James Joyce
Relevant Non-Istrians


 

The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-1920

by © John McCourt

Part I

  1. Ten days in Trieste
  2. A writer in Siberia (Pola)

1. Ten days in Trieste

In the early afternoon of 20 October 1904, a young "gentleman, Irish, mighty odd", and his even younger female companion stepped wearily off the train that had just arrived at Trieste's busy Stazione Centrale. The couple, as yet unmarried, were James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, aged twenty-two and twenty respectively. They had met just four months earlier in Dublin and had united to defy convention and leave their country, their religion and their families in order to embark on a new life together on the continent. Unlike so many Irish emigrants, they were not following a familiar path to England or America but were destined for a singular adventure in the heart of Europe.

Financed by Lady Gregory (five pounds), a disapproving George Russell (ten shillings), John Stanislaus Joyce (he later claimed to have contributed seven pounds), and various other benefactors, they had departed on 8 October for Holyhead on the ferry from Dublin's North Wall. Joyce was seen off by his father, his sister Poppie, his brother Stanislaus and his aunt Josephine Murray, while Nora boarded separately and alone: Joyce did not want his father to meet her or know anything about her, and she herself had chosen to keep her own family in Galway in the dark about her flight.

Leaving Dublin, they had little idea of the odyssey that awaited them. From Holyhead they travelled through London and Paris before reaching Zürich, where, according to Joyce's letter of October 11 to Stanislaus, they consummated their de facto marriage: "Finalement, elle n'est pas encore vierge; elle est touchée" (SL, 40). Unfortunately, bad news awaited Joyce at the Zürich Berlitz School, where the position that had been promised was not available. As a result he and Nora had little choice but to follow the advice of the school director and undertake a further journey to a possible job at the Berlitz School in Trieste. Now penniless, they set off once again, but further misadventure befell them even before they reached the Adriatic: The train rushed southward and after an interminable period halted in the station of what appeared to be a great city, surely the end of a strange new journey. The young couple dismounted from their compartment and made their way out of the station and into the streets. A puzzled inquiry brought them the disturbing information that they were in Laibach, some seven hours from Trieste. The train they had deserted was already hooting its way through the darkness, for it was night, and there would be no more traffic for the south and Trieste until the dawn came. The two travellers crept into a near-by garden and remained there until the morning. There was an Observatory here and they watched and counted the stars, that great wheel of light that glowed above the mysterious city, and agreed that they were bright and glorious. The rich odour of autumnal earth suspired about them and they were not unhappy at all.

After their night in Laibach (Ljubljana), they boarded the first train for Trieste. On arriving there, Joyce, as he had done in Paris, left Nora in the park in front of the station and walked into the town centre in order to make arrangements for the night. She probably did not know it, but she was sitting in the shadow of the imposing statue of the Emperor Franz Joseph's beautiful long-haired wife, the Empress Elisabetta, or "Sissi" as she was fondly known, who had been assassinated on 10 September 1898 and whose statue commemorated five hundred years of Austrian rule in the city.

When he reached the Piazza Grande, the rather regal central square that looks imperiously out to sea, Joyce became involved in a dispute involving a few deserting English sailors. Their drunken and disorderly behaviour had aroused the attention of a local policeman, who had approached and was in the process of arresting them when Joyce, perhaps keen to show off his Italian, intervened on their behalf. Unfortunately he only succeeded in having himself arrested along with the others. Stanislaus Joyce paints a typically colourful and indignant description of the misfortunes suffered by his brother on his first day in Trieste: "he was accosted in the Piazza Grande by three drunken English sailors. The sailors were arrested and the guardia asked Jim would he go with them as interpreter because he spoke Italian so well. Jim consented like a mug." When they reached the police station, the Casa Castagna on via San Nicolò, Joyce found himself being put in a cell along with the others and insisted that the British Consul be called. When "that worthy", His Britannic Majesty's Consul for Dalmatia, Carniola and the Austrian Littoral, a career diplomat called Harry L. Churchill, finally turned up, Joyce informed him that he was "a Bachelor of Arts of the Royal University of Ireland" who had just arrived in Trieste to take up a position as a teacher in the Berlitz school. "The Consul of great, free England, after all had been explained to him, instead of resenting the unwarranted arrest in the public thoroughfares of an English subject (for it amounted to that) and his being run in with rowdy sailors, hoped Jim hadn't committed a felony in England."

