James Joyce
Relevant Non-Istrians


ames Joyce, whose full name is James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, was born on February 2, 1882 in Rathgar, Ireland, a suburb of Dublin. He was the eldest of ten (or 12?) children.

writer, educator and critic

born in Dublin, Ireland

His father, John Stanislaus, was a Cork man who had inherited enough property to ensure a comfortable living from rents, but his alcoholism led to a seemingly endless series of disasters which drove the family to abject poverty by the time young Joyce was mature. He had failed in a distillery business and tried all kinds of professions, including politics and tax collecting. Joyce's mother, Mary Jane Murray, was ten years younger than her husband. She was an accomplished pianist whose life was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church.

In spite of their poverty, the family struggled to maintain a solid middle-class facade. Joyce's education began at the age of six when he was sent to Clongowes Wood College (1888-91), at Clane, a Jesuit boarding school located about twenty miles west of Dublin. He next attended Belvedere College in Dublin (1893-99), a day school, and then finally attended University College in Dublin (1899-1902), where he quickly earned a reputation as a brilliant if idiosyncratic student. Joyce graduated in 1902 with a degree in modern languages - French, Italian [and a third] - left Dublin for Paris with the idea of studying medicine there. Joyce's first publication was an essay on Ibsen's play When We Dead Awaken. It appeared in the Fortnightly Review in 1900. At this time he also began writing lyric poems.

After graduation in 1902 the twenty-year-old Joyce went to Paris, where he worked as a journalist, teacher and in other occupations under difficult financial conditions. He spent a year in France, returning in April 1903 when a telegram arrived saying his mother was dying of cancer.

By this time he had committed himself to becoming a writer. The young Joyce visualized himself as a potential playwright (and may well have dedicated an early play to his own soul—no published work of his was ever dedicated to anyone), but of the three plays he presumably wrote, he allowed only the later Exiles (1918) to survive.

During his youth he also persisted in composing lyric poetry— the basic literary medium of the age he lived in— and continued to write poems even after he settled into a career as a novelist. However, he found the Dublin literati antipathetic to his efforts. Despite Joyce's considerable achievement of publishing at the age of eighteen an essay on Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen in the Fortnightly Review, Irish editors seemed to take little interest in his work. Robert Scholes and Richard M. Kain in The Workshop of Daedalus record that one such editor, William Magee, refusing an essay Joyce submitted to the journal Dana, declared an unwillingness "to publish what was to myself incomprehensible."

In 1904, at the invitation of poet and editor George Russell, Joyce did succeed in placing three stories, later to appear in the Dubliners, in the Irish Homestead; but the parochial intellectual atmosphere of Dublin was becoming too much for him. In June of the same year Joyce had met Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid from Galway, and the woman with whom he would spend the remainder of his life. On their first first date, June 14, 1904, Nora stood James Joyce up. Two days later, Joyce got his second first date, and the date upon which he would eventually base Ulysses.

Although his mother was under the complete influence of the Roman Catholic Church, James rejected Catholicism. He was also opposed to the idea of marriage. Writing to Nora Barnacle in an August, 1904 letter collected in Letters of James Joyce, he declared: "My mind quite rejects the whole present social order and Christianity - home, the recognized virtues, classes of life, and religious doctrines. How could I like the idea of home? My home was simply a middle-class affair ruined by spendthrift habits which I have inherited." But he was also painfully aware that he could not live openly with Nora in Dublin outside the sanction of the church. Joyce was determined to leave Ireland and seek a more tolerant moral and intellectual climate. (The couple was, in fact, married on July 4, 1931, in order to safeguard the Joyce children's rights of inheritance.)

On September 9, 1904, twenty-two year-old James Joyce moved into the Martello Tower in Sandycove, outside Dublin, with his friend Oliver St. John Gogarty. Joyce only stayed with Gogarty for a week, but the Tower setting would become the opening chapter of Ulysses.

In October, 1904, Following his mother's death of cancer and on the promise of a position as a language instructor for a Berlitz School, Joyce and Nora moved permanently to the continent.

Trieste - Pola

From Holyhead they traveled through London and Paris before reaching Zürich, where bad news awaited Joyce at the Zürich Berlitz School, where the position that had been promised was not available. The director of the Zurich Berlitz School where he first applied for a job, having been unable to offer him a job, had suggested that he might find one in the Berlitz School in Trieste.

Believing that they had reached their destination, Nora and James Joyce accidentally disembarked from their train in Laibach (now Ljubljana), spent the night in a park, then boarded the first train tp Trieste. A discreet plaque commemorating James Joyce has recently been unveiled at platform no. 1 of Ljubljana's central railway station.

James and Nora arrived at the Southern Railway Station, then Piazza della Stazione (now Piazza Libertà) on October 20, 1904. As Joyce had done in Paris, on arriving there, Joyce left Nora in the park in front of the station and walked into the town centre in order to make arrangements for the night.

