Quote from “Finnegans Wake”

Quote from Finnegans Wake

“For a nod to the nabir is better than wink to the wabsanti. Otherways wesways like that provost scoffing bedoueen the jebel and the jpysian sea.”

In my interpretation of these two sentences, they suggest the familiar aphorisms: “for a nod is as good as a wink,” meaning; a subtle innuendo is enough for a person to understand who is looking for something specific, e.g. illegal,  and “between the devil and the deep blue sea” meaning; between two comparable evils.  Decoding the Joycean words per http://www.finneganswake.com would be as follows: “nabir”=nadir (also neighbor), “wabsabti”=wormwood or absinthe+absent+zenith (or wabi=infected in Arabic+santi=saint in Italian), “Otherways”=otherwise, “wesways”=weswas (Arabic for whisperer which is an epithet of the devil)+we sway/he sways), “provost”=head of a school, “bedoueen”=Arab of the desert,”jebel”=hill in northern Africa, “jpysian”=Egyptian+gypsies. Putting it all together it is difficult for me to arrive at all but the fuzziest notion of what it is about, but it did strike me as humorous.

If you look up the above quote in “Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: The Curse of the Kabbalah”, by John P. Anderson, (and available online),
you will find a completely different take on the passage, with others most likely possible.  The obscurity of these two sentences is on par for the rest of the 628 pages and demonstrates both the problem in reading this book and the charm in it:  it is sufficiently obscure to resist a complete understanding of or consensus on its meaning.

Bill Sargeant

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