“Welcome, O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the precursor to his most well-known work, Ulysses. It follows the life of Stephen Dedalus, from his earliest memories to when he decides to leave Ireland in his twenties. Stephen Dedalus also appears in Ulysses, though he is not the main character.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is brilliant in its depictions of life in Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century. It descibes a nation in the throws of colonialism and the emergence of a severe generation gap between the old and young. A number of famous scenes stand out in the novel, notably the Christmas party along with the tundish incident that occurs at Trinity College between Stephen and the Dean.
As well as being valuable in its descriptions of Ireland at the time, Joyce expertly writes of the trials and tribulations that the adolescent boy must face and how difficult these can be when living in an intensely conservative society. He is funny, insightful and his turns of phrase capture moments in so accurate a manner that his books are difficult to put down.
I reread A Portrait of the Artist of the Young Man just before receiving the cookbook Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi as a Christmas gift a few weeks back. I had come across it at a friend’s house and would (subtly) attempt to read it any time I was over. So he got me a copy, the noble soul. And what a brilliant book it is, full of recipes from the culturally vibrant crossroads that is the city of Jerusalem. I concocted the delicious Almond and Clementine Syrup Cake recently. The recipe has no rising agents so the sponge is fairly dense. However, the syrup adds moisture and the cake is packed full of zest so it’s not overly sweet. Particularly tasty when served with a dollop of natural yoghurt.