'A House of Life': Anthony Burgess on James Joyce

An excerpt from ReJoyce
James Joyce
Excerpted from Anthony Burgess, ReJoyce:
'I start thus book on January 13th, 1964 - the twenty-third anniversary of the death of James Joyce. I can think of no other writer who would bewitch me into making the beginning of a spell of hard work into a kind of joyful ritual, but the solemnisation of dates came naturally to Joyce and it infects his admirers. Indeed, this deadest time of the year (the Christmas decorations burnt a week ago, the children back at school, the snow come too late to be festive) is brightened by being a sort of Joyce season. It is a season beginning in Advent and ending at Candlemas. January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, and the discovery of epiphanies - 'showings forth' - of beauty and truth in the squalid and commonplace was Joyce's vocation. February 1st is St Bridget's Day. February 2nd is Joyce's birthday, and two massive birthday presents were the first printed copies of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake; it is also Candlemas Day and Groundhog Day. One is being very Joycean if one tempers the solemnity by remembering the groundhogs. Overlooked by Christmas shoppers, Saint Lucy, Santa Lucia, celebrated her feast on December 13th. To Joyce, who struggled most of his life against eye-disease, she had a special meaning, being the patron saint of sight, and his daughter Lucia was named for her. The theme of the whole season is light-out-of-darkness, and it is proper to rejoice (Joyce was well aware of the etymology of his name) in the victory of the light. We are to rejoice even in the death of the first Christian martyr on Boxing Day, and we remember why Joyce appears under the name of Stephen in his autobiographical novels. He too was a martyr, though to literature; a witness for the light, self-condemned to exile, poverty, suffering, vilification and (perhaps worst of all) coterie canonisation in life, that the doctrine of the Word might be spread. He was a humorous martyr, though, full of drink and irony. Out of the stones that life threw at him he made a labyrinth, so that Stephen earned the surname Dedalus. The labyrinth is no home for a monster, however; it is a house of life, its corridors ringing with song and laughter.'