Friday, May 14, 2010

James Joyce

James Joyce (1882-1941) is a Dublin born writer who spent most of his career in exile in Western Europe. He had a beautiful singing voice and at first dreamed of being a professional singer. Full of musical references, much of his writing has a lyrical quality and is often infinitely more enjoyable to say nothing of understandable when it is read aloud. After Joyce placed only second in a University singing competition where the celebrated Irish tenor John McCormack placed first, he abandoned his dreams of singing and decided instead to change the face of literature with his writing. Above all he was an artist who from the very first was shooting for all the marbles, aiming for his place in literary history whatever the cost to himself and his financial well being.

Joyce was born the oldest of ten surviving children on February 2, 1882 into a poor but educated family in Dublin, Ireland. His alcoholic father was frequently jobless; his mother, an accomplished pianist obsessed by the Roman Catholic Church. He was educated by the Jesuits at Belvedere College in North Dublin and later graduated from University College Dublin. One of his first publications was an essay about the dramatist Ibsen.

Joyce fled Ireland in 1904 with his longtime companion, a Galway chamber maid named Nora Barnacle with whom he had two children, Giorgio and Lucia. They only married in 1931 when their children were adults for legal reasons. He never made much money throughout his career, and his children were born in the poverty ward of the Trieste hospital. His brother Stanislaus joined the family in Switzerland for sometime so that he could get a job and help support them. The above photo is taken in Paris of Joyce with his publisher Sylvia Beach at her bookshop Shakespeare and Company. Beach did what she could to help support the family financially. When they had money, they spent it on life's small pleasures, good food and wine and clothes.

Joyce's first publication was a book of poems, Chamber Music (1907) which WB Yeats encouraged him in pursuing. His first collection of short stories The Dead (1914) was followed by his novel of artistic awakening, A Portrait of an Artists as a Young Man (1916). Ulysses was first published in 1922 when it was critically lauded and then burned and banned in America. Throughout his life, Joyce struggled with his eyesight, eventually going nearly blind. Finnegans Wake appeared in 1931 and was infinitely more experimental than Ulysses. To Joyce's great disappointment, it did not receive the critical acclaim that his previous novel did. After fleeing Paris during World War II, Joyce died in Switzerland on January 13, 1941.

1 comment:

  1. The collection of short stories was published as "Dubliners."
    Finnegans Wake was published in 1939.
    It is generally established that Harriet Weaver provided greater financial assistance to the Joyce fam,ily than Miss Beach.