James Joyce's ZurichBy PAUL HOFMANN
Published: April 28, 1991
The New York Times
Devotees of James Joyce have long made pilgrimages to the cemetery on a hill overlooking Zurich and its lake where the writer, his wife Nora and their son Giorgio are buried. Fifty years after the Irish writer's death in 1941, the Swiss metropolis in which he found a refuge during the two World Wars will be visited by Joyceans from all over the globe.
They will linger at the graveside, look at autographs, pictures and other memorabilia in the new headquarters of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, and maybe tour places familiar to the Joyces. Some fans from abroad, and quite a few Zurichers who may or may not care for pioneer literature, will on any day be found in a downtown pub whose Joycean furnishings have been shipped from Dublin to Zurich.
Joyce's seminal achievement will be one of the two main themes of the 1991 edition of Zurich's annual cultural festival to be held, mainly in June, at various galleries, museums, auditoriums and theaters around the city (the other major motif will be the music of the American composer John Cage). A special, city-organized exhibition in the new home of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, lectures and showings of Joyce-related films are scheduled. A 90-minute bus tour, "A Portrait of the Artist in Zurich," will be conducted in English every Sunday in June at 11 A.M. and 3 P.M. from Bellevue Platz. It costs about $20.
Literary happenings in Zurich are to enliven the next recurrence of Bloomsday, the time frame of "Ulysses" -- that Thursday, June 16, 1904, on which Joyce had the book's protagonist, Leopold Bloom, enact a version, in turn-of-the-century Dublin, of the Homeric hero's wanderings.
It was on Bloomsday in 1966 that the statue marking the grave of the Joyces, amid birch trees, was unveiled in the Fluntern Cemetery. The life-size bronze by the American sculptor Milton Hebald represents the writer in his mature years, eyeglasses and all, seated on a square stone with his legs crossed, an open book in his right hand.
Nora Joyce, who stayed on in Zurich after her husband's death, died in 1951. Giorgio Joyce, who grew up in Trieste, was present when the sculpture at his parents' grave was dedicated; he lived in Zurich and Munich, pursued a singing career, and died in Constance in 1976. (Joyce's daughter, who had for many years been suffering from psychic disorders, died in an institution in Northampton, England, in 1982.)
Fluntern Cemetery can be reached from the city center by streetcars Nos. 5 or 6 in 20 minutes (one-way fare: $1.45). Stay on the tram until the last stop near the zoo; the cemetery is nearby, flanking the left side of the Zurichberg-Strasse. Take the first entrance, close to the tram stop, walk up an alley of birches all the way, then turn right; steps on your left lead to the Joyce statue and grave.
Joyce first traveled to Zurich with Nora Barnacle, then not yet his wife, in 1904, believing he was to start teaching English at the Berlitz School there. It was all a misunderstanding, but he did land a Berlitz job in Trieste. His and Nora's two children were born in the Adriatic seaport city, then still belonging to Austria-Hungary. After Italy entered World War I in 1915 the Joyces moved to Zurich. In the 1920's and 1930's the family lived in Paris, but the author every now and then revisited Zurich for treatment and surgery to save his failing eyesight. After the Nazi occupation of France, Joyce, with great difficulty, again obtained asylum in Switzerland for himself and his family. He died after an intestinal operation in the Hospital of the Red Cross Sisters in Zurich on January 13, 1941, not yet 59 years old.
THE building, now the Red Cross Hospital, is at 14 Gloriastrasse in the university district (streetcars Nos. 5 or 6).
In Zurich the Joyce family stayed only briefly at the same place. They had four different apartments in the Seefeld district on the eastern lakeshore: 7 Reinhardstrasse; 19 Kreuzstrasse; 54 Seefeldstrasse, and 73 Seefeldstrasse (all four within walking distance; streetcars Nos. 2 or 4). The Joyces also lived near Zurich University, at 29 and 38 Universitats-Strasse (streetcars Nos. 9 or 10). A plaque at the last-named address reads, in translation from German: "In this house the Irish poet James Joyce lived from January to October 1918. He worked here on his novel 'Ulysses.' "
Joyceans may also want to see some of the writer's Zurich haunts. One was the Pfauen Restaurant, 1 Zeltweg (telephone 262 04 44) near the Kunsthaus art museum (streetcars 5, 8 or 9). It is now a unit of the Movenpick chain; its look has changed from Joyce's days.
In connection with the Joyce festival, the Kunsthaus auditorium will be host to a presentation of "Finnabout -- a Music Project Inspired by Finnegans Wake" by the Ensemble for New Music, Zurich. It will be held at 8:15 P.M. on June 27, 28 and 29. Tickets range from $10 to $17.
