Biography of Irish Author James Joyce Part 2

About the famous Irish writer James Joyce, biography and history of the author of Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake.


JAMES JOYCE (1882-1941)

Eleven months after the outbreak of W.W. I, Joyce and his family fled to Zurich to escape internment by the Austrian government. At this time he began work on the novel which was to ensure his fame--Ulysses. A contradictory man, highly superstitious and opinionated yet a master of linguistics and a formidable intellectual, Joyce attracted a coterie of supporters who financed him during the seven years it took him to complete Ulysses. Unfortunately, Joyce had inherited his father's fiscal irresponsibility, and money seemed to slip through his fingers.

Always troubled by myopia, Joyce's eyesight worsened considerably and he was forced to undergo 25 operations to try to arrest the glaucoma and cataracts which were robbing him of his vision. Although at times completely blind, he pressed ahead with his writing.

Meanwhile, one of his most generous benefactors, Harriet Shaw Weaver, took it upon herself to publish A Portrait of the Artist. Impressed by literary praise of this first novel, the American Little Review chanced the publication of chapters from Ulysses, printing 23 installments before the work was banned in 1920--a ban which remained in effect until 1933.

The expatriate American poet Ezra Pound had developed a great interest in Joyce, and in 1920 he invited him to move to Paris. Joyce accepted and Pound managed to persuade Sylvia Beach, owner of a famous American bookstore in Paris, to publish Ulysses in 1922. Already notorious, Ulysses was an immediate success. Modeled loosely after the Homeric structure of the Odyssey, Ulysses chronicles a single day in the life of three Dubliners. Although praised for its vivid characterization and breadth of humor, its complex stream-of-consciousness technique and remote symbology make it difficult for the average reader to understand. Joyce's sequel novel, Finnegans Wake, was 17 years in the making. Written in a "dream dialect" that makes use of many languages, Finnegans Wake is even more obscure than Ulysses, often to the point of becoming nearly indecipherable.

During his last years, Joyce's physical deterioration was coupled with great personal anguish over his daughter's lapse into schizophrenia, which necessitated her hospitalization. In her mental turmoil she had become obsessed with the fact that her parents had never married, so in an effort to appease her, Joyce and Nora were finally wed in 1931.

Joyce maintained his residence in Paris until France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940. He and Nora then moved back to Zurich, where he died from a perforated ulcer in 1941 at the age of 59. In the years after his death, Joyce was enshrined as the master innovator of modern fiction, and Ulysses was heralded as a ground-breaking novel. Considering Joyce's supreme confidence in the merit of his work, perhaps he would not be surprised that the book which initially had been met with such outrage would in a few decades become standard fare in college courses throughout the world.

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