Read the Letter HG Wells Sent Joyce After Reading Part of ‘Finnegans Wake’


Like most people who have dared to pick up copy of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, we struggled our way through the weighty tome. (If we’re being completely honest, we might not have made it all the way to the end.) As a post over on Letters of Note explains, HG Wells found early excerpts of Joyce’s final novel just as obtuse as the rest of us, and he wasn’t shy about telling him as much. “Take me as a typical common reader,” Wells wrote back in 1928. “Do I get much pleasure from this work? No. Do I feel I am getting something new and illuminating as I do when I read Anrep’s dreadful translation of Pavlov’s badly written book on Conditioned Reflexes? No. So I ask: Who the hell is this Joyce who demands so many waking hours of the few thousand I have still to live for a proper appreciation of his quirks and fancies and flashes of rendering?”

“All this from my point of view,” Wells continues. “Perhaps you are right and I am all wrong. Your work is an extraordinary experiment and I would go out of my way to save it from destructive or restrictive interruption. It has its believers and its following. Let them rejoice in it. To me it is a dead end.” Woof. Head over to Letters of Note to read the full text, as well as another note to Joyce from “Vladimir Dixon,” a man believed to be the author himself.