She probably did not know it, but she was sitting in the shadow of the imposing statue of the Emperor Franz Joseph's beautiful long-haired wife, the Empress Elisabetta, or "Sissi" as she was fondly known, who had been assassinated on September 10, 1898 and whose statue commemorated five hundred years of Austrian rule in the city.

When he reached the Piazza Grande, the rather regal central square that looks imperiously out to sea, Joyce became involved in a dispute involving a few deserting English sailors. Their drunken and disorderly behavior had aroused the attention of a local policeman, who had approached and was in the process of arresting them when Joyce, perhaps keen to show off his Italian, intervened on their behalf. Unfortunately he only succeeded in having himself arrested along with the others. He had to ask the British Consul to come and convince the local police that they had arrested him by mistake.

According to his biographer, John McCourt, "as soon as he was released Joyce hurried back to a worried Nora, whom he had left alone and penniless with their paltry luggage in a strange park in a foreign city where few people would have understood a word she said. The only thing that might have cheered her was the pleasant weather: the temperature was a balmy twenty degrees by lunchtime. Together they set off and found accommodation in the Hotel "Central" (Haberleitner), where they spent a few nights before moving to a room on the Piazza Ponterosso, one of the finest squares in Trieste, overlooking the canal and the fruit and vegetable markets."

PolaThere was no position available for him at the Berlitz School in Trieste. However, during an interview with the local sub-director, Giuseppe Bertelli, he learned  that the owner of the Trieste Berlitz, Almidano Artifoni, was in the process of opening a new school in the Istrian coastal city of Pola and might be able to offer him a position there, a city 150 miles south of Trieste on the Istrian peninsula. Pola was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s main naval base, with a population of about 45,000 in 1900, 15,000 of which were sailors and military personnel.  After a couple of days Artifoni arrived back from Pola and, having met Joyce, offered him a position in the new school. He set off again for Pola, where he placed an advertisement (the new school's twelfth since September) in the city's principal newspaper, Il Giornaletto di Pola. This announced the arrival of the new teacher of English and encouraged those students for whom there had not been places available before to come now and enroll.

James Joyce and Nora Barnacle arrived in Pola (now Pula) on October 31, 1904. The School was located next to the Roman Arch, the Porta Aurea, and had about 200 students, most of whom were naval officers. Joyce’s first address there was in via Giulia, 2, II, opposite the School.

In  January, 1905, James and Nora took an apartment in via Medolino 7, upstairs from Alessandro Francini Bruni, the director of the School. While in Pola, the two men collaborated on a translation of "Mildred Lawson", an excerpt from Celibates by George Moore, while Joyce was concurrently teaching Bruni English as Bruni was teaching German and Italian to Joyce.


Unfortunately, Joyce did not like Pola and, probably due to the very cold winter of 1904-05. According to Richard Ellmann's biography, in a letter back to Dublin Joyce wrote: “Pola [Pola was the spelling under the Austro-Hungarian rule] is a back-of-God-speed place – a naval Siberia – 37 men of war in the harbour, swarming with faded uniforms. Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear little red caps and colossal breeches.” Despite his aversion to the town and local inhabitants, this was a productive period. He wrote a number of stories in addition to the translation with Bruni. Several months after Joyce moved to Trieste, Bruni did likewise where he began working as a journalist for Il Piccolo.

jpeg jpeg jpeg jpeg

Where Joyce and Nora lived in Pola, now called Laginina Ulica

This period was also dominated by Joyce's relationship with Nora; like any young couple just beginning to live together, it was characterized by mutual discovery, sexual exploration and the first contrasts and difficulties. James’ letters to his brother Stanislaus Joyce during these months contain some of his earliest evaluations of the woman with whom he had chosen to share his ‘exile’, without perhaps knowing her all that well.

Bronze statue of Jemes Joyce in Pola executed by Mate Čvrljak, a Croatian sculptor from Labin (Albona). [Click to enlarge]



James and Nora left Pola and returned to Trieste on Sunday morning, March 5, 1905. There is no evidence that he was expelled as a foreigner, according to some sources, after a failed plot against the local authorities. Most likely, Artifoni had simply realized that Joyce’s considerable talents could be better used to attract students among the more sophisticated and cosmopolitan population of Trieste, and he summoned him back for that reason. 

The couple settled in Trieste where Joyce gave language lessons and worked on his short stories and a novel. James Joyce was a success with the students of the school, who included several of Trieste's more important personalities ­ noblemen, businessmen and intellectuals. On June 27, 1905 the Joyces' first child, Giorgio, was born.

