It’s Mini Kus! Time Again : “Finnegans Wake” By Nicolas Mahler (Mini Kus! #92)

I don’t know how many of you fine readers ever managed to make it all the way through James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, but if you did, congratulations — you’ve got me beat. It’s not that I found it completely impenetrable, mind you — although it certainly came close enough — it’s more a case that what I could understand about it easily enough didn’t sufficiently interest and/or motivate me to invest the time and effort necessary to figure out the rest. I’m not among those who consider Joyce to be an outright fraud, let me be absolutely clear about that, but I do think that this particular novel is one of his more average works, dressed up to make it seem like a weightier and more substantial tome than it really is.

But what do I know? Again, I never finished the thing.

It’s likely that cartoonist Nicolas Mahler did, though — unless he’s “faking it” himself with the just-released Finnegans Wake, #92 in the Mini Kus! line from our Latvian friends at Kus! His knowledge of the book — or at least of its essence — seems pretty solid from my only partially-informed vantage point, at least, but let’s say he is just someone who’s skimmed it, or read a summary of it on the internet, or even merely glommed onto a few pages and decided to put out a short-form comics “adaptation” of it? If that’s the case (and let me put additional emphasis on that “if”) would that make him any more of a con artist than Joyce may have been himself? Could one even choose to see this, then, as simply carrying on the tradition established by the author of the work? We’ll never know, of course, all we can do is speculate — and if that isn’t pure Finnegans Wake right there, I don’t know what is.

Here’s what I am certain of : using a limited palette of black, white, and a kind of drab olive, Mahler has rendered a thick-lined and intentionally slapdash version of a part of the novel that’s filtered through the lens of Mutt & Jeff but looks and reads decidedly more like Krazy Kat. I’m tempted to call that genius, even if it’s just, at the end of the day, a fairly basic conceit played for all its worth and then some — and in that respect, it’s unquestionably a fitting heir to Joyce. It also means this mini transcends irony by being entirely and overtly apropos.

What it may not be is “accessible to everyone,” as the back-cover blurb states was Mahler’s aim. But even there he and his publisher have hedged their bets by appending a “perhaps” at the end — and for that, they’re to be credited for a bit of truth in advertising. Perhaps it really is accessible to everyone — I was able to catch Mahler’s drift without too much problem — and perhaps it isn’t, but what I don’t think can be argued is that this 28-page illustrated excerpt is at least more accessible than is the novel itself — the only question is whether it goes the full distance for its full readership.

I think we can already safely intuit that the answer to that is “no,” but what of it? I think if you were to ask whether or not the folks who read it felt like they’d had anything less than an enjoyable (if partially-confounding) time, you’d get the same answer. That marks this project as a success in my book — and I think it will probably go down as one in yours, as well.


Finnegans Wake is available for $7.00 from the Kus! webshop at

Review wrist check – Squale “1521 Onda’ aqua blue dial model riding a blue camouflage Zodiac caoutchouc rubber NATO-style field strap.

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