On this day…30 October

On 30 October 1904 Joyce arrived in Pola.

Having first gone to Zurich and then to Trieste in hope of getting a position at a Berlitz School, Joyce finally received an appointment in Pola (now Pula, Croatia) where he and Nora arrived on Sunday 30 October 1904. They remained in Pola until 5 March 1905.

Pola was then the main harbour for the Austro-Hungarian navy. Almidano Artifoni, who ran the Berlitz School in Trieste, had just opened a new school there intending to attract navy officers and sailors as students, and he was there to greet Joyce and Nora after their four-hour boat journey down the coast from Trieste.

Joyce’s arrival was announced in an advertisement placed by Artifoni in Il Giornaletto di Pola on 31 October 1904 announcing the arrival of the new English teacher for the benefit of those officers and state employees who had not be able to sign up previously. Joyce was paid £2 a week for sixteen hours of lessons at the School.

The Joyces set up home at via Giulia 2 just across the road from the Berlitz School, and Nora, who was already pregnant, cooked lunch and dinner, after which they would go to the Caffè Miramar for the evening and read the Paris Figaro. Relations were not always smooth between the couple: there is even a note written by Joyce sitting at a table at the Caffè Miramar to Nora, apparently sitting at another table, asking that there be no unpleasantness between them that evening.

When they arrived in Pola, the weather was still summery enough for Joyce to be pestered by mosquitoes at night, but the weather soon turned cold and Joyce took to spending more of his time at the Caffè Miramar, a warmer spot than their apartment. In January they moved into a bigger and warmer apartment on the via Medolino, where they lived with Alessandro Francini Bruni, director of the Pola Berlitz School with whom Joyce attempted a translation of Moore’s story ‘Mildred Lawson.’

Joyce, still getting used to his voluntary exile, continued his efforts to get his book of poems, Chamber Music, published despite the fact that Grant Richards, to whom it had been sent, had gone bankrupt. Joyce also continued his writing: in a notebook that he had earlier used in Paris, Joyce began to make notes on aesthetics which he later used in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

When he arrived in Pola Joyce had just completed another Dubliners story, ‘Christmas Eve,’ which he re-wrote in Pola in January 1905 as ‘Hallow Eve’ and which eventually became ‘Clay.’ He had also just finished chapter twelve of the projected sixty-three chapters of Stephen Hero, and while in Pola he wrote another six chapters. But he disliked some of what he’d written, and was already thinking of changing the name of the book.

Joyce was also reading a lot while in Trieste, including Tolstoy’s Resurrection, Moore’s The Untilled Field and Celibates, as well as works by Maria Corelli, Sir Max Pemberton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jens Peter Jacobsen, and Henrik Ibsen among others. Joyce also discovered that his rather formal and antiquated Italian meant that he could barely understand the local dialect, and so he had to make efforts to learn it. He also started learning German, and Nora took up French in the hope that they would soon move to Paris, the only city she had liked so far.

By December, with the cold beginning to bite, Joyce was expressing his dislike of Pola in letters to his brother and, on New Year’s Eve, to his Aunt Josephine, where he refers to Pola as a ‘naval Siberia,’ and despairs of its hundreds of races and thousands of languages, its ineffective parliament, the warships, and the faded uniforms everywhere.

Whether because of a spy scandal in Pola, or whether because he requested a transfer, Joyce returned to Trieste at the beginning of March 1905 to take up a post at the Berlitz School there.


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, vol. II edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.

McCourt, John: The Years of Bloom – James Joyce in Trieste, 1904-1920, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2000.