Another favorite of Joyce's was the Kronenhalle Restaurant, 4 Ramistrasse (251 02 56) near the Opera House (streetcars Nos. 2, 4, 5, 8 or 9), now a French-style brasserie and bar, often crowded, with modern art on the walls. Joyce liked to meet and chat with artistic friends in the two places, which then were popular and bohemian, and at times uninhibitedly broke into song there. He doted on the white Fendant wine from the Valais region of Switzerland.
The polyglot writer's sojourns in Zurich are reflected in his works by allusions to the city. When, for instance, he wrote in "Finnegans Wake" about the "sillypost" he was thinking, according to exegetes, of the Sihlpost, Zurich's main post office on the Sihl River embankment where he used to mail his letters. And "Neederthorpe" in the same cryptic book is believed to point to Niederdorf, Zurich's arty and low-life neighborhood on the east bank of the Limmat River.
"Lots of Fun at 'Finnegans Wake' " is being had by local and visiting Joyceans at the Zurich James Joyce Archive between 7 and 9 P.M. every Thursday. Anyone is welcome to drop in.
The archive has moved into the Strauhof at 9 Augustinerstrasse (211 83 01), a sloping lane in the old city, a few minutes' walk from the luxury stores and banks of the Bahnhofstrasse. The first and second floors of the 430-year-old city-owned Strauhof building, which was recently restored, are used for temporary cultural exhibitions; they will be the setting for the Joyce show from May 24 to Aug. 4 (admission free). The entire top floor is permanently devoted to the Irish writer as site of the archive and the Zurich James Joyce Foundation. The archive, with four workrooms, is open 2 to 6 P.M., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; outside these hours visits can be arranged on request by telephone from Monday to Friday. Admission is free.
A library of more than 3,000 volumes that can be consulted includes all works by Joyce in various editions and in translations into 30-odd languages. There are also many autographs; original or facsimile drafts and revisions by the writer; source material used by him; a wealth of literature about Joyce and his books; portraits and caricatures of him, and an original death mask. Joyce's own voice may be heard in a recorded reading of excerpts from "Finnegans Wake.
The nucleus of the archive was assembled by Fritz Senn, a 62-year-old scholar and collector from Basel. Mr. Senn was appointed director of the expanded archive when the Zurich James Joyce Foundation was set up in 1985 with financial support from the Union Bank of Switzerland.
Mr. Senn has received honorary doctorates from Zurich and Cologne universities, and has lectured at various American institutions of higher learning, most recently at Yale. He is in constant touch with the James Joyce Foundation in Dublin, and with Joyceans in the United States, who have an outpost in New York at the Gotham Bookmart, 41 West 47th Street, (212) 719-4448.
The James Joyce Pub, 6 Pelikanstrasse (221 18 28), in Zurich's financial district west of the Bahnhofstrasse, a short walk from the Joyce Archive, is a piece of old Dublin physically transplanted from the Liffey to the downtown area between the Limmat and the Sihl. The Victorian decor of the place is that of the bar in Dublin's defunct Jury's Hotel on Dame Street. Jury's Antique Bar, which was part of the hotel, is mentioned in "Ulysses" when Bloom, on the way to Paddy Dignan's funeral, muses about the mistress of a fellow mourner: "What is this she was? Barmaid in Jury's . . .?" It is probable that Joyce, an expert on drinking places in his native city, patronized Jury's too, although there is no proof.
At any rate, when the old Jury's Hotel was razed in the early 1970's, the furnishings of its bar were auctioned off. The Union Bank of Switzerland bought the lot and shipped it to Zurich. (A new Jury's exists in Dublin's Pembroke Road.)
THE 35-foot-long dark-wood counter of the old Jury's, its barstools, wine-red settees, octagonal tables topped with black-white marble, mosaic floor, stained-glass windows and wall tiles composing allegorical scenes have long been a Zurich landmark.
The service is pleasant, and a glass of beer costs $4.80, but quite a few visitors now ask, uncharacteristically, for soft drinks, following the current European trend toward cutting down on alcohol. The short menu offers a "Mr. Bloom's breakfast" right out of "Ulysses": veal kidneys on toast with tea or Guinness stout ($14.20, available all day). Opened in 1978, the pub served in 1979 as meeting place for the first International Joyce Symposium.
Workshops of scholars from various countries are now held periodically at the headquarters of the archive and foundation at Zurich's Strauhof. Visitors who have been hooked on the Irish writer's challenging works turn up there. As the collection's director, Mr. Senn, observes, "Joyce is addictive."
PAUL HOFMANN, former Rome bureau chief of The New York Times, visits Switzerland frequently.
Created: Tuesday, July 5,
2005; Last Updated:
Thursday, August 06, 2015