On 16 October, Joyce wrote to his brother Stanislaus telling him that the director of the school, Almidano Artifoni, had offered him some furniture: "He is very friendly with me because one of my pupils ­ Count Sordina ­ has praised me very highly and brought several real live ladies and gentlemen of his acquaintance to the school". Joyce had already invited his brother to join him in Trieste, telling him that the school was going to need a second English teacher from October 20, and so Stanislaus went to Trieste and he, too, began teaching at the Berlitz. [Almidano Artifoni's name remained in Joyce's imagination: he later used the name for Stephen Dedalus's music teacher, a character who appears twice in the tenth chapter of Ulysses, "The Wandering Rocks."] At the end of October, Stanislaus joined his brother in Trieste and also began teaching at the Berlitz.

Via San Nicolò 32 is the "historic" seat of the Trieste Berlitz School. The school occupied the first floor of this building from 1903 to 1905, but Artifoni had personally received permission to open the local branch of this international language school in 1901. In 1906 the school was moved to the third floor of via San Nicolò 33, where it remained for two years. Between 1909 and 1911 it was situated in via Cassa di Risparmio 1, and from 1912 in via della Sanità 10. At the outbreak of World War I, on November 27, 1914, the Trieste branch of the school was temporarily closed down.

All was not to Joyce's liking at the Berlitz School as indicated in a letter of February 28, 1906 in which Joyce complained to Grant Richards about the salary he received, which he felt was certainly not adequate given the role he was being asked to perform. Over the previous sixteen months, he wrote, he had achieved the delicate task of living and supporting "two other trusting souls" (Nora and Giorgio) on a salary of £80 a year. He must make do with a pittance for every hour spent teaching the Triestines the English language as quickly as possible.

In June 1906 Joyce moved to Rome, working as a clerk in the Nast-Kolb & Schumacher Bank until March of 1907. Disappointed with Rome, they returned to Trieste in March 1907. In 1907 Joyce published a collection of poems, Chamber Music.

On July 26, 1907, Nora gave birth to Lucia Anna in the City Hospital (today "Maggiore") on piazza dell'Ospitale. Built in the 1830’s and still in operation today, Hospital Maggiore had between 1000-1200 beds in Joyce’s time and treated tens of thousands of patients from the entire Kustenland or upper Adriatic region of the Empire.

Being in a ward for paupers, Nora was discharged with her newborn daughter a few days later, and was given 20 crowns in charity. Meanwhile, being ill with rheumatic fever and unable to teach, Joyce resorted to his brother Stanislaus to support the family alone and he was also forced to ask the Berlitz for an advance. Contrary to what has been sustained by many biographers, Joyce was never hospitalized at the City Hospital during his illness that year.

Il Piccolo and Il Piccolo della Sera

In Joyce's time the offices of Il Piccolo were in Palazzo Tonello, at # 1 piazza Carlo Goldoni, a building at the beginning of via Silvio Pellico. In 1907 the acting editor of Il Piccolo della Sera, Roberto Prezioso, asked James, who was then his English teacher, to write a series of articles about Irish topics. He offered him a higher than normal fee because Joyce would have to write in a language which was not his mother tongue and, in particular, because he realised that Joyce's finances were constantly in a disastrous state. The journalist Silvio Benco was given the task of reading over Joyce's drafts and correcting them, but he found very few mistakes. [More on Benco below.]

In 1907 Joyce published three articles: "Fenianism", "Home Rule Comes of Age" and "Ireland at the Bar". Two more followed in 1909: "Bernard Shaw's Battle with the Censor",which he sent from Ireland, and "Oscar Wilde: The Poet of Salomé ". In 1910 he published just one article, "The Home Rule Comet", and in 1912 another three: "The City of the Tribes", "The Mirage of the Fisherman of Aran" and "The Shade of Parnell". In March 1914 Joyce wrote to Formiggini, a publisher based in Genoa, with a proposal that he publish a collection of the articles, but the project came to nothing.

In August 1909 Joyce managed to get to see George Bernard Shaw's The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet for free by presenting himself as a reporter for the Piccolo della Sera. He immediately sent an article to Prezioso and, delighted with the success of this idea, he had business cards printed with his name and the addition "Piccolo della Sera ­ Trieste". He then used one of these cards to obtain a free train ticket to visit Nora's parents in Galway: "I have had cards printed with the indication "P.d.S.­, Trieste" and tomorrow am going to see the Manager of the Midland Rwy," he wrote on August 21 to Stanislaus, and then continued, "I shall say I am on the Italian press and am writing a series of articles on Ireland and try and get a pass to Galway."

