January 13, 1941
ZURICH, Switzerland, Monday, Jan 13 - James Joyce, Irish author whose "Ulysses" was the center of one of the most bitter literary controversies of modern times, died in a hospital here early today despite the efforts of doctors to save him by blood transfusions. He would have been 59 years old Feb. 2.
Joyce underwent an intestinal operation Saturday afternoon at the Schwesternhaus von Rotenkreuz Hospital. For a time he appeared to be recovering. Only yesterday his son reported him to have been cheerful and apparently out of danger.
During the afternoon, however, the writer suffered a sudden relapse and sank rapidly. He died at 2:15 A.M. (8:15 P.M., Eastern standard time).
His wife and son were at the hospital when he died.
Hailed and Belittled by Critics
The status of James Joyce as a writer never could be determined in his lifetime. In the opinion of some critics, notably Edmund Wilson, he deserved to rank with the great innovators of literature as one whose influence upon other writers of his time was incalculable. On the other hand, there were critics like Max Eastman who gave him a place with Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot among the "Unintelligibles" and there was Professor Irving Babbitt of Harvard who dismissed his most widely read novel, "Ulysses," as one which only could have been written "in an advanced stage of psychic disintegration."
Originally published in 1922, "Ulysses" was not legally available in the United States until eleven years later, when United States Judge John Monro Woolsey handed down his famous decision to the effect that the book was not obscene. Hitherto the book had been smuggled in and sold at high prices by "bookleggers" and a violent critical battle had raged around it.
Judge Woolsey's Decision
"'Ulysses' is not an easy book to read or understand," Judge Woolsey wrote. "But there has been much written about it, and in order properly to approach the consideration of it it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become its satellites. The study of "Ulysses" is therefore a heavy task.
"The reputation of 'Ulysses' in the literary world, however, warranted my taking such time as was necessary to enable me to satisfy myself as to the intent with which the book was written, for, of course, in any case where a book is claimed to be obscene it must first be determined whether the intent with which it was written was what is called, according to the usual phrase, pornographic, that is, written for the purpose of exploiting obscenity.
"If the conclusion is that the book is pornographic that is the end of the inquiry... But in 'Ulysses," in spite of its unusual frankness, I do not detect anywhere the leer of the sensualist. I hold, therefore, that it is not pornographic."
On the passages dealing with sex, Judge Woolsey paused to remark that the reader must not forget that "the characters are Celtic and the time is Spring." His decision was hailed as one of the most civilized ever propounded by an American judge. After he had admitted Ulysses to the country, there was a rush to but the almost immediately available authorized and uncensored edition published by Random House. Since then the book, unlike many another once banned by the censor and then forgotten, has been read widely; less for the passages once objected to than for the book as a whole.
Although Joyce appeared in many of his writings, "notably "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and "Ulysses," as Stephen Dedalus, many details of his life are missing. The most comprehensive study is Herbert Gorman's biography published in 1940.
Was Born in Dublin
The writer was born Feb. 2, 1882, in Dublin, Ireland, the son of John Stanislaus Joyce (The Simon Dedalus of "Ulysses" whom Bloom hears singing in the Ormond bar) and Mary Murray Joyce. His father supposedly had one of the finest tenor voices in Ireland. James Joyce had an equally fine voice.
The Joyce family was not prosperous and it was large. James stood out among his brothers and sisters and, at the age of 9, is supposed to have written an attack on Tim Healy, the anti-Parnellite, which was printed but of which no known copy exists. Since he was literary it was decided to give him an education and he was sent first to Clongowes Wood College, then to Belvedere College, also in Ireland, and later he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Royal University in Dublin.
He was an amazing scholar, and an independent and solitary figure. When he was 17 he read Ibsen's plays and wrote an essay for the Fortnightly Review about the author of "The Doll's House." Dissatisfied with the English translations, Joyce learned Norwegian when he was 19 years old so that he might read his literary god in the original. At the same time he was reading and studying Dante, all the Elizabethan poets, St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle.
In those days, according to Padraic Colum, who knew him at the Royal University (later reorganized as the National University), Joyce was a tall, slender young man with "a Dantesque face and steely blue eyes," who sauntered along the street in a peaked tennis cap, soiled tennis shoes, carrying an ashplant for a cane. Stephen Dedalus carries a similar cane in "Ulysses" and frequently talks with it! He loved to sing and recite poetry in his fine tenor voice, but he spoke harshly and used "many of the unprintable words he got printed in 'Ulysses.'"
Conceit and arrogance were his characteristics. When he first met Yeats he remarked:
"We have met too late; you are too old to be influenced by me."
AE (George Russell) recognized his "keen and cold intelligence," but told the young man, "I'm afraid you have not enough chaos in you to make a world."
Joyce was in continuous rebellion against Ireland and its life and said: "When the soul of a man is born in this country there are no nets flung at it to hold it back from flight."
The words are Stephen Dedalus's in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," but it was Joyce speaking, and, at the age of 20, he left Ireland for Paris where he intended, and for a time pretended, to study medicine.
At this time he started the stories that were eventually published as "Dubliners" (this book was later publicly burned in a Dublin public square) and started his first novel. This, the "Portrait of the Artist," was ten years in the writing. His first published work- except for the forgotten attack on Tim Healy- was "Chamber Music," a collection of Elizabethan-like verse, which were printed in 1907.
It was at this time that he met Nora Barnacle, "a sleek blond beauty" from Galway, the daughter of Thomas and Ann Healy Barnacle. They soon went to the continent to live (their marriage was not regularized until twenty-seven years later, when they visited a London registry office to legalize the status of their two children, George and Lucia). In Trieste, where they settled after some wandering, Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School and the Commercial Academy. He knew seventeen languages, ancient and modern, including Arabic, Sanskrit and Greek.
"Dubliners" Issued in 1914
In 1914 Dubliners was published in London. In the same year he also finished his novel "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
When war was declared Joyce and his wife, who were British citizens, were in Austria. He was forced out of his job as a teacher, and the couple moved to Zurich.
While living in Zurich Joyce began to suffer from severe ocular illness and eventually underwent at least ten operations on his eyes. For years he was almost totally blind and much of his later writing was done with red crayon on huge white sheets of paper.
"Ulysses" was begun under this difficult situation. Much of it was published by Margaret Anderson in The Little Review, the magazine which Otto Kahn, New York banker, once subsidized for his Greenwich Village friends. Chapters appeared between March, 1918, and August, 1920, when the Society for the Suppression of Vice had The Review stopped by court order.
After the war the Joyces returned to Trieste, where they lived with Stanislaus Joyce, the author's brother. Then, in 1919, they went to Paris, where they made their home until the next war sent them again to Zurich to occupy the house they had known in 1914.
In 1922 Joyce's greatest book, "Ulysses," was published in Paris. Great Britain, Ireland and the United States banned the book.
For many years after "Ulysses" was done Joyce worked on what he called "Work in Progress." Much of it appeared in Transition, the magazine published in the Nineteen Twenties in Paris by Eugene Jolas. In May, 1939, it was published as "Finnegan's Wake," a book "distinguished" by such "words" as Goragorridgeorballyedpuhkalsom, to name one of the simpler ones, and many puns. In it Mr. Joyce suggested the book was the work of "a too pained whitelwit laden with the loot of learning."
During all his years as a writer Joyce was carefully protected by his wife, who once said she cared for him despite "his necessity to write those books no one can understand." His conversation was clear, never anything like his writing, and his wit as keen.
Joyce's son, George Joyce, married the former Miss Helen Castor of Long Branch, N.J. They had one son, Stephen James Joyce. James Joyce and his wife made their home with his son for many years before the present war.
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