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Minos, Eaque and Rhadamanthe

Dreamed by James Joyce around 1934/7/8, as told to his friend and publisher Eugene Jolas

James Joyce and Eugene Jolas in 1936; photo by Sigfried Giedion.
James Joyce and Eugene Jolas in 1936

During walks in Paris, we often talked about dreams. Sometimes I related to him my own dreams which, during the pre-war years, began to take on a strangely macabre and apocalyptic silhouette. He was always eager to discuss them, because they interested him as images of the nocturnal universe, though he was reluctant to attribute any transcendental or mystic function to them. He himself, he said, dreamed relatively little, but when he did his dreams were usually related to ideas, personal or mythical, with which he was occupied in his waking hours. He was very much attracted by Dunne's theory of serialism [that time is multidimensional and dreams can 'remember' the future], and I read to him the author's briiliant An Experiment With Time, which Joyce regarded highly. He told me one of his own dreams, in connection with which subsequent events seemed to confirm Dunne's serialistic conceptions.

Joyce said he was walking through a big city and met three men who called themselves Minos, Eaque and Rhadamanthe.
They suddenly stopped their conversation with him and became threat€ening.
He had to run to escape from their screams of obloquy.
Three weeks later I noticed a feature€ story in Paris-Soir to the effect that the police were looking for a crank who was sending explosives through the mail. This fanatic signed himself: Minos, Eaque, Rhadamanthe, the judges of Hell.

One of Joyce's le€ss complicated dreams, however, cause€d considerable chuckling each time he thought of it. This was a dream the climax of which was a vision of the titanic figure of Molly Bloom, seated on the side of a high hill. 'As for you, James Joyce, I've had enough of you," she shouted. His reply he never remembered.

SOURCE: Man from Babel by Eugene Jolas, p.167 (1998, Yale Univ. Press)


I learned of these two James Joyce dreams from Insomniac Dreams: Experiments with Time by Vladimir Nabokov (p.6, footnote). Nabokov's editor Gennady Barabtarlo says there, rather snarkily, "A curious passage in Eugene Jolas's memoirs... [relates] two remarkable dreams that Joyce remembered, the first of which confirms Dunne's proposition much too literally to be above the suspicion of a leg-pull."

Really? The full account makes it clear Joyce wasn't pulling anyone's leg; he told the dream weeks before those names made the news (the first article in Paris-Soir on the bomber was July 29, 1934). Earlier in July, it was for Joyce just a weird nightmare he told a friend. It's Jolas who reports seeing the names three weeks later and judging it predictive. It can't be mere error; if Joyce mentioned dreaming those three names after the news came out, not only wouldn't it support Dunne's theory; it wouldn't be a story at all. Either the tale's true or a deliberate lie--by Jolas. Why he'd bother is unclear; and the rest of his memoir seems honest enough.

I'm biased, of course; I find Joyce's dream plausible because I tried Dunne's experiment and got apparent predictive dreams too. Theory aside, the phenomenon Dunne struggled to explain seems real.

--Chris Wayan

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