Roberto Prezioso, Joyce's student in the Berlitz School and later his private student, was always ready to write a letter of recommendation for his teacher. He did so when Joyce applied for a position in a bank in Rome. The close friendship between Joyce and Prezioso, however, was probably broken in 1911, when the journalist became infatuated with Joyce's wife, Nora. He began to visit her in via della Barriera Vecchia while Joyce was out teaching. Always gallant, one day he risked paying her a more daring compliment than usual ("Il sole si è levato per lei" ­ The sun has risen for you), which he perhaps followed with a kiss. But between Nora and Joyce there were no secrets, and so Joyce had to suffer the anger of a jealous "husband" (the couple, contrary to what the Triestine registry office records, were not legally married until July 4, 1931). In a conversation with Joyce's biographer, Richard Ellmann, the artist Tullio Silvestri recalled having witnessed the argument between Joyce and Prezioso, who could not stop himself from crying. Ellmann says that this happened in "piazza Dante" (which does not exist), but it probably took place in via Dante (in Joyce's time "via Sant'Antonio"), which suggests that the pair probably met in one of their regular haunts, the "Stella Polare" cafè, at the corner between today's via Dante and piazza Sant'Antonio Nuovo.

Joyce would later draw on Roberto Prezioso for the character of Robert Hand in Exiles and to a lesser extent for Blazes Boylan in Ulysses. Prezioso was himself a very interesting character. He was born in Trieste in 1869 of Venetian parents and graduated in law in Bologna. Having settled back in Trieste in 1894, he firstly began to work as a diplomat, as Brazilian vice-Consul, and then, from mid-1898, as acting Consul. (He had earlier written a study of Brazil's economy which earned him an invitation to Brazil from the government of that country and, on his return, the important position in the Consulate.) He began working for Il Piccolo in 1894, initially as a "translator of dispatches and telegrams" (he knew several languages), then as a journalist in 1896. In September of the same year he obtained Austrian citizenship. In 1902, having left the diplomatic world, he was appointed to the position of acting editor of the paper by its owner and chief editor, Teodoro Mayer, who was often away from Trieste. Before Italy's entry into the war against Austria, he was involved in a complicated spying affair, which saw him assume the role of mediator between the Austrian Government and Giolitti (opposition leader in the Italian parliament). He attempted to stop the Italian entry into the war but the negotiations failed and Prezioso was accused of double-crossing by boths sides. Because of his irredentist connections, Prezioso was forced to leave Trieste with his wife in May 1915, and two children and settled in Lombardy where he died in 1930.

Silvio Benco, one of Trieste's most accomplished men of letters - a novelist, journalist, librettist, translator and critic of the arts - wrote several novels, the librettos for operas by the Istrian composer Antonio Smareglia and Malipiero, a 3-volume history of Trieste during World War I, several monographs on Triestine artists and institutions and countless articles on music, painting and literature. As editor for Il Piccolo, he first met Joyce when Roberto Prezioso asked him to proof-read Joyce’s first article in 1907. He later wrote that on this occasion he pointed out what seemed to be an error in Joyce’s Italian but that Joyce defended his text ‘dictionary in hand’ and Benco never bothered him again. Benco wrote one of the first Italian reviews of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in Umana, in 1918  (‘An illustrious English writer in Trieste’) and also wrote one of the first reviews of Ulysses for La Nazione, in 1921. A long article of recollections of Joyce by Benco appeared in Pegaso in 1930.

In his Trieste Diary. Stanislaus mentions that Joyce, who had a fine tenor voice and liked opera and bel canto, sang an aria from Smareglia's Nozze Istriane and Joyce probably saw other productions of the maestro. In fact, Joyce lived across the street from Smareglia in Barriera Vecchia and the two men may have had some contact. Benco mentions Joyce’s admiration for the maestro in a letter to Smareglia in 1912, quoting Joyce as saying that the composer  was the only ‘artist now living in Trieste whose name would still be known one hundred years from now’...

Joyce wrote most of Dubliners, all of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and some episodes of Ulysses while living in Trieste. In addition, Joyce's most famous Triestine writing is Giacomo Joyce. [See below.]

The "Americano" cinema, piazza della Borsa 15 (today 12)

Source: Civici Musei di Storia ed Arte di Trieste.

"Volta" cinema in Dublin.

One of Giuseppe Caris's cinemas was located where today there is a pharmacy. He was one of the Triestine businessmen who became Joyce's partners in the project to open a cinema in Dublin. Another partner, Giovanni Rebez, owned the "Edison" cinema, which was in via Carducci 1. These two had also opened a cinema in Bucharest which had the same name "Volta" as the cinema in Dublin would have. There was also a "Volta" in Trieste in via della Barriera Vecchia 35.

Joyce's pupil and good friend, Nicolò Vidacovich, a Trieste lawyer and fierce irridentist, was the intermediary between Joyce and Antonio Machnich, Giovanni Rebez, Giuseppe Caris and Franceso Novak (from Pirano), and he drew up the contract between the parties. At the first meeting the Irish writer began by saying: "I know of a city of 500,000 inhabitants where there is not a single cinema." He convinced the others and a contract was drawn up on 16 October between James Joyce, Giuseppe Caris, Giovanni Rebez and Caterina Machnich (Antonio's wife). The inauguration of the "Volta" took place in Dublin on December 20, 1909, but things did not go well. By June 14, 1910 the cinema was sold at a loss to the Triestine investors. Joyce made no money out of the ill-fated project.

