Bill Dunbar

Telemachus – volume 1

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Telemachus (TMAC) reboots James Joyce's Ulysses and Homer's Odyssey by retelling the Odysseus myth from the POV of the son. Set in Sydney, Australia on Melbourne Cup Day, 1984, it follows a day-in-the-life of two half-brothers, Tom Hallem and Billy Capri, as they confront faltering relationships and careers, underscored by the looming homecoming of their father after 20 years fighting in Asia.

Telemachus is a novel of Sydney, just as Ulysses was a novel of Dublin. Like Ulysses, it is steeped in the popular music of its time — Bob Dylan, The Saints, Birthday Party, feedtime, the Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Tactics, the Stooges, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and David McComb. Tom and Billy are both abandoned sons, like Telemachus, who must try to find their own pathway through life to avoid repeating their father's journey. The outcome of their struggles is retold by an ambiguous third party, Shanghai Dog, as he contemplates the past from exile in China in 2008. One brother is now dead and the other has been left grieving, echoing Tennyson's requiem for Arthur Hallam, “In Memoriam A. H. H.”

Telemachus gives equal weight to the fictive and the theoretical, creating a new class of novel called Technical Fiction. It employs a postmodern method that “puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself,” as Jean-Francois Lyotard said, to deny itself “the solace of good forms.” Like Ulysses, Telemachus uses a wide range of literary formats. It reworks Ulysses with the same wilfulness as Joyce appropriating Homer. The book also charts new territory to extend the works of Joyce to meet that other pillar of literary Modernism, Marcel Proust. Telemachus contains such a wealth of information about Joyce, his works and their literary correspondences, you can read Telemachus and never have to struggle through reading Ulysses. In this regard, it could truly be called “Ulysses” for Dummies.

Telemachus is a celebration of Sydney — its music, art, literature, seediness and depravity — and a salute to Ulysses. This ground-breaking novel is a must for Joyce enthusiasts, all literary theorists, and the Joyce-curious.
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796 printed pages
Original publication



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