On 10 November 1926 Joyce heard about the suicide of his brother-in-law Frantisek Schaurek.
Frantisek Schaurek married Eileen Joyce in Trieste in 1915. A bank clerk, it seems he had been embezzling the bank’s money and he committed suicide in November 1926.
Frantisek Schaurek, who was Czech, worked as a cashier in a bank in Trieste, and met Eileen while he was taking English lessons from Joyce. They became engaged in April 1914 and married a year later with Joyce acting as Schaurek’s best man. Shortly afterwards, Eileen and her husband went to Prague where they remained during the First World War. The couple had three children: Bozena, Eleonora, and Patrizio.
The Schaureks returned to Trieste after the war and shared an apartment with Stanislaus Joyce. When Joyce and his family returned to Trieste in 1919, they too moved into the Schaurek’s apartment, creating tensions with Stanislaus and Schaurek.
By the mid-1920s it seems that Schaurek had begun embezzling money at the Zivnostenska Banka where he worked and, in November 1926, while Eileen was in Dublin, he committed suicide. Joyce heard the news from Stanislaus on 10 November. At the same time, Eileen, unaware of her husband’s death, sent Joyce a request for money to help with the journey back to Trieste.
Joyce wrote straight away to Stanislaus for more information about what had happened to Schaurek and to say he was having difficulty raising the money for Eileen who was already making her way back to Trieste via Paris. (Just days before, Joyce had sent a gift of 6000 lira to Stanislaus and his fiancée Nelly Lichtensteiger.)
As Eileen passed through Paris she spent some time with Joyce who could not bring himself to tell her that her husband had committed suicide. By the time she arrived back in Trieste, Schaurek had already been buried and, in the absence of a corpse, Eileen refused to believe that her husband was dead. It was necessary for the corpse to be exhumed in order to convince her, after which she collapsed.
Eileen and her children remained in Trieste living with Stanislaus until the beginning of March 1928 when they moved back to Ireland.
Sources & Further Reading:
Delimata, Bozena Berta: ‘Reminiscences of a Joyce Niece,’ edited by Virginia Moseley, in James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 1 (Fall 1981), pp. 45-62.
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
McCourt, John: The Years of Bloom – James Joyce and Trieste, 1904-1920, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2000.
Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Shloss, Carol Loeb: Lucia Joyce – To Dance in the Wake, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.