James Joyce (1882 – 1941) is one of Ireland’s most influential and celebrated writers. His most famous work is Ulysses (1922) which follows the movements of Leopold Bloom through a single day on June 16th, 1904. Ulysses is based on Homer’s The Odyssey.
Some of Joyce’s other major works include the short story collection Dubliners (1914), and novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). Joyce was born in Dublin on 2nd February 1882 and attended school in Clongowes Wood College and Belvedere College (just up the road from the Centre) before going on to University College, then located on St Stephen’s Green, where he studied modern languages.
After graduating from university, Joyce went to Paris, ostensibly to study medicine, and was recalled to Dublin in April 1903 because of the illness and subsequent death of his mother. He stayed in Ireland until 1904, and in June that year he met Nora Barnacle, the Galway woman who was to become his partner and later his wife.
In August 1904 the first of Joyce’s short stories was published in the Irish Homestead magazine, followed by two others, but in October Joyce and Nora left Ireland going first to Pola (now Pula, Croatia) where Joyce got a job teaching English at a Berlitz school. After he left Ireland in 1904, Joyce only made four return visits, the last of those in 1912, after which he never returned to Ireland.
1914 proved a crucial year for Joyce. With Ezra Pound’s assistance, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce’s first novel, began to appear in serial form in Harriet Weaver’s Egoist magazine in London. His collection of short stories, Dubliners, on which he had been working since 1904, was finally published, and he also wrote his only play, Exiles. It was after these successes that Joyce began to think seriously about writing the novel he had been formulating since 1907: Ulysses.
With the start of World War One, Joyce and Nora, along with their two children, Giorgio and Lucia, were forced to leave Trieste and arrived in Zurich where they lived for the duration of the war. It was during this time that Joyce worked on Ulysses and included many characteristics of those around him in the characters of the book. Though Joyce wanted to settle in Trieste again after the War, the poet Ezra Pound persuaded him to come to Paris for a while, and Joyce stayed there for the next twenty years.
It was in Paris that Joyce met Sylvia Beach, an American ex-pat who helped him to publish Ulysses for the first time in 1922. From 1930, after Beach had relinquished the rights to Ulysses, Joyce became very close with Paul Léon, another ex-pat living in Paris. Léon became Joyce’s business advisor and close friend and helped him to publish his final book Finnegans Wake in 1939.
In 1940, when Joyce fled to the south of France ahead of the Nazi invasion, Léon returned to the Joyces’ apartment in Paris to salvage their belongings and put them into safekeeping for the duration of the war. It’s thanks to Léon’s efforts that many of Joyce’s personal possessions and manuscripts still survive today. James Joyce died at the age of fifty-eight, on 13 January 1941 in Schwesterhaus vom Roten Kreuz in Zurich where he and his family had been given asylum. He is buried in Fluntern cemetery, Zurich.