James Joyce is born

James Joyce is born

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Novelist James Joyce is born this day in Dublin, Ireland, the eldest of 10 children. His father, a cheerful ne’er-do-well, will eventually go bankrupt.

Joyce attended Catholic school and University College in Dublin. A brilliant scholar, he learned Dano-Norwegian in order to read the plays of Henrik Ibsen in the original. In college, he began a lifetime of literary rebellion, self-publishing an essay rejected by the school’s literary magazine adviser.

After graduation, Joyce moved to Paris. He planned to become a doctor to support himself while writing, but soon gave up his medical studies. He returned to Dublin to visit his mother’s deathbed and remained to teach school and work odd jobs. On June 16, 1904, he met Nora Barnacle, a lively uneducated woman with whom he fell in love. He convinced Nora to return to Europe with him. The couple settled in Trieste, where they had two children, and then in Zurich. Joyce struggled with serious eye problems, undergoing 25 operations for various troubles between 1917 and 1930.

In 1914, he published The Dubliners. The following year, his novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man brought him fame and won him several wealthy patrons, including Edith Rockefeller.

In 1918, the American journal Little Review began to serialize Ulysses, Joyce’s revolutionary stream-of-consciousness novel. However, the U.S. Post Office stopped the publication’s distribution in December of that year on the grounds that the novel was obscene. Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.

Joyce’s last novel, Finnegan’s Wake, was published in 1939, and Joyce died two years later.

Joyce, James

Irish writer, novelist and polylingual wordsmith, an intellectual literary genius who developed an original style and revolutionized the plot and character of fiction.

As a young man, Joyce's genius was recognized by Dublin literary circles. He mastered an encyclopedic knowledge of world literature, music, art and philosophy. As Joyce achieved literary notoriety, he and his family became the toast of the Parisian artistic community with the publication of his masterwork, "Ulysses" in 1922. Originally the stream of consciousness account of a day in the lives of Dubliner Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly was turned down by reputable publishers. The scandalous content, language, and unorthodox "stream of consciousness" literary style was too strong for the sensibilities of the day. Today, "Ulysses" is considered the greatest work of fiction of the twentieth century.

Joyce grew up in Dublin as one of 13 children, ten of whom survived. Originally born into wealth, his dad had an annual income and a good job as a tax collector. Drinking too much, spending too much and too many mortgages led to his dad loosing his job at 42 to never work again. Moving to 16 houses in the Dublin area clearly led to his articulate knowledge of every house, store and park.) He was educated at the Jesuit school and from a very early age displayed his precocious intellect. With a talent for languages, Joyce taught himself Dano-Norwegian in his teen years. In 1902, he went to Paris to study medicine. Blessed with a beautiful tenor voice, he began lessons for a concert career but when he returned to Dublin, he concentrated on his writing career.

On 6/16/1904, Joyce walked with Nora Barnacle, the daughter of a Galway baker, around the streets of Dublin. He had met her in a chance encounter six days earlier along Nassau Street near Trinity College. Four months later, Joyce and Barnacle left Dublin and moved to Trieste to start a new life. In the early 1900s, they lived a lifestyle that was then unconventional, without the benefit of marriage. Joyce made this choice in order to escape the effects of his conservative Irish upbringing within the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. Working as an English teacher in Trieste, Joyce tried to provide for his family. During WW I, he moved his family to Zurich, 1915. The following year his autobiographical first novel, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" was published. After the war, the family was again uprooted, this time to Paris to enjoy the artistic avant-garde environment.

On 2/02/1922, his literary masterpiece, "Ulysses" was published on his 40th birthday by American bookseller Sylvia Beach. Until 1934, the book was considered obscene contraband material and confiscated by U.S. customs officers. A slow and painstaking writer, Joyce had worked 16 years to produce his polylingual piece, "Finnegans Wake," 1939. Joyce scholars considered the book one of the least-read and best-known masterpiece of world literature. The author had invented a new language combining the world's ancient and modern languages, making it a difficult journey to travel. When German invasion of Paris became imminent, Joyce and Nora left the city in September 1939, leaving behind their possessions and papers in their flat at 34 rue des Vignes. Joyce and his family made their way to neutral Zurich, Switzerland after much bureaucratic paperwork from the French, Swiss and Nazi government.

