On 6 September 1931 Joyce wrote to Michael Joyce about a story of his published in the Frankfurter Zeitung.
The story by Michael Joyce had been published under the name James Joyce, and Joyce saw an opportunity to pursue the Frankfurter Zeitung for compensation for the misuse of his name. In the end, Joyce’s own solicitors told him to drop the case.
The story, ‘Perchance to Dream,’ by Michael Joyce had been published in the London Mercury no. 134 in December 1930. Translated into German by Irene Kafka, it was published under the title ‘Vielleicht ein Traum’ in the Frankfurter Zeitung on 19 July 1931, but was attributed to James Joyce, “the author of the great English novel Ulysses.” Joyce heard about it from Daniel Brody, his German-language publisher, who felt Joyce’s name had been forged.
Joyce suspected that neither Michael Joyce nor Irene Kafka actually existed and he considered the publication of the story an outrageous misuse of his name. He claimed to have contacted all the literary agencies in London but that none had ever heard of a Michael Joyce. Nor was there any trace of a Michael Joyce in the British Museum’s catalogue going back eighty years.
The Frankfurter Zeitung printed a correction in which they claimed the mistake had been made by Irene Kafka, but she contacted Monro Saw and Company, Joyce’s London solicitors, to say that the mistake had been made by her new secretary. Michael Joyce also wrote to Joyce saying the error was regrettable, and Joyce replied that he thought Michael Joyce had been treated as badly as he had by the Frankfurter Zeitung.
Joyce felt the Frankfurter Zeitung’s correction did not go far enough and Ernst Hitschmann, a German lawyer, contacted the paper seeking a further, more detailed apology without success. Joyce decided to sue the Frankfurter Zeitung, and Monro Saw contacted Dr Willi Rothschild in Frankfurt about the case. Rothschild’s advice was that the maximum payment for damages in such a case was £25, and that it would appear vindictive and beneath Joyce’s dignity to hound the newspaper and the translator for such an amount over a small error.
Despite this advice, Joyce wrote again to Monro Saw asking them to communicate his thoughts to Dr Rothschild, but Fred Monro replied to Joyce pointing out numerous errors of fact in Joyce’s letter and refusing to take the case any further. Joyce estimated that he had spent £48 on legal fees and expenses, and had nothing to show for it.
In Finnegans Wake, there is a reference to “the Frankofurto Siding, a Fastland payrodicule.”
Sources& Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. 1 edited by Stuart Gilbert, vol. III edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.