On this day…14 December

On 14 December 1940 Joyce and his family left France for Switzerland.

Having finally sorted out the necessary exit permits from France and visas for Switzerland, Joyce, his wife Nora, their son George, and grandson Stephen left France for Switzerland. After living in France for twenty years, this was Joyce’s last day in there.

The preparations for the exit had not gone smoothly. Their British passports had to be extended, and their Swiss visas, due to expire on 15 December, had to be extended too. It had been suggested that they obtain Irish passports which might have made things easier, but Joyce decided against that.

Lucia’s permission to leave occupied France had expired at the beginning of December, but Joyce decided that it would be easier to deal with her transfer to Switzerland once he arrived there himself. Leaving Lucia behind must have been doubly poignant for Joyce who had named her after St Lucy, the patron saint of eyesight, whose feast day was 13 December, the day before they left France.

At the last minute, George managed to organise a car and driver to take them and their baggage to St-Germain-des-Fossés where they would meet the train at 3am on the morning of 14 December. This train brought them to Aix-les-Bains, mentioned in Finnegans Wake in the line ‘I want to go to Aches-les-Pains.’ The train went on from there to the Swiss border, arriving five hours late.

At the border, the Swiss wanted payment of duty on Stephen Joyce’s bicycle. Since the Joyces couldn’t put up the money demanded they had to leave the bicycle behind and promise Stephen he’d get a new one. The train, finally, arrived at 10pm in Geneva where the Joyces stayed the night at the Hôtel Richemond.

On 15 December they continued their journey as far as Lausanne where they stayed at the Hôtel de la Paix. Joyce had to send a telegram to Monro Saw, the solicitors in England, asking them to send £50. He also visited the maison de santé at Corcelles-sur-Chavornay where he was hoping to find a place for Lucia when she arrived from France. Returning to Lausanne, Joyce met Jacques Mercanton who read him a review of Finnegans Wake which had been published in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

Finally, on 15 December, the family made the last part of their journey to Zurich, arriving there on 17 December.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.