Nora Barnacle was not only Joyce's companion but his artistic and literary muse. Her letters were the inspiration of his brilliant literary style. Her unrefined and earthy presence captivated the writer in creating his sensual model for his most famous female character, Molly Bloom. Nora was instrumental to Joyce's sexual fantasies. When they were apart, she sent him obscene letters to which he could masturbate. Under the pressure of his American daughter-in-law, Joyce relented and married Nora in a civil ceremony in 1931. In their poverty-stricken existence in Trieste the couple produced their two children, Giorgio in 1905 and Lucia in 1907. Joyce was a devoted family man, a kind and caring individual who loved to visit the opera house and concert halls. He and Nora both had considerable agony and pain when Lucia was diagnosed as schizophrenic in the early 1930s. Cherishing his daughter, Joyce wanted to see her as gifted and eccentric and he was reluctant to accept the truth of her mental illness. Finally her actions became increasingly dangerous, such as lighting the flat's curtains on fire and throwing furniture at her mother. When she had one of her frequent stays in the hospital, Joyce visited his daughter every Sunday. After 1936, she was never outside of a mental institution.

Suffering from poor eyesight all of his life, Joyce wrote in large script and still had difficulty reading his writing. By 1930, he had undergone almost 25 ophthalmic operations. He suffered from stomach problems but refused to have see a physician, worrying that the diagnosis would be cancer. On the evening of 1/10/1941, Joyce fell ill with stomach cramps. At 2:00 A.M. he was administered the drug morphine to calm the pain and sent to the hospital in the early dawn. He had a perforated duodenal ulcer and a Swiss surgeon conducted the unsuccessful operation. On 1/13/1941, at 2:15 A.M., before his wife and son arrived at the hospital, Joyce died of peritonitis. His gravesite at Fluntern Cemetery in Zurich has become a shrine for Joycean pilgrims.

In 1982, more than 600 professional and amateur Joyce scholars from around the world converged on Dublin to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the author's birthday.

1. James Joyce was only 9 years old when his first piece of writing was published.

In 1891, shortly after he had to leave Clongowes Wood College when his father lost his job, 9-year-old Joyce wrote a poem called “Et Tu Healy?” It was published by his father John and distributed to friends the elder Joyce thought so highly of it, he allegedly sent copies to the Pope.

No known complete copies of the poem exist, but the precocious student’s verse allegedly denounced a politician named Tim Healy for abandoning 19th century Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell after a sex scandal. Fragments of the ending of the poem, later remembered by James’s brother Stanislaus, showed Parnell looking down on Irish politicians:

His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this century
Can trouble him no more

While the poem was seemingly quaint, young Joyce equating Healy as Brutus and Parnell as Caesar marked the first time he’d use old archetypes in a modern context, much in the same way Ulysses is a unique retelling of The Odyssey.

As an adult, Joyce would publish his first book, a collection of poems called Chamber Music, in 1907. It was followed by Dubliners, a collection of short stories, in 1914, and the semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in which Clongowes Wood College is prominently featured) in 1916.

Roots: The Joyce Family

Though not Gaelic and sometimes found in England of non-Irish origin, Joyce may certainly be regarded as a true Irish name, and more particularly a Connacht one. The first Joyce to come to Ireland of whom there is an authentic record was Thomas de Jorse a Welshman, who in 1283 married the daughter of Turiogh O’Brien, Prince of Thomond and went with her to County Galway there in Iar Connacht, which runs over the Mayo border, they were at first aligned with the O’Flahertys but they went on to establish themselves so firmly and so permanently that the territory they inhabited became known as Joyce’s Country. Statistics of births, deaths and marriages show that this is still their stronghold: over eighty per cent of the Joyces in Ireland come from Galway or Mayo.

Derived from the Brehon personal name “Iodoc,” which is a diminutive of iudh meaning lord, the name was adopted by the Normans in the form of Josse. While some scholars believe the name derived from the French Joice, which means joy, a multitude of names developed in Ireland and England from Josse, including Joce, Joass, and Joyce.

The Joyce coat of arms displays two eagles in tribute to the special relationship the bird has to the clan. Legend has it that while William Joyce was traveling in Europe during the Crusades he was captured by Saracens and sold into slavery to a goldsmith in Algeria. He escaped and was led by an eagle to the location of a buried treasure. After returning home, he used the riches from this treasure to build the walls of Galway City. It is believed that it was William who designed the Claddagh Ring, one of Ireland’s most enduring symbols. He is said to have learned his silversmithing trade when he was held captive in Algeria. Later, William Joyce’s granddaughter Margaret Joyce, or Margaret na Drehide (of the bridges), built bridges throughout Connaught, which includes the modern counties of Mayo and Galway. Margaret also encountered an eagle, one that dropped a jewel into her lap.

Many of the Joyces became successful merchants and interspersed themselves throughout the Fourteen Tribes of Galway. The clan also produced many fine scholars, historians, linguists, and folklorists.

The Joyce clan also produced a most infamous member. During WWII, William Joyce, also known as Lord Haw Haw, was the voice on the radio that embraced fascism. Born in New York City but raised in County Mayo, he was eventually captured by the Allies, convicted of treason, and hanged.

