Tunnelling through the mountain was not just an intellectual and creative challenge; Joyce was beset by more earthly troubles – the continuing threat of blindness, the slow descent of his daughter Lucia into madness, increasing bouts of stomach cramps and nervous collapse. At one point, he asked the poet James Stevens to consider finishing the book for him if he was unable to continue. Sections were published separately in various reviews, but from 1927 to 1938 they appeared mainly in the experimental magazine transition, edited by Eugene Jolas, a run interrupted for almost four years by bouts of paralysing depression. Rose and O’Hanlon argue that Joyce’s brilliance lay in the manner in which he was able to string the various passages into a final narrative. Gabler suggests that in the long-withheld title “Finnegans Wake” lay the secret organizing principle of the book which enabled him to draw the various threads into a great secular parable of the Fall: the fall of Tim Finnegan, the hod-carrier, of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, the deviant innkeeper, of Humpty Dumpty, the unstable good egg, and of Man himself, the original sinner.

Restoring James Joyce’s book of the night. As John Bishop reports in Joyce’s Book of the Dark — by far the best thing anyone has ever written about the Wake — Joyce would invite his friends to suggest foreign words to add to the text but then would sometimes reply, without further explanation, “I can’t use it.” Bishop infers from this that Joyce’s purposes for the book were “darkly principled,’ that is, that he had a plan or system that he never revealed to anyone. This would be typical, in that he took nearly a decade before revealing the underlying structures of Ulysses to anyone. But if he planned at some point to let us in on the secrets of the Wake, he died before realizing that plan.