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Why is Paulo Coelho slamming James Joyce?

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho says of Joyce's book 'Ulysses,' 'There is nothing there.'

By Husna Haq / August 6, 2012

Paulo Coelho (l.) says 'Ulysses' by James Joyce (r) harmed literature by valuing form over substance.

L: AP

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Gore Vidal v. Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer v. Tom Wolfe. Salman Rushdie v. John Updike. Ernest Hemingway v. Gertrude Stein. Henry James v. H.G. Wells. Charles Dickens v. William Thackeray. Literary feuds are as old as literature itself. Alternating between PR stunt, outright bullying, vigorous intellectual debate, and exercise in ego-bashing and -boosting, literary feuds are nothing if not pure bibliophilic entertainment. 

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The latest literary matchup pits Brazilian modernist novelist Paulo Coelho against Irish novelist James Joyce and his seminal work, the epic “Ulysses.”

“Today writers want to impress other writers,” Coelho told Brazilian newspaper Folha de S Paulo. “One of the books that caused greatest harm was James Joyce’s 'Ulysses,' which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, 'Ulysses' is a twit.”

Fighting words from the usually eloquent Coelho.

Joyce, of course, is well positioned for a literary attack. (The first rule of literary feuding: aim to knock down the king, not the servant. The more celebrated, well-known, and esteemed the author, the better the feud.) The great James Joyce is widely considered one of the most influential modernist avant-garde work writers of the 20th century and “Ulysses” a landmark that has been heralded as the epitome of modernist literature.

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