Without a doubt the most famous Joyce is author James Joyce, who was born in Dublin on February 2, 1882 (d. Jan. 13,1941). A poet, novelist, playwright, and author, Joyce’s works include: Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake.

June 16 marks the annual celebration of Bloomsday when Ulysses’ Leopold Bloom began his modern-day odyssey through the urban landscape of Dublin in 1904. Joyce chose this day because it marked his first outing with Nora Barnacle, the Galway woman who became his wife.

Other Joyces in the publishing business include novelist Brenda Joyce who specializes in mystery and romance novels and William Joyce, author and illustrator, whose illustrations have appeared on many New Yorker covers. In entertainment, Alice Joyce (1890-1955) made a great impact in the silent film era. She performed with Clara Bow in the 1926 film Dancing Mothers and appeared in close to 200 films. Unfortunately, her career dwindles with the rise of sound in movies. Michael Joyce (1951) is the founder of Cinema Production Company Services Incorporated, a Los Angeles-based movie visual effects company. He has worked as the Innovative Miniature Supervisor behind movies such as Godzilla, Independence Day, Cliff Hanger, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Die Hard 4.

Joyces in the sports world are represented by Matt Joyce (1972), an offensive tackle who played for ten seasons in the NFL until retiring in 2004, and Matt R. Joyce (1984), a Major League baseball outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. In the world of cricket, former England batsman Ed Joyce (1978) is playing for his native Ireland in the 2011 World Cup.

And in politics, Irish-American State Senator Brian A. Joyce (1962) is serving his seventh term in Massachusetts. He said of his Irish ancestors: “The Joyces have come a long way since leaving Claremorris, County Mayo 100 years ago, and much of our success is due to the values and work ethic brought by my grandfather from Ireland.”

James Joyce and His Birthday

February 2, 2016, is the 134th birthday of James Joyce. In his huge biography, Richard Ellmann notes in several places Joyce’s fascination with his own birthday (he made certain that his novel “Ulysses” was published on his 40th, in 1922) and tells how this affected his relationship with another writer, James Stephens. Ellmann quotes Joyce:

“The combination of his name from that of mine [James] and my hero in A.P.O.T.A.A.A.Y.M. [“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”] is strange enough. [The hero of that novel is Stephen.] I discovered yesterday, through enquiries made in Paris, that he was born in Dublin on the 2 February 1882.” (Ellmann, 592)

Ellmann notes that Joyce also found it amazing that he and Stephens were both fathers of a boy and a girl. Either Stephens did not know or did not want to tell Joyce that they did indeed share a birthday but not a birth date, as Stephens was born February 2, 1880.

For Joyce the shared birthday and other details were no small matters, as he was considering asking Stephens an enormous favor: he was intending to request his participation in finishing “Finnegan’s Wake,” a novel that by this time, the late 1920s, had occupied Joyce’s world for years. He was, it is reported, willing to propose a co-authorship of “JJ & S (Jameses Joyce & Stephens),” which in Joyce’s world of puns also would have been an enjoyable pun on the name of the popular whiskey, Jameson’s. The coincidences of birth date and names were so convincing that it shook Joyce. It took him seven months to work up to discussing his idea with Stephens. Ellmann quotes a letter by James Stephens:

“One evening my concierge told me as I came in that a tall, beautiful, blind gentleman had called and had left a note for me. It was from Joyce and it asked me to meet him the next day. After that we met several times a week for a long time. I discovered that he approved of me in the most astonishing fashion, but it took me a little while to find out why. …

“How Joyce made this discovery I don’t know, but he revealed to me that his name was James and mine was James, that my name was Stephens, and the name he had taken for himself in his best book was Stephen: that he and I were born in the same country, in the same city, in the same year, in the same month, on the same day, at the same hour, six o’clock in the morning of the second of February. He held, with a certain contained passion, that the second of February, his day and my day, was the day of the bear, the badger and the boar. On the second of February the squirrel lifts his nose out of his tail and surmises lovingly of nuts, the bee blinks and thinks again of Sleeping Beauty, his queen, the wasp rasps and rustles and thinks that he is Napoleon Bonaparte, the robin twitters and thinks of love and worms. I learned that on that day of days Joyce and I, Adam and Eve, Dublin and the Devil all shake a leg and come a-popping and a-hopping, yelling here we are again, we and the world and the moon are new, up the poets, up the rabbits and the spiders and the rats.

“Well, I was astonished. I was admired at last. Joyce admired me. I was beloved at last Joyce loved me. Or did he? Or did he only love his birthday, and I was merely coincident to that? When I spoke about my verse, which was every waking minute of my time, Joyce listened heartily and said, ‘Ah.’ He approved of it as second of February verse, but I’m not certain that he really considered it to be better than the verse of Shakespeare and Racine and Dante. And yet he knew the verse of those three exhaustively!

