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"He wanted to say that literature was above politics."

Sharp passage from James Joyce's The Dead:

It was true that he wrote a literary column every Wednesday in The Daily Express, for which he was paid fifteen shillings. But that did not make him a West Briton surely. The books he received for review were almost more welcome than the paltry cheque. He loved to feel the covers and turn over the pages of newly printed books. Nearly every day when his teaching in the college was ended he used to wander down the quays to the second-hand booksellers, to Hickey's on Bachelor's Walk, to Webb's or Massey's on Aston's Quay, or to O'Clohissey's in the by-street. He did not know how to meet her charge. He wanted to say that literature was above politics. But they were friends of many years' standing and their careers had been parallel, first at the University and then as teachers: he could not risk a grandiose phrase with her. He continued blinking his eyes and trying to smile and murmured lamely that he saw nothing political in writing reviews of books.
Though I've already read the story, in Dubliners, a few years ago I found (at Goodwill, of all places) a lovely standalone edition of the story from Melville House's Art of the Novella series, and thought it was finally time for another look. Terrific reading so far.

May 18, 2012 in Books | Permalink