James Joyce

James Joyce - Domaine Public
James Joyce - Domaine Public

James Joyce (1882-1941) is a famous Irish novelist and poet. Considered an emblematic figure of twentieth-century Irish literature, James Joyce was the author of many works, including numerous novels, collections of poems and other critically acclaimed short stories and essays. James Joyce’s life was mainly marked by alcoholism, abuse, and lack of money. His writings are and will forever be a testament to the greatness of his talent.

Biography of James Joyce

A real passion for literature…

James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882 in Dublin. He grew up in a large family, with 11 children and two Catholic parents, including an alcoholic father. His youth was deeply marked by literature: Joyce loved reading very early on and devoured many works.

In 1888, Joyce joined the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College (Co. Kildare), where she began her studies. The financial difficulties then experienced by her family forced her to leave the establishment in 1892, to integrate successively 2 other less expensive Jesuit establishments.

During these years, Joyce discovered the joys of literature and began to write. As early as 1891, at the age of 10, he wrote his first poem (“Et Tu Healy“), dedicated to the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. His parents encouraged him in his path, and had it printed and sent a copy to the Vatican.

As the years went by, Jesuit education began to weigh heavily on Joyce. He hated religious instruction and refused Catholic authority, to the great displeasure of his establishment where he had been offered to join the Jesuit order. This decision provoked strong reactions in his family, but this categorical refusal to accept religion was more than a mere adolescent whim: Joyce would deny it for the rest of her life…

In 1898, Joyce entered the University of Dublin. There he studied literature and foreign languages, took an interest in theatre and wrote numerous literary reviews. He rubbed shoulders with Dublin’s literary circles and maintained an active life marked by intellectual exchanges and readings of works from all walks of life.

James Joyce begins a life of debauchery, booze and debt…

After graduating, Joyce decided to discover the world and set out to conquer Paris, with the aim of starting medical studies.

But Joyce soon gives up teaching and starts a dissolute life where he starts drinking and takes advantage of all possible abuses. It was only after a few months that he was forced to return to Ireland due to his financial troubles.

He then finds a sick and dying mother with a devastating cancer and decides to stay with her until her death. He began to write a variety of works, ranging from simple reviews to book reviews. In 1904, he decided to write his own autobiography and called it “Portrait of the Artist“, which was later reworked and renamed “Dedalus“.

In the months that follow, Joyce meets Nora Barnacle, a maid with whom he falls in love. They both decide to leave Ireland, to go to Zurich, Pola and then Trieste. Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School for 11 years, also took private lessons, had a son and a daughter, and travelled back and forth between Trieste and Dublin. It was during this time that Joyce experienced health problems that resulted in severe eye problems.

In 1914, Joyce wrote the novel “The People of Dublin“, one of the major works that will consecrate him as a writer.

In 1915, the troubles of the First World War forced him to flee from Tieste to Zurich, where he met the publisher Harriet Shaw Weaver, who later became his patron.

After several years marked by strong eye problems (of which he was operated 12 times), and by the destructive schizophrenia of his daughter, Joyce is invited to Paris by Ezra Pound, for a week. Charmed by the city, he stays there for 20 years, meets many literary circles and publishes successively “Ulysses” (1922), and “Finnegans Wake” (1939), both highly acclaimed by the critics.

It wasn’t until January 11, 1941, that James Joyce was hospitalized in a critical condition and fell into a coma. Doctors diagnosed him with a perforated duodenal ulcer. On January 13, 1941, he managed to wake up, asked for his wife’s presence, but died a few hours later, before she could join him.

Incinerated in Zurich, James Joyce was considered to be a talented writer who left a profound mark on the 20th century.

Quotes from James Joyce

  • Man and woman, what is love? A cork and a bottle. (Ulysses)
  • Reproduction is the beginning of death. (Ulysses)

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