“Now, in order to bring this birthday to an end, let’s do it in the proper way. If I were Joyce’s twin, which he held, then I had to celebrate this astonishing fact in my own way. So upon our next birthday I sent him a small poem. Joyce reported back to me that he was much obliged. He practically said ‘Ah’ to my poem and I could almost see him rubbing his chin at it.” (Ellmann, 593)

James Stephens, James Joyce, John Sullivan

The idea of having Stephens become co-author was not so much cancelled as allowed to evaporate (that quoted “Ah” above), but the two remained friends. Joyce celebrated his and what he thought was Stephens’ fiftieth birthday, their “jubilee year,” by translating one of Stephens’ poems. The poem was “Stephen’s Green”:

The wind stood up and gave a shout
He whistled on his fingers and

Kicked the withered leaves about
And thumped the branches with his hand

And said he’d kill and kill an kill
And so he will and so he will. (Ellmann, 655)

Joyce took the time to translate the poem into French, German, Latin, Norwegian, and Italian. As Stephens himself might have written, Joyce may have loved it as an example of fine “second of February verse,” and thus superior to all other kinds, which prevented him from seeing it as it is: a bit of doggerel. The ultimate outcome was that Jameses Joyce & Stephens did end up as collaborators. Here is Joyce’s Italian translation of the above poem, titled “I Verdi di Giacomo”:

Balza in piè Fra Vento e grida.
Tre dita in bocca fischia la sfida.

Tira calci, pesta botte:
Ridda di foglue e frasche rotte.

Ammazzerò, ei urla, O gente!
E domeneddio costui non mente. (Ellmann, 656)

Joyce died in 1941 Stephens in 1950, at the age of either 68 or 70. He wrote many novels and poems and spent the last decade of his life as an essayist and personality on BBC radio.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for February 2 asks, “You have three hundred words to justify the existence of your favorite person, place, or thing. Failure to convince will result in it vanishing without a trace. Go!” My contribution to this small celebration of James Joyce was only 300 words the two Jameses took up the remaining 750 or so.

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James Joyce and the question of history

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James Fairhill's study (1993) on Joyce, so far as it relates to history and Historicism, is well written and knowledgeable in important places, though it must be said, weak in a few others. In 1993, this study would have contributed a lot to what was then a nascent Historicism (method) finding applications in Literature and across other disciplines. New Critical orthodoxy had only recently been displaced by this broader method of examining literature, seeing literary writing against its historical background and context.

Leaving aside Joyce, Fairhill's Jacobin free Introduction presents the complex business of writing history in a very clear way. History is not the simple record of what happened back then, or what historians say happened back then. History he explains is also an imaginative exercise, one where the writer selects materials he or she wishes to accentuate, promote or downplay whether the historian realises this or not.

At best, writing history is a 'recreative' (though not recreational) and imaginative exercise where he counsels the reader must remain awake to the limitations of any and all deployed methods or methodologies, particularly it must be said when the writer imagines he is writing in an ideologically free way. This is true for the writer of literary works as it is for the historian, and as we will see the literary critic.

Auden calls these deployed biases as a writer's 'discursive stratagems', a writer's conscious or unconscious, deliberate or un-deliberate biases, amounting to one's propensity for propaganda. TS Eliot refers to these as 'tares' to which we are all subject.

Fairhill draws heavily on the work of the much neglected RG Collingwood who played an important role in distinguishing the writing of history from the actual events described, an important discriminatory tool which the reader needs to exercise when reading any account of something which the author and by extension the reader themselves did not witness.
(Historicism so as a method contains executive elements of deconstructionism and post structuralism deployed here with a healthy dose of Orientalist awareness insofar as his cover picture depicts an image of the Irish as beastly.

Fairhill might have mentioned EL Carr's work What is History to flesh out the ideas of Collingwood, this greater awareness that ideology is imbibed with one's cornflakes.

It seems fitting that this heightening of awareness among readers might discriminate in their reading (of history in this case) should see the newly elevated reader exercise such skills and see through or beyond the aperture of writers as they go about their business of constructing or reconstructing narratives. And so, as early as page 28 (there is so much that is good in this book) we see Fairhill condemn certain aspects of Irish nationalism which, from his perspective, amount to a self defeating cycle of nationalist failure. His object is the Phoenix Park murders whose influence it is certainly impossible to gauge but it it the job of the literary critic, however well intentioned, to issue an opinion regarding its efficacy?

