Aleister Crowley on James Joyce and the Novel of the Mind

Aleister Crowley on the novel of the mind


Extract from ‘The Genius of Mr. James Joyce’, New Pearson’s Magazine, xlix (July 1923), 52-3.

In a discussion of a new form of literature, the ‘novel of the mind’, the critic notes that this kind of fiction may ‘depart from artistic creation’.

. . . This form of writing has been saved, by the genius of Mr. James Joyce, from its worst fate, that of becoming a mere amateur contribution to medical text-books.

Every new discovery produces a genius. Its enemies might say that psycho-analysis—the latest and deepest theory to account for the vagaries of human behaviour—has found the genius it deserves. Although Mr. Joyce is known only to a limited circle in England and America, his work has been ranked with that of Swift, Sterne, and Rabelais by such critics as M. Valery, Mr. Ezra Pound and Mr. T. S. Eliot.

There is caution to be exercised in appraising the work of a contemporary. . . . I am convinced personally that Mr. Joyce is a genius all the world will have to recognize. I rest my proof upon his most important book Ulysses, and upon his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and on such portions of Ulysses as have appeared. Before these he wrote two books, Chamber Music, a collection of most delicate songs, and Dubliners, sketches of Dublin life distinguished by its savage bitterness, and the subsequent hostility it excited. The Portrait when it appeared was hailed as a masterpiece, but it has been boycotted by libraries and booksellers for no discernible reason other than the fact that the profound descriptions tell the truth from a new, and therefore to the majority a disturbing, point of view.

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