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Finnegans Wake is a novel by Irish writer James Joyce. It is known for its experimental style and its reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the Western canon. Written over a period of seventeen years and published in 1939, the novel was Joyce's final work. It is written in a largely idiosyncratic language that blends standard English with neologisms, portmanteau words, Irish mannerisms, and puns in multiple languages. It has been categorized as "a work of fiction which combines a body of fables [...] with the work of analysis and deconstruction"; many critics believe the technique was Joyce's attempt to recreate the experience of dreams and hypnagogia, reproducing the way in which concepts, memories, people, and places become amalgamated in dreaming. It has also been regarded as an attempt by Joyce to combine many of his prior aesthetic ideas, with references to other works and outside ideas woven into the text. Although critics have described it as unintelligible, Joyce asserted that every syllable could be justified.: 125  Due to its linguistic experiments, stream of consciousness writing style, literary allusions, free dream associations, and abandonment of narrative conventions, Finnegans Wake remains largely unread by the general public.Despite the obstacles, readers and commentators have reached a broad consensus about the book's central cast of characters and, to a lesser degree, its plot, but key details remain elusive. The book explores, in an unorthodox fashion, the lives of the Earwicker family, comprising the father HCE, the mother ALP, and their three children Shem the Penman, Shaun the Postman, and Issy. Following an unspecified rumour about HCE, the book, in a nonlinear dream narrative, follows his wife's attempts to exonerate him with a letter, his sons' struggle to replace him, Shaun's rise to prominence, and a final monologue by ALP at the break of dawn. The opening line of the book is a sentence fragment that continues from the book's unfinished closing line, making it cyclical. Scholars have linked this cyclical structure to the influence of Giambattista Vico's The New Science, upon which they argue the structure of Finnegans Wake is based.Joyce began working on Finnegans Wake shortly after the 1922 publication of Ulysses. By 1928 installments of Joyce's new avant-garde work began to appear, in serialized form, in Parisian literary journals The Transatlantic Review and transition [sic], under the title "fragments from Work in Progress". The actual title of the work remained a secret until the book was published in its entirety, on 4 May 1939. The initial reception of Finnegans Wake, both in its serialized form and especially in its final published form, was largely negative, ranging from bafflement at its radical reworking of the English language to open hostility towards its seeming pointlessness and lack of respect for literary conventions.The work has since come to assume a preeminent place in English literature. Anthony Burgess has lauded Finnegans Wake as "a great comic vision, one of the few books of the world that can make us laugh aloud on nearly every page". Literary scholar Harold Bloom called it Joyce's masterpiece, and, in The Western Canon (1994), wrote that "if aesthetic merit were ever again to center the canon, [Finnegans Wake], like Proust's [In Search of Lost Time], would be as close as our chaos could come to the heights of Shakespeare and Dante".
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