Fairhill can't seem to conceive of 'Pyrrhic failures' (serial failures leading to eventual victory). That he felt the need to condemn political assassination as a method speaks volumes. This of course was published in 1993. Events for the year previous below. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Northern_Ireland_Troubles_and_peace_process#1992

He and others may well be commended in thinking themselves just and fair in seeing the Irish Nationalist struggle as futile and self defeating except that the historical record does not support his view. As he himself has warned the reader, it is not the place of the writer, particularly one given to issue warnings on the dangers of bias, to take sides even when he imagines sanity lives on his side of the river. (Then again, books promoting violence don't typically get published so there is an element of congruence involved. People who support or perpetrate violence tend not to apply for academic tenure though this too may be a preconception.)

The portrayal of Irish Nationalists as little better than the Punch caricature on the cover of this book takes some time to fade.

Fairhill is very good on Dubliners and The Portrait, and very strong on Irish history and what was going on between 1882 when Joyce was born and the middle of the 20th Century.

With the exception of his chapter on Socialism and James Connolly, this book is very fluent. That Fairhiill holds Joyce responsible, for example, for not addressing the concerns of the poor in his short stories seems odd. He seems genuinely surprised by Joyce's perceived refusal to be a saint, to include within his brief a concern for the Dublin poor. A more historicist concern would be to look at the historical record to see precisely what generated the facts he figures he cites regarding the Dublin slums. That book has yet to be written, but these are minor quibbles regarding a great effort to bring this complex subject under control. Treating people badly and then complaining that they exhibit the features they have been burdened with is a tendency DH Lawrence and others have railed against.

James (Augustine Aloysius) Joyce

James Joyce , Irish novelist considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in an array of contrasting literary styles, perhaps most prominently the stream of consciousness technique he perfected. Other major works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His complete oeuvre includes three books of poetry, a play, occasional journalism, and his published letters.

Joyce was born to a middle class family in Dublin, where he excelled as a student at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, then at University College Dublin. In his early twenties he emigrated permanently to continental Europe, living in Trieste, Paris and Zurich. Though most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce's fictional universe does not extend beyond Dublin, and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city. Shortly after the publication of Ulysses he elucidated this preoccupation somewhat, saying, "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world.

Well-Known Literary – James Joyce Works

James Joyce is often regarded as one of the most influential authors of the 20th Century. During his lifetime he completed many pieces of literature, and today they are still studied worldwide. The majority of his works as an Irish author are about his home, Ireland.


Written in 1914, this was James Joyce’s first publication. Dubliners is a collection of short stories which focuses on the middle class Irish during the period of Home Rule. Within this collection of short stories lies one of his best pieces of work “The Dead”. It was later turned into a film by John Huston

To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher

– James Joyce


Joyce released his novel Ulysses in 1922. This novel follows Leopold Bloom, a Jewish advertising canvasser, through a single day, 16th June 1904.

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

-James Joyce, Ulysses

Still studied worldwide today, Ulysses is regarded as one of the most challenging works of literature. As throughout much of his work include Ulysses, Joyce has included many different puzzles and enigmas that he proclaimed “will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant”

Finnegans Wake

Published in 1939, Joyce spent 17 years writing this novel while in Paris. It is regarded as a revolutionary masterpiece, Joyce created a nocturnal, dreamlike state, in the form of a comedy. The dreams portray conflicts from mythology and human history.

“And you’ll miss me more as the narrowing weeks wing by. Someday duly, oneday truly, twosday newly, till whensday.”

-James joyce, Finnegans wake

James Joyce’s words haunt Dublin. It doesn’t need his bones

W hen James Joyce died in Zurich in 1941, the Irish government’s chief diplomat in Switzerland contacted the secretary of the Department of External Affairs in Dublin to inform him of the news. “Please wire details about Joyce’s death,” responded the secretary. “If possible find out if he died a Catholic? Express sympathy with Mrs Joyce and explain inability to attend funeral.”

Consequently, no official representative of the Irish state was present at the burial of one of the century’s most significant cultural figures, and probably the most celebrated Irishman in history.

Joyce’s relationship with his country was famously vexed. He left for good in his early 20s, driven out – “exiled”, as he himself liked to put it – by its spiritual impoverishment, its relentless oppression of those who tried to live and think beyond its parochial norms. Ulysses was never officially banned in Ireland for the simple reason that no bookseller was reckless enough to attempt getting it through customs. And yet for all the world-encircling magnitude of his genius, the universality of his themes, it was Ireland, and specifically Dublin, that remained the inexhaustible subject of his work. When he was asked toward the end of his life whether he would ever consider returning to the place, he answered: “Have I ever left it?”