He returned to Trieste bringing back with him his two sisters Eileen and Eva. Still broke and working as a teacher, tweed salesman, journalist and lecturer. In 1912 he was in Ireland, trying to persuade Maunsel & Co to fulfill their contract to publish Dubliners. The contained a series of short stories, dealing with the lives of ordinary people. The stories deal progressively with youth, adolescence, young adulthood and maturity. The last story, 'The Dead', was adapted into screen by John Huston in 1987.

The Minerva Society

Joyce delivered a series of twelve lectures on Shakespeare's Hamlet in the hall of the Società di Minerva on via Carducci 28 (today 24), 2nd floor. According to the invitation, which announced only ten lectures, the first lecture was scheduled to take place on Monday, November 4, 1912 at 20:15. A look at the newspapers of that year reveals that it actually took place a week later on November 11. The other certain dates are those of the third and twelfth lectures, which were given on December 2 and February 10, respectively. Joyce remembers the lectures in his novel, Giacomo Joyce.

A review of the last lecture was published on page two of Il Piccolo of February 11, 1912:

"Yesterday evening, Dr. James Joyce concluded his cycle of lectures in English on Hamlet. The hall was crowded for all of the twelve lectures. It was apparent that the English colony was quite poorly represented and so the assiduous attendance was firstly a tribute to the lecturer but also to his Italian audience who were capable of following this anything-but-easy text. As Joyce himself mentioned yesterday, he did not wish to make a critical or philosophical appraisal of the play which he read and interpreted. His primary task was to explain words. His original and slightly bizarre genius transformed these potentially dry commentaries into charming causeries . The Elizabethan words, fashions and traditions inspired in the able lecturer, literary and historical memories that fascinated the audience which was his for many hours. Yesterday evening, feeling the need to finish the series off with a critical summary, Joyce read (translated into English) Voltaire's attack on Hamlet and then George Brandes' praise of the same work. We believe that a large section of the audience who were able to follow the lectures will find that they have been stimulated ­ as Joyce hoped ­ to read some of the great Englishman's other plays in English. Joyce was thanked by his audience, yesterday evening, who gave him a warm and prolonged round of applause, which surely could be interpreted as an invitation to repeat the original and highly successful experiment of holding lectures in English for an Italian audience".

The Università Popolare, for which Joyce also lectured in 1907 and 1912, was located at the same address.

The "Revoltella" Business College

At the beginning of 1913 Joyce won a position as English teacher in the "Revoltella" Business College at via Carducci 12, thanks to the recommendations from a number of his important students and friends. He kept the position until the school was temporarily closed in May 1915, but was rehired after his return to Trieste in 1919.

Always quick to enjoy a pun, in a letter of July 25, 1920 to his brother, Joyce called the "Revoltella", which in the meantime had become a university, the "revolver university". Even though he only had to teach one hour a day, six days a week, he did not like the job and he felt he was underpaid.

At the end of the first academic year he was very hard on his students, giving most of them the minimum passing grade (18 out of 30), without (it seems) taking the trouble to examine them all. Before leaving for Paris in 1920, James he tried to arrange for his brother Stanislaus to take over his university position, but Stanislaus had to wait another year before being given the post. He continued teaching in the university until shortly before his death in 1955.

A couple of years after the First World War the "Revoltella" Business College, now a university, moved to via dell'Università 7.

Giacomo Joyce

Joyce wrote most of Dubliners, all of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and some episodes of Ulysses while living in Trieste.as well as his most famous Triestine writing is Giacomo Joyce.

Giacomo Joyce remains the most enigmatic of Joyce’s texts. With the exception of some poems - see P, Giacomo is the only work by Joyce set explicitly in Trieste and due to its inherent contradictions and allusiveness, it presents notable problems for textual analysis. For example, we still do not know the date of composition (presumably between 1912-14), the young female student it was based upon (Amalia Popper, Emma Cuzzi? someone unknown? or, what is most likely, a composite of several persons), Joyce’s intentions (is this a final text? Was it preparatory to a more extensive work or the distillation of a longer work of prose which no longer survives? Was Joyce intending to return to this text at some later date?),  the  exact interrelation of the various segments and the concept of the text as a whole (was it modelled upon some external source such as Dante’s Vita Nuova or Shakespeare’s Sonnets? Is there some sort of coding in the text?).  The manuscript would remain with Stanislaus after Joyce’s departure from Trieste in 1920 and only became known after Ellmann included portions in the first edition of his biography of Joyce. Stanislaus’ widow gave the text to Ellmann as a gift but due to Ellmann’s scruples regarding the person he considered to be the prime model, Amalia Popper, the text was not published until after her death in 1967. 


