, it is episodic, like a book of stories, so there is no missing ‘end’ as such. It is is an unfinished symphony, and perhaps we should be grateful for that because it is so beautiful and, unlike Joyce’s finished symphonies, easy to read.

Why is there a controversy about the publication of Finn’s Hotel?

Joyce scholars, like most academics, are notoriously contentious and argumentative, and they don’t particularly like new, radical ideas, unless of course it is their own new, radical idea. But then, to criticise is an element of their profession, after all, much like the opposition in a parliament in a less than terribly civilised state.

What is their main objection?

Seeing Finn’s Hotel published as a work of literary art rather than as a heavily footnoted scholarly dissertation.

Why is Finn’s Hotel a ‘discovery’ if its parts were known already?

Not all of them were known; three were only discovered in 2004. For the remainder, the manuscript of Finnegans Wake is huge (some 20,000 pages) and diverse, and the Finn’s Hotel parts were scattered among this heap of documents. Because of this—and because Joyce did not publish Finn’s Hotel in his lifetime, so no one knew to look for them—early scholars simply assumed the Finn’s Hotel documents were bits of Finnegans Wake.

What is Danis Rose’s connection to the Finnegans Wake manuscripts?

He re-organised and collated them in 1976-78 for the James Joyce Archive (Garland Publishing, New York) where they take up volumes 28-63; this publication is the accepted standard record of the composition of Finnegans Wake. With John O’Hanlon he has compiled an interlinked electronic hypertext of all these manuscripts; and he is principal editor of the Restored Finnegans Wake (Penguin, 2012).

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