This question of return has lately been raised again, in the form of two Dublin city councillors, Dermot Lacey and Paddy McCartan, proposing a motion to seek the repatriation of his remains in time for the centenary of Ulysses’s publication in 2022. There is no evidence that Joyce himself ever expressed a desire to be buried in the country of his birth, but the councillors cited an apparent effort by his widow Nora in the late 1940s to have his remains returned to Dublin. “The benefit of this,” said Lacey, “is that you’re honouring someone’s last wishes.” But of course the honouring of Nora’s wishes – evidence for which, as the Joyce scholar Sam Slote pointed out in the Irish Times, is not all that compelling – was hardly the true motivation for digging up her husband’s earthly remains and sticking them on the next Ryanair flight out of Zurich. “I’m not going to be cynical about bones,” Lacey said, before immediately going on to be quite cynical about bones: “I think it’s something Joycean lovers would appreciate. I don’t want to calculate something like this in shillings and pence but I don’t think it would do any harm. I think it would do some good.”

There is a distasteful irony to this whole idea. Joyce could neither live nor work in the Ireland of his time – a suffocating theocracy that foreclosed every possibility of freedom: intellectual, sexual and existential. “Do you know what Ireland is?” as Stephen Dedalus puts it in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. “Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.” A century after the publication of Ulysses, capitalism – which has since supplanted Catholicism as Ireland’s officially professed faith – has come to see the value of Joyce and his work, and he has taken his place in the pantheon of Irish brands, as a sort of Arthur Guinness of literary modernism. The old sow wants the bones of her farrow back, because there is still some meat to gnaw on.

‘It would become one more way for Dublin to present itself as a literary mecca.’ Bloomsday celebrations in Dublin, 2015. Photograph: Ruth Medjber

Not that it seems particularly likely to happen. As Fritz Senn, director of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, has pointed out, in the absence of any compelling evidence that this is what Joyce would have wanted, there is little incentive for the Swiss to give up his body: “I think there would certainly be some resistance because, after all, Joyce is one of the major tourist attractions that people come to see. Many people go to his grave so there would be an issue.” It’s also worth remembering that any plan to remove the body from the family plot would first have to be approved by the writer’s grandson, Stephen Joyce, a literary executor so legendarily unaccommodating that he once informed a performance artist that he’d infringed on copyright by merely memorising passages of Finnegans Wake.

If Dublin city council were to somehow pass the resolution, and then somehow convince the Irish government to seek the repatriation of Joyce’s body, and if the Irish government in turn were to somehow convince the Swiss authorities to relinquish it from their soil, what would happen? What would happen, we can be confident, is that Joyce’s body would become one more tourist trap in a city that is essentially a gigantic tax loophole filled with tourists in expensive raingear and homeless bodies in sleeping bags. What would happen is that it would become one more way for Dublin to present itself as a literary mecca, while in reality transitioning into a cultural wasteland where creative spaces are closing down to make way for more hotels, where artists can’t afford to live due to a brutal and unregulated rental market – one presided over by a ruling party, Fine Gael, many of whose parliamentary members are also landlords.

What would happen is that Joyce’s bones would bring more tourists to a city that, were he alive today, he would still have to leave because he couldn’t afford to live in it. And what would furthermore happen, I may as well warn you now, is that I would personally dig up those bones in the dead of night, haul them into eternity along Sandymount strand, and heave them into the snot-green, scrotum-tightening sea.

Five Fascinating Facts about James Joyce

1. James Joyce was born in the same year as another notable modernist writer, Virginia Woolf.But the similarities don’t end there. Both were born in 1882, but both writers also died in the same year, 1941. Both wrote landmark modernist novels, published in the 1920s, whose principal action takes place over just one day in mid-June (the novels in question are Ulysses and Mrs Dalloway). Both pioneered the stream of consciousness technique associated with modernist writing.

2. James Joyce was scared of thunder and lightning. Joyce’s fear of thunder and lightning – the technical name for which is astraphobia – stems from his childhood, when his fervently Catholic governess told him that thunderstorms were God manifesting his anger. This fear stayed with Joyce into adulthood. It even probably helped to inspire a 100-letter word which Joyce coined in his final novel, Finnegans Wake (1939), Bababadalgharaghtakamminapronnkonnbronntonnepronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordeenenthurnuk, which appears on the first page and is meant to designate the symbolic thunderclap that accompanied the Fall of Adam and Eve.

3. He gave us the word ‘quark’. This word for a subatomic particle was taken from Finnegans Wake, where three seabirds give the cheer to King Mark: ‘Three quarks for Muster Mark!’ Physicist Murray Gell-Mann liked the word, and so proposed it for the particle in the 1960s. One of the other suggestions, favoured by Richard Feynman among others, was ‘parton’ – though whether Dolly was the inspiration here is unclear.

