Sunday, October 9, 2016

Finnegans Wake on Donald Trump

Finnegans Wake always seems to have something to say regarding the current moment. It is, after all, "as modern as tomorrow afternoon." (FW p. 309) It's been called the western I-Ching, an oracle capable of answering questions about the present.

We unfortunate souls in America paying any attention to the news cycle during the past year or so have had to endure an endless string of abhorrent new scandals and bloated boasts of bigotry and xenophobia (not to mention misogyny, homophobia, insults against the handicapped and seemingly every other form of expressed hatred a human being is capable of) all pouring out of that orange-faced, brillo-headed, sphincter-mouth creep, Donald J. Trump, who is somehow a major candidate for President of the United States.

It will come as no surprise that Finnegans Wake has some things to say about all this. First off, the main character of the text, who goes by hundreds of different names all constructed out of the initials HCE, is a public figure who becomes embroiled in some sort of sexually-charged scandal, just as Donald Trump finds himself in right now. Much like with our modern corporate media machine in conjunction with social media, the transgressions of HCE in Finnegans Wake spread around like wildfire through rumors and gossip among the public, the story bending and twisting with each retelling such that in the end nobody knows what actually happened, but speculation is rampant. 

Eventually the townspeople become so enraged at their leader's moral corruption that they gather into an angry mob to hunt down the offender. The story culminates in "The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly" on page 44, a burlesque song about the indiscretions of a corrupt leader and his downfall. It is here where we find some direct commentary on the despicable Mr. Trump:

Small wonder He'll Cheat E'erawan our local lads nicknamed him
 So snug he was in his hotel premises sumptuous
 But soon we'll bonfire all his trash, tricks, and trumpery
 (FW p. 44)

"He'll Cheat Everyone/Anyone" certainly sounds like a nickname the New York/New Jersey local lads would have bestowed upon Trump who is notorious for cheating vendors and contractors (not to mention customers of his fake "university").

And how perfect is "So snug he was in his hotel premises sumptuous"? Trump, the real estate baron, is known for his high-end "sumptuous" hotel chain, the buildings featuring giant golden letters showing TRUMP in all caps. "Snug" also sounds like smug. Can you be more smug than that?

Eventually the people have had enough of his "trash, tricks, and trumpery" and will bring it all down to ashes in a bonfire. We can only hope to accomplish the same thing with America's smug trickster. And if you look at the definition of "trumpery" it could not be more appropriate: showy but worthless, derived from a French word meaning "to deceive."  

Another link between Trump and the embattled HCE is that they both lust after their beautiful daughters. Except, in HCE's defense, his complicated feelings for his daughter Isabel are veiled and appear only in the bizarre dream circus that is Finnegans Wake. These are repressed feelings springing up in the unconscious state, teasing and tormenting the dreamer. In Trump's case, he's made his own horrifying incestuous inclinations loud and clear on national daytime media outlets on multiple occasions.


  1. Page 71 -- "Leathertogs Donald, The Ace and Deuce of Paupering..." And how perfect is it, on top of all this, that he began his campaign on Bloomsday 2015?

    1. Re: Bloomsday, he also fits into the mold of the Citizen in Cyclops. When I gave a talk on Ulysses for Bloomsday at a bookstore earlier this year I closed by quoting Bloom in response to the hatred/madness of Drumpf, video here:

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Of course, if all politicians were as unfiltered as DJT...Not to mention all people...

  3. Great stuff PQ. Funnily enough we did 'bonfire' Trump here in Brighton on Bonfire Night - I made an effigy of him, and similar ones were burned across the UK.

    Here's the effigy

  4. I'm just glad the truly evil one was kept from office I prayed night and day, and still she lives. Trump will be fine and you can remain paranoid.

  5. “One sovereign punned to petery pence. Regally? The silence speaks the scene. Fake!”
    Thus spake jamseyjoy

  6. Just now discovering your blog. Thank you.
    Even tho the prescience of this quote is reduced
    a little bit because the actual word is "snug" and
    not "smug," it still reminds me how much of the
    Wake really can be gleaned for modern references.
    Thank you (from Dallas)



    1. Rod, thanks for commenting and good catch!

      A Joycean error on my part (like word/world in Ulysses)---mistakes are the portals of discovery. "Smug" works perfectly in this context, but "snug" is also fitting since he's been coddled his entire life and lives snugly in a gold penthouse.

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