In any case, Giacomo marks a clear turning-point in Joyce’s writing, both in terms of style and approach and Joyce would return to it often in later years, incorporating many of the individual  segments in his other writings, especially in the last two chapters of Portrait, in the ‘Proteus’, ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ and ‘Circe’ episodes of Ulysses and even in Finnegans Wake, though in a much more indirect manner.

In The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-1920, John McCourt closely follows the life of Joyce during the years that he and Nora lived in Trieste - from 1905 until 1915 (with a brief hiatus in 1907, when they moved to Rome). Throughout the book he describes in detail the places they lived, the jobs Joyce held, the friends they made and the various influences the city had on Joyce's writing. McCourt organized this book chronologically, from the day that Joyce and Nora left Dublin to the day they finally left Trieste sixteen years later. Here are two excerpts on his early days in Trieste and Pola:

In 1912 Joyce returned for the second and last time to Ireland to try to persuade Maunsel & Co to fulfill their contract to publish Dubliners. The work contained a series of short stories, dealing with the lives of ordinary people, youth, adolescence, young adulthood, and maturity. The last story, 'The Dead', was adapted into screen by John Huston in 1987. It was during this time that he was contacted by Ezra Pound, a leading champion of modernist writers who helped organize financial payments to keep Joyce writing during his most poverty-stricken periods.

On June 15, 1914 Dubliners was published, a much-delayed and highly-contested event which took "nine years of my life." Joyce said he merely wished to give the Irish "one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass," and that it wasn't his fault "that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories."

Where the Joyce family had lived in Trieste:

  1. March 1905 - B) Piazza Ponterosso 3, 3rd floor
  2. 1 May 1905 to 24 February 1906 - Via S. Nicolò 30, 2nd floor
  3. 24 February to 30 July 1906 - Via Giovanni Boccaccio 1, 2nd floor
  4. March to November 1907 - Via S. Nicolò 32, c/o Stanislaus Joyce, 3rd floor
  5. 1 December to March 1909 - Via S. Caterina 1, 1st floor
  6. 6 March 1909 to 24 August 1910 - Via Vincenzo Scussa 8, 1st floor
  7. Late August 1910 to early September 1912 - Via Barriera Vecchia 32, 3rd floor
  8. September 1912 to 28 Jun3 1915 - Via Donato Bramante 4, 2nd floor

With the onset of World War I his British passport made him a hostile alien in Trieste which at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Having lived in Trieste for ten years, he was forced in 1915 to move with his family to neutral Switzerland.

Zurich and return to Trieste

Zurich, 1918. Nora Barnacle Joyce with Giorgio and Lucia. (From the Poetry / Rare Books Collection, University Libraries, State University of New York at Buffalo.)


At the end of June 1915 to 1919 Joyce departed with Nora and their two children ­ Giorgio and Lucia ­ for Zurich. There, James completed drafts of the first twelve episodes of Ulysses. During this period he published A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916, and his play Exiles in 1918.

They stayed until their return to Trieste in the autumn of 1919, only to find the city much changed since the war.  From mid-October 1919 to early July 1920 they lived at Via della Sanitá 2, 3rd floor. Their final departure from Trieste took place around July 3-4, 1920, at which time they went to Paris.


On November 17, 1919 American expatriate Sylvia Beach opened her bookshop-library, "Shakespeare and Company," in the Left Bank section of Paris. It quickly became an intellectual and social center for the international literary community and remained so for decades with such notables as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Malcolm Lowry, Samuel Beckett, T. S. Eliot, and Wyndham Lewis. The bookstore closed during World War II when a Nazi officer wanted Beach's last copy of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, but after the war the bookstore was "liberated" by Ernest Hemingway.

James Joyce and Silvia Beach at her Paris book shop "Shakespeare and Company", circa 1920.

Meanwhile, at the urging of Ezra Pound, the Joyce family departed from Trieste around July 3-4, 1920, and headed to Paris where James hoped to find accommodations less chaotic than those in postwar Trieste. He left the handwritten Giacomo Joyce manuscript with his brother Stanislaus. Joyce completed Ulysses in Paris soon afterwards, the influence of his Trieste years apparent in the themes of alienation and displacement, in the carefully-crafted character of Leopold Bloom and his imperfect sense of identity, and also in Molly Bloom’s autonomy.

Joyce intended the move only as a temporary displacement, meant to last no longer than the few months he judged necessary to finish Ulysses. The Joyce family continued to speak Italian, while Joyce labored for many years over Finnegans Wake, a novel that would borrow heavily from the distinct Triestino dialect.

Life in Paris, however, proved more congenial than expected. Among the friends whom Joyce made early in his stay was the bookstore owner and publisher, Sylvia Beach, who agreed to publish Ulysses under her own imprint.