4. His masterpiece, Ulysses, was published on his fortieth birthday – and wasn’t. In fact, much of the novel had already appeared in print in two magazines, the Little Review and the Egoist, by the time the novel was published by Shakespeare & Company on 2 February 1922. (Joyce very deliberately made the publication of the novel coincide with his own birthday.) And even then, only two copies actually appeared on that day: these were whisked to Paris by morning train to Sylvia Beach, who ran the publishing house. Beach kept one copy, while Joyce took the other copy out with him to mark the occasion. We covered the interesting story behind Joyce’s Ulysses in an interesting post last year.

5. Joyce met fellow novelist Marcel Proust for a disastrous dinner in 1922. This was the year that Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses was published (and the year Proust died, in November the meeting took place in May). The two writers spent the meal discussing their ailments, before eventually admitting that they hadn’t read each other’s work. Also present at this historic dinner party – which took place on 18 May 1922 – were Picasso and Stravinsky.

James Joyce is born - HISTORY

James Augustine Joyce, the eldest surviving son of John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane (‘May’) Joyce, was born in Dublin on 2 February 1882. He attended Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boys’ school in County Kildare, until his father lost his job as a Rates Collector in 1891. Around the same time, Joyce took ‘Aloysius’ as his confirmation name. After a brief spell at the Christian Brothers School, all of the Joyce brothers entered Belvedere College, a Jesuit boys’ day school fortunately, the school fees were waived.

In 1894, with the Joyces’ finances dwindling further, the family moved house for the fourth time since Joyce’s birth. They also sold off their last remaining Cork property. Despite increasing poverty and upheaval, Joyce managed to win a prize for his excellent exam results and wrote an essay on Ulysses which, arguably, sowed the seeds for Joyce’s 1922 masterpiece of the same name. In 1896 Joyce was made prefect of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a devotional society. However, he was not as pure as he seemed Joyce claimed to have begun his “sexual life” later that year, at the age of fourteen.[1]


In 1898, Joyce began studying modern languages at the Royal University (now University College, Dublin). During his time at university Joyce published several papers on literature, history, and politics. He also enjoyed visits to the music hall.[2] Joyce became particularly interested in the work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and Irish writer W. B. Yeats. In 1902, on a visit to London, Joyce met Yeats who introduced him to the British poet and critic Arthur Symons. In the same year, Joyce registered to study medicine at the Royal University but decided to leave Dublin and start medical school in Paris instead. Joyce’s Parisian days were largely spent reading philosophy or literature, rather than learning about medicine. Whilst back in Dublin for Christmas, Joyce met Oliver St John Gogarty, a fellow medical student and poet who was to be reimagined as Buck Mulligan in Ulysses (1922). Joyce returned to Paris in January but soon gave up his course. In 1903, Joyce came back to Dublin to be with his ailing mother who died on 13 August.

Early Works and Family

1904 was a significant year for Joyce. He began work on his short story collection Dubliners (1914) and Stephen Hero (a semi-biographical novel), wrote his first poetry collection Chamber Music (1907) , and wrote an essay entitled ‘A Portrait of the Artist’ which would later be transformed into a novel entitled A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Shortly after leaving the family home, Joyce met Nora Barnacle, a charming chambermaid hailing from Galway. Joyce and Nora first went out together on 16 June 1904, the date on which Ulysses is set. Four months later, the couple left Dublin for continental Europe. They arrived in Zurich but soon moved to Pola as Joyce secured a job teaching English with the Berlitz School.

In 1905, Joyce transferred to the Berlitz School in Trieste. Except for six months in Rome, attempting to become a banker, Joyce stayed in Trieste for the next eleven years. On 27 July 1905, Joyce’s son, Giorgio, was born. He was followed by Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, who was born on 26 July 1907. Around the time of Lucia’s birth, Joyce was hospitalised with rheumatic fever and began to experience the eye troubles which would plague him throughout his life. Despite his below-par health and lack of money, Joyce managed to avail himself of Trieste’s cultural delights drinking, dining, more drinking, theatre, popular opera, dances, concerts, and films. He also took singing lessons Joyce’s teacher, Francesco Ricardo Sinico, ‘praised his voice but told him he would need two years to train it properly’.[3] Unfortunately, Joyce did not have the funds to continue with his lessons for the suggested length of time. Nonetheless, Joyce’s singing teacher clearly made an impression on him as he used his name for Captain and Emily Sinico in his Dubliners story ‘A Painful Case’.

