James Joyce

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        Irish Writer
        D E C E M B E R  0 8

        2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941

          'Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion,
          than fade and wither dismally with age..'

          - James Joyce

        James Joyce was born into a well-off Catholic family in Dublin, the eldest of a dozen children, but unfortunately they slid into poverty. He attended first the boarding school Clongowes, then the day-school Belvedere, and finally the Royal University. At Belvedere he adored writing essays parodying various literary styles. By the end of his university years he had rejected Catholicism in favour of literature. He experimented with prostitutes as a teenager university, and later with alcohol.

        After completing college he went to Paris, supposedly to study medicine, but instead squandered his family’s money. He returned from Paris after a few months, when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and after she died, he began to drink heavily, and conditions at home grew quite appalling. He made some money reviewing books, teaching, and singing.

        In February 1904 he started writing a long fictionalised autobiography called Stephen Hero. In June 1904 he met Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid whose earthy good-humour suited him better than the higher-class, educated girls he had known. They ran off to Europe together in October 1904, after Joyce had a falling-out with Oliver Gogarty. Gogarty became Buck Mulligan in Ulysses, but Joyce has concealed the story of their falling out. James and Nora ended up in Trieste and Pola, Austria, where they spoke Italian. For want of money James wrote and taught English, and worked briefly in a bank, but his brother Stanislaus ended up paying a lot of their bills.

        James Joyce, c. 1918

        The years of 1906-07 were a turning-point; the writing of The Dead, conceiving Ulysses and deciding to rewrite Stephen Hero. In 1909 and 1912, James visited Ireland, first trying to arrange publication of Dubliners, later supervising the construction of Dublin's first movie house, the Volta. During this trip, Joyce was devastated to hear that Nora had not been a virgin when they eloped. She assured him via post that this was untrue.

        Between 1914 and 1920, Joyce's fortunes gradually improved as his writing gained attention and he found wealthy patrons. Ezra Pound deserves the most credit for recognizing Joyce's talent. When circumstances allowed, Joyce was the most disciplined of writers, working long, productive days using an elaborate system of notetaking. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Joyce's lavish lifestyle in Paris was supported by his patroness Harriet Weaver. The banning of Ulysses (published 1922) turned Joyce into a household name. Joyce's eyesight grew worse and worse, with occasional reverses through surgery. He spent 1922 to 1939 writing Finnegans Wake. Tragically his daughter Lucia went mad and had to be institutionalized

        Joyce finally married Nora in 1931. He died unexpectedly in 1941.


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