On 30 June 1915 Joyce arrived in Zurich.
Having been issued with an exit permit for himself and his family to leave Trieste, Joyce took the train to Switzerland, arriving in Zurich on 30 June 1915. He was to remain in Zurich for the duration of the war, and returned to Trieste only in October 1919.
At the time, Joyce was a British citizen living in what was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When Britain declared war on Austria in August 1914, his position became insecure. Joyce and his brother Stanislaus had extensive contacts amongst the irredentist Italian population in Trieste which made them suspicious to the Austrian authorities. As a result, Stanislaus was arrested in January 1915 and interned in a concentration camp for the duration of the war.
Joyce was suspended from his position as a teacher at the Scuola Revoltella in September 1914, and his reinstatement in February 1915 was only on a temporary basis since he wasn’t an Austrian citizen. With the Italian declaration of war on Austria and the closure of the Scuola Revoltella in May, Joyce’s situation became ever more tenuous. Even so, he was making progress on his new novel, and on 16 June he wrote to Stanislaus that he had finished the first chapter of Ulysses.
By the end of June his situation had become untenable. With assistance from some of his pupils, he obtained an exit permit for himself and his family in return for a pledge that he would remain neutral. He raised some money on his furniture to pay the fare and the expenses of the journey, but was able to bring little with him. The furniture and his library had to be left behind.
In letters he wrote after arriving in Zurich, Joyce claimed that the journey from Trieste had been adventurous. They stopped in Zurich because it was the first big town after they crossed the frontier, and initially they stayed at the Gasthaus Hoffnung on Reitergasse. Joyce and Nora had stayed there before in October 1904 when Joyce had come to Zurich in anticipation of a teaching post at the Berlitz School there. Once again, in 1915 he was hoping to find work giving English lessons but for the moment the family survived on money sent to them by Nora’s uncle, Michael Healy.
Joyce remained in Zurich until October 1919, and a significant part of Ulysses was written there. By the time Joyce returned to Trieste in 1919, he had completed Ulysses as far as the end of the ‘Cyclops’ episode, and versions of the episodes up to and including ‘Sirens’ had already been published in the Little Review.
Sources & Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, London: Faber & Faber, 1957; vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.