In 1909, Joyce befriended Ettore Schmitz (Italian author ‘Italo Svevo’) who praised Joyce’s unfinished manuscripts for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and persuaded him to finish the novel. Whilst back in Dublin for talks with publishers, Joyce bumped into an old acquaintance, Vincent Cosgrave, who claimed that Nora had enjoyed relations with him whilst committed to Joyce. Joyce’s conflicted emotions regarding this claim can be traced in his letters to Nora.[4] Joyce eventually reconciled his differences with Nora and returned to Trieste in October 1909. In December of the same year, Joyce went back to Dublin to open one of the city’s first permanent cinemas – The Volta. This was a short-lived business venture the cinema closed down in April 1910.[5]

Struggle and Success

From 1910 to 1913, Joyce was mainly engaged in revising A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and battling to get Dubliners published. To earn money, Joyce lectured at the Università his series of Hamlet lectures could well have been an inspiration for Stephen’s Hamlet theory in the ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ episode of Ulysses. In 1914, thanks to the enthusiasm of fellow Modernist Ezra Pound, Dubliners was serialised in the Egoist, a literary journal. Later that year, Dubliners was finally published as a novel by Grant Richards. Whilst other young men were going off to fight in the First World War, Joyce began a prolific writing period in the final months of 1914, Joyce wrote Giacomo Joyce (a semi-autobiographical multilingual novelette which Joyce never attempted to publish), drafted Exiles (Joyce’s only play), and began writing Ulysses(Joyce’s famous modern epic).[6]

In 1915, Joyce, Nora, Giorgio, and Lucia, left Trieste for neutral Zurich. Stanislaus, Joyce’s brother who had also been living in Trieste, failed to escape he was placed in an Austrian detention centre until the end of the war. For the next few years, aided by grants from the Royal Literary Fund and the British Civil List (secured by Yeats and Pound), Joyce continued to write steadily. Joyce finished Exiles in May 1915 and, despite undergoing his first eye operation in August 1917, Ulysses continued to progress.

Controversy and Final Works

In 1918, Exiles was published by Grant Richards, and in 1919 it was performed in Munich. From March 1918 to September 1920, Ulysses (still unfinished) was serialised in the Little Review, another literary magazine. However, not many subscribers were able to read certain episodes (‘Laestrygonians’, ‘Scylla and Charybdis’, ‘Cyclops’, and ‘Nausicaa’) as the magazines were confiscated and burned by the US Postal Authorities. The Egoist successfully published and distributed edited (less obscene) versions of several Ulysses episodes. In 1921, the Little Review was convicted of publishing obscenities and ceased publication. Joyce, now living in Paris (the whole family moved in October 1920), befriended Sylvia Beach who offered to publish Ulysses– in its entirety – under the imprint of her Paris bookshop, Shakespeare and Company. Joyce agreed to Beach’s offer after many revisions before and during the proof stages, the first copies of Ulysses were published on Joyce’s fortieth birthday – 2/2/1922.[7]

In 1923, Joyce began writing Work in Progress which would later become his experimental masterpiece, Finnegans Wake (1939). The following year, the first fragments of Work in Progress were published in Transatlantic Review, with further instalments being published in transition in 1927. 1927 also saw the publication of Joyce’s second poetry collection, Pomes Penyeach, published by Shakespeare and Company. In 1928 Anna Livia Plurabelle (an early, shorter version of Finnegans Wake) was published in New York. Joyce was also recorded reading Anna Livia Plurabellealoud he played this recording to the Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein when they met the following year.[8]

1929 and 1931 saw French translations of Ulysses and Anna Livia Plurabellerespectively. In 1930, despite undergoing a series of further eye operations, Joyce finished and published Haveth Childers Everywhere, a sequel to Anna Livia Plurabelleand another step towards Finnegans Wake. On 4 July 1931, Joyce and Nora were officially married, in London. In December of the same year, Joyce’s father passed away. In 1932 (15 February), Joyce’s grandson, Stephen James Joyce, was born to Giorgio and his wife Helen. Meanwhile, Lucia’s mental health deteriorated she was seen by a clinic in 1932, hospitalised in 1933, and treated by analytical psychiatrist Carl Jung in 1934.

In 1933, Ulysses faced an obscenity trial in America. After deliberation, Judge John M. Woolsey declared that the book was not obscene so could be legally published in the USA. This decision prompted the publication of several versions of Ulysses over the next couple of years, including the Random House edition (1934), the Limited Editions Club edition with illustrations by Henri Matisse (1935), and the Bodley Head edition (1936). In 1938, Joyce finished Finnegans Wake the following year it was published simultaneously in London and New York. In September 1939, World War Two broke out and the Joyce family moved back to neutral Zurich. On 13 January 1941 Joyce died, following surgery on a perforated ulcer. He was buried in Fluntern cemetery, Zurich, foregoing Catholic last rites. Nora died ten years later and was buried separately in Fluntern. Both bodies were reburied together in 1966.

To see the work of Ezra Pound, contemporary champion of Joyce’s fiction, visit the Pound section of the website.

Watch the video: James Joyce reading Anna Livia Plurabelle 1929 78rpm