1882 - 1941
James Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882. His middle-class background, and traditional education at Clongowes College and University College Dublin, where he studied modern languages, seem an unlikely preparation for one of the world’s most radical and influential writers. His dedication to, or obsession with, his art is legendary. He spent about eight years writing his novel Ulysses, based on the events of a single day in Dublin, June 16, 1904 (‘Bloomsday’). Then, for good measure, he spent about sixteen years writing Finnegans Wake, based on the events of a single night! Joyce boasted that if Dublin were destroyed, it could be recreated from his works. They have been translated into most languages, but Dublin wits say Finnegans Wake is so difficult to read that it is about time it was translated into English, so they could read it!
Joyce dined as often as possible in the best restaurants during his many years of wandering around Europe, where he did little else except write about Dublin. Its restaurants and pubs are prominent in his works. Mulligan’s pub in Poolbeg Street is central to the short story, ‘Counterparts’ (a reproduction of the exterior is in front of the main bar). In Ulysses, Guinness is called ‘wine of the country’ and consumed in copious quantities. But, curiously for an Irishman, especially then, Joyce’s favourite drink was a Swiss white wine, Fendant de Soin.
James died in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1941 after almost 40 years in exile.
- Richard Wall