By the time the book appeared on February 2, 1922, Joyce and his family were firmly established in Paris and would remain in the city for the next twenty years. Following the international renown that was accorded Ulysses, Joyce gained the financial patronship of Harriet Shaw and afterwards was able to devote himself exclusively to writing.

On March 11, 1923, James Joyce wrote to his patron that he had just begun "Work in Progress," the book which would become Finnegans Wake sixteen years later. When Nora found out that her husband was "on another book again," she asked if, instead of "that chop suey you're writing," he might not try "sensible books that people can understand."

Becoming Joyce's last literary project, Finnegans Wake would occupy him for seventeen years. In this work, he pushed stylistic experiment as far as it could possibly go—and, in the opinion of many, a good deal further. It is ostensibly the story of H. C. Earwicker, a Dublin pubkeeper whose initials also signify Here Comes Everybody and Haveth Childers Everywhere; his wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle, whose name has roots in Dublin's Liffey River; and their sons, Shem and Shaun.

In this work, Joyce seeks to capture the dream state through the creation of a language that goes beyond mere English, a language in which every sentence is a multileveled, densely packed, endlessly reconnecting and reverberating series of multilingual puns. Joyce was now the most celebrated avant-garde writer in the world, and as portions of his Work in Progress, as it was provisionally called, appeared from time to time in pamphlet form, it produced both head-scratching incomprehension and passionate defense and interpretation. In small bits it can be entertaining ("Americans are jung and easily freudened") and even evocative (Joyce himself made a marvelous recording of a brief excerpt in 1932), but there are not many people who can work their way through its hundreds of pages.

On June 27, 1928, Sylvia Beach hosted a dinner party so that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who "worshipped James Joyce, but was afraid to approach him," might do so. Out of nervousness or champagne (he was an alcoholic), Fitzgerald greeted his hero by dropping down on one knee, kissing his hand, and declaring, "How does it feel to be a great genius, Sir? I am so excited at seeing you, Sir, that I could weep."

Joyce after another eye operation. Photograph by Berenice Abbott, Man Ray's famous assistant who later developed a substantial career of her own.

Though free from poverty, these years were darkened by the worsening insanity - presumed schizophrenia - of Joyce's daughter Lucia, who spent much of her adult life confined in a series of clinics and asylums, and by surgical attempts to save his failing eyesight caused by glaucoma. He underwent surgery eleven times and was often blind at short intervals.

On July 4, 1931 he and Nora Joyce were married at a registry office in London “for testamentary reasons.” On 29 December Joyce’s father, John Stanislaus Joyce, died in Dublin at the age of 82. On February 15, of the following year, his grandson, Stephen James Joyce, was born, followed in March by his daughter Lucia Joyce's mental breakdown, the first serious indication of her schizophrenia.

On August 7, 1934, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling allowing James Joyce's Ulysses, which was being "book-legged" into America. This enabled Random House to issue the first U.S. edition, over a decade after Sylvia Beach's original Paris edition; according to Random House editor Bennett Cerf, the case hinged entirely and hilariously upon one of these smuggled Beach editions.

Finnegans Wake appeared on May 4, 1939 after seventeen years of planning, writing and revising, but then came the onset of the Second World War. Late in 1940, after the German Army had occupied Paris, Joyce and his family left for the south of France to await permission to again enter neutral Switzerland.

Return to Zurich

Three weeks after their arrival in Zurich, minus Lucia whose passport had expired, Joyce underwent surgery for peritonitis, caused by a perforated duodenal ulcer. After an apparently successful operation, Joyce lapsed into a coma, and he died at 2:15 on the morning of January 13, 1941 at the Red Cross Hospital, and then buried in the Fluntern Cemetery in Zurich. The hospital was demolished and is currently a building site, but just opposite it is the University Hospital where there’s an installation commemorating Joyce by the Swiss artist Hannes Vogel. ‘Dick and Davy’ reads the brash neon sign in the medical students’ cafeteria named after two of Joyce’s medical-student characters.

Nora, who survived her husband by ten years and was originally buried in a separate grave, now rests with him in an honorary grave organized by the City of Zurich in 1966. Joyce’s son, Giorgio and his second wife are also buried there.

Details of statue by American sculptor Milton Hebald that was placed at Joyce family gravesite, Fluntern Cemetery, Zurich, Switzerland on Bloomsday 1966. (Click to see the entire gravesite)

The grave is set among birches and greenery in a quiet corner of Fluntern Cemery in Zurich. The zoo is close by and it comforted Nora in a childlike way to think of her "poor Jim" buried within hearing distance of the roars of the lions. Of all the strange, often beautiful sculptures placed on the graves in Fluntern, American sculptor Milton Hebald’s evocative statue of Joyce (inaugurated on Bloomsday, 1966, twenty-five years after his death), has a special grace. Joyce is depicted in characteristic pose, deep in conversation, head tilted, one leg resting on the other knee, cigarette poised, slim cane delicately balanced.

