Rare and Stunning Etchings for Ulysses by Italian Artist Mimmo Paladino
Emanating James Joyce in black, white, and gold.
By Maria Popova
I have a soft spot for visual artists’ reimaginings of literary classics, including Allen Crawford’s gorgeous hand-lettered take on Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” William Blake’s paintings for Milton’s Paradise Lost and for Dante’s Divine Comedy, Picasso’s drawings for a naughty ancient Greek comedy, John Vernon Lord’s illustrations for Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Lisbeth Zwerger’s take on Alice in Wonderland, and Salvador Dalí’s prolific illustrations for Don Quixote in 1946, the essays of Montaigne in 1947, The Divine Comedy in 1957, Alice in Wonderland in 1969, and Romeo and Juliet in 1975. So I was enormously delighted to come across a rare 1998 Folio Society limited edition of Ulysses (public library), featuring magnificent black-white-and-gold etchings by the celebrated Italian sculptor, painter, and printmaker Mimmo Paladino.
Stephen Joyce, James’s nephew — for whom the beloved author’s little-known children’s book was written — writes in the preface:
Ulysses is by no means an easy or straightforward book; it is a challenging book… Reading a book such as Ulysses is not only a challenge, it is a unique face à face between writer and reader…
The ultimate arbiter … must remain the reader, the listener, the beholder; not the academic or critic. I do not believe that literature can be taught. En revanche one can when the human appetite, open the human mind. If our cultures and civilizations are to be preserved and carried forward down through the ages, the creator must remain the master of his oeuvre, particularly beyond the grave.
It is that timeless Joycean mastery that Paladino’s illustrations amplify with delicate expressiveness and resonance of sensibility. Though this breathtaking edition is long out of print, I was fortunate enough to track down a copy for our shared enjoyment.
The Paladino-illustrated edition of Ulysses is well worth the hunt. Compare and contrast with Henri Matisse’s take on the Joyce classic.
Published May 27, 2014