On this day…3 January

On 3 January 1920 Joyce wrote to Frank Budgen.

Living in Trieste again, Joyce felt keenly the distance from Frank Budgen with whom he had shared the development of Ulysses during his time in Zurich. In this letter of 3 January 1920, Joyce described the unpleasant situation he was living in, but also his work on the ‘Nausicaa’ episode of Ulysses.

The Joyces had left Zurich in mid-October 1920 and travelled back to Trieste where they shared an apartment with Joyce’s sister Eileen and her husband and children, and with Stanislaus Joyce who had been released from internment in Austria after the war. Joyce wasn’t particularly welcome in the crowded apartment, and he also missed friends like Budgen who had been so supportive in Trieste.

The Scuola Revoltella where Joyce had taught before the War had now been upgraded to a university and Joyce had been reappointed there, but the prospect of having to start lessons again was unpleasant as it would eat into his writing time. But he needed the money. He was paying his brother-in-law half rent plus something towards coal and gas, and the Joyces they fed themselves. ‘Writing Ulysses,’ he said, ‘is a tough job enough without all this.’

Apart from everything else there was the boredom: no one to talk to about Bloom. Stanislaus thought Ulysses was a joke, and in any case he was too busy living his own life to take much interest in his brother’s novel. Joyce asked if there was any chance Budgen might consider coming to Trieste, and was desperate enough to offer to pay half the fare, but he also realised he was being selfish in suggesting such a troublesome and unprofitable move.

For six weeks after his return to Trieste, Joyce said, he had not written or read or spoken, but then he decided this couldn’t go on and  had resumed work on ‘Nausicaa’ which he now hoped to finish in time for his birthday. Joyce ended his letter to Budgen with a description of the style in which ‘Nausicaa’ was being written, ‘a namby-pamby jammy drawersy (alto là) style with effects of incense, Mariolatry, masturbation, stewed cockles, painter’s palette, chit chat, circumlocution, etc., etc. Not so long as the others.’


Sources & Further Reading:

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I edited by Stuart Gilbert, London: Faber & Faber, 1957.