The politely worded sign requesting visitors not to walk on the surrounding grass is an indicator of the volume of visitors who come to pay their respects to an artist who used the broken ‘heaventalk’ of an Irish city to articulate ‘all the sorrow and muddle which pertains to life and death.’ Given Joyce’s lifelong struggle with narrow-mindedness, grinding poverty, chaotic domestic arrangements and threatened blindness one breathes a sigh of relief that at last he can rest with his close family members in a city that reveres him. [See: James Joyce's Zurich]

A bronze bust of Joyce, the work of the sculptor Marcello Mascherini, was unveiled in the Public Gardens in Trieste on via Giulia on February 2, 1982 as part of the celebrations organized for the centenary of the writer, which is suggestive of Joyce's own Ar's birth. It stands between the busts of Joyce's friend and student Italo Svevo and the poet Umberto Saba. Joyce's face was significantly enclosed in a stylized Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

It is not far from there that Stanislaus Joyce's last Trieste address is to be found at number 13 via Fabio Severo. Stanislaus officially retired from his position as an associate professor of English at the University of Trieste on 27 May 1955, when he delivered a lecture entitled "The Meeting of Joyce and Svevo." He died shortly afterwards, on June 16, 1955, Bloomsday.

A new statue of James Joyce was unveiled on October 19, 2004 on the bridge over the Canale Grande in Trieste looking towards where he used to live at the Piazza Ponterosso. See: Gallery of Statues and Busts

Still today, Joyce is considered the most prominent English-speaking literary figure of the first half of the twentieth century. His virtuoso experiments in prose contributed to a redefinition of the form of the modern novel. Some critics have asserted that Joyce's facility with language equals that of William Shakespeare or John Milton.

See also: Commemorations


  • http://www.calvertonschool.org/waldspurger/pages/james_joyce.htm
  • University of Trieste, James Joyce - Triestine Itineraries (English): http://www.univ.trieste.it/~nirdange/netjoyce/e_netjoyce/e_index.html#houses and Itinerari triestini (Italiano): http://www.univ.trieste.it/~nirdange/netjoyce/indice.html
  • Rete Civica Trieste, Joyce Museum - http://www.retecivica.trieste.it/joyce/default.asp?tabella_padre=sezioni&ids=2&tipo=blocchi_sezioni_2&pagina=- (English) and http://www.retecivica.trieste.it/joyce_ita/default.asp?tabella_padre=sezioni&ids=2&tipo=blocchi_sezioni_2&pagina=-" (Italiano)
  • Photographs (statues) - courtesy of Mario Majarich
  • Photographs (Trieste statue, front view) - http://www.meganobeirne.com/james-joyce-pictures.htm
  • Photograph - Beach bookstore - http://www.themodernword.com/joyce/joyce_amazon.html
  • Photographs and text - XVIII International James Joyce Symposium, Joyce 2002: "Mediterranean Joyce", Stazione Marittima, Trieste, Italy - Joycean Pics 2002 - http://www.iwate-pu.ac.jp/~acro-ito/Joyce_pics2002/Joyce2002aTRS1/imageidx.html
  • Painting, Barrie Maguire gallery - http://www.maguiregallery.com/barrie/joyce.htm
  • http://www.todayinliterature.com/biography/james.joyce.asp
  • Drawing - http://www.units.it/~nirdange/school/99.html
  • http://occawlonline.pearsoned.com/bookbind/pubbooks/kennedycompact_awl/chapter28/deluxe.html
  • Portrait detail - http://knowledgerush.com/kr/biography/263/James_Joyce/
  • Gravesite photo - http://www.ballantinesbiz.com/green/Milton-Hebald-Sculptor-092208.htm
  • Gravesite photo - http://laurenbdavis.blogspot.com/2008/09/graveyards-james-joyce-heaventalk.html
  • Gravesite photo - http://blog.syracuse.com/shelflife/2008/06/basil_dillonmalone_of_liverpoo.html

Other sites:

  • The International James Joyce Foundation - http://english.osu.edu/organizations/ijjf/
  • The Ninth Annual Trieste Joyce School - http://www.units.it/~nirdange/school/index.html
  • James Joyce Resources - http://www.studiocleo.com/librarie/joyce/resources.html
  • James Joyce Center - http://www.jamesjoyce.ie/home/
  • James Joyce The Modern World - http://www.themodernword.com/joyce/joyce_links.html
  • James Joyce Society - http://www.joycesociety.org/links.html
  • James Joyce at Cornell - http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/joyce/earlylife/index.html

Main Menu

Created: Tuesday, July 5, 2005; Last Updated: Thursday, August 06, 2015
Copyright © 1998 IstriaNet.org, USA