James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, 1882 - 1941

portrait of James Joyce
Photo by C. Ruf, Zurich (ca. 1918)
James Joyce signature

Born: 2 February 1882, Rathgar, Ireland
Died: 13 January 1941, Zürich, Switzerland

Joyce was born in a suburb of Dublin, the eldest of ten surviving children in a wealthy family that soon came on hard times through his father's drinking. He wrote his first poem at age nine, about the time that his father appeared in Stubbs Gazette, the official registry of bankruptcies and lost his job. Joyce had started at Clongowes Wood College in 1988, but four years later the family was unable to pay tuition. He studied at home for a while, then was offered entry to Belvedere College, a Jesuit school where it was hoped Joyce would join the order. Instead, while appreciating the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas he rejected Christianity. He entered University College Dublin in 1898, studying languages and was active in literary and dramatic groups. After graduating in 1903 he went to Paris to study medicine but couldn't keep up with the technical lectures in French. He eked out a living by reviewing books, teaching, and singing tenor and attempted to publish A Portrait of the Artist, a concept that he recrafted into the novel Stephen Hero, also not published in his lifetime, and finally released as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916. He met Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid from Connemara, and they first went out on 16 June 1904, the date which would be the focus of Ulysses much later. After falling out with a roommate he and Nora left for Zürich, they actually married in 1931. He was teaching English at Pola (now in Croatia) when the course of the war caused the Austrians to expel all foreigners, he then moved back to Trieste, then Rome. His early work attracted support from a number of authors and other literary friends who supported him in various ways. After the war he moved to Paris and spent the last twenty years of his life there. He had severe eye problems, returning to Switzerland at least nine times for surgery and being completely blind at several points. He had completed Ulysses just before his 40th birthday but five hundred copies sent to America were seized by the postal authorities for obscenity, the same number were reprinted for him by friends, these were seized by authorities in England. The book was not cleared for sale in either country until 1931. AFter completing Finnegan's Wake he was forced to return to Zürich when the Nazis occupied Paris. On 11 January 1941 he was operated on for a perforated ulcer but lapsed into a coma the following day, and died a quarter hour after he regained consciousness. Ireland didn't want his body returned to the homeland he hadn't visited for almost twenty years, he is buried near the Zürich zoo.

Biography from Wikipedia and Authors' Calendar

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