Briefly Metempsychotic

—Pooh! Buck Mulligan said. We have grown out of Wilde and paradoxes. It’s quite simple. He proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Much of this text mystifies me, even with the help of Stuart Gilbert’s helpful book of exegesis, but I think I’ve possibly figured this one out, as informal and random as the epiphany is. Metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls from body to body and an important theme in the book, explains how a person can be his own father, without any need for time travel paradoxes or Buck Mulligan’s algebra. A man impregnates his wife, dies immediately thereafter, and somehow gets his soul placed in the body of his son—voila!

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