As soon as he was released Joyce hurried back to a worried Nora, whom he had left alone and penniless with their paltry luggage in a strange park in a foreign city where few people would have understood a word she said. The only thing that might have cheered her was the pleasant weather: the temperature was a balmy twenty degrees by lunchtime. Together they set off and found accommodation in the Hotel "Central" (Haberleitner), where they spent a few nights before moving to a room on the Piazza Ponterosso, one of the finest squares in Trieste, overlooking the canal and the fruit and vegetable markets. The square was later evoked by Joyce in Giacomo Joyce: "The sellers offer on their altars the first fruits: greenflecked lemons, jewelled cherries, shameful peaches with torn leaves" (GJ, 8).

Soon Joyce went to the Berlitz School on via San Nicolò to enquire about the possibility of employment there, but once again disappointment awaited him. During an interview with the local sub-director, Giuseppe Bertelli, he was told that there was no position available for him in Trieste. But all was not lost. The owner of the Trieste Berlitz, Almidano Artifoni, was in the process of opening a new school in the Istrian coastal city of Pola and might be able to offer him a position there. Joyce did not really know what to do. How much farther would he have to travel to find work? To keep the wolf from the door while he waited for Artifoni to return from Pola, he found two students for private lessons and somehow managed to borrow enough money to survive. Despite the appalling uncertainty of these days, Joyce continued to write, with a stoic determination which would rarely leave him, working especially on his autobiographical novel Stephen Hero. In so doing he was starting his life on the continent with Nora as he intended to continue it. His writing, no matter what the turmoil around him, would always remain his first priority.

After a couple of days Almidano Artifoni arrived back from Pola and, having met Joyce, offered him a position in the school there, at least in part because, as Joyce commented in a letter to Stanislaus, "By good luck he is a socialist like myself" (LII, 68). Perhaps more crucially, Artifoni was a shrewd businessman who had instantly recognized that the young Irishman with his Bachelor of Arts degree would be a good acquisition for the school. In order to prepare the way for Joyce, Artifoni set off again for Pola, where he placed an advertisement (the new school's twelfth since September) in the city's principal newspaper, Il Giornaletto di Pola. This announced the arrival of the new teacher of English and encouraged those students for whom there had not been places available before to come now and enrol. Joyce was most impressed and enclosed a copy of what he called the "magnificent notice" in his first letter to Stanislaus from Pola, dated 31 October. He later conferred a rare tribute on Artifoni by using his extraordinary name — extraordinary because both the unusual `Almidano' and the almost unique `Artifoni' both have four stressed syllables — for Stephens Italian teacher in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and in Ulysses.

Having arrived in Trieste as James Joyce and Nora Barnacle just ten days earlier, the couple departed on Sunday 30 October 1904 for Pola, now calling themselves Mr and Mrs Joyce, as Artifoni had suggested they do in order to avoid unnecessary scandal or bureaucratic difficulties. They set off from the Molo San Carlo on the morning boat, the speedy "Graf Wurmbrand", and after a four-hour trip over sixty nautical miles down the beautiful Istrian coast, they arrived in Pola, the town which was to be their home for the next four months.

2. A writer in Siberia

After nearly three weeks travelling and living out of a suitcase, James and Nora arrived in Pola scruffy and exhausted and were glad to see Artifoni waiting for them as they disembarked. He led them from the port towards the centre of town, past the bunting which the civic authorities had put up to celebrate the unveiling of a new statue of the Empress Elisabetta. This event had taken place just a couple of hours before their arrival, in the presence of the highest-ranking dignitaries from both Pola and Trieste, led by the Archduke Stefano and the recently installed Viennese governor, Prince Konrad Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (whom Joyce would later come to know in Trieste, where he would teach his wife and children). But all was quiet now as the new arrivals walked together through the fruit and vegetable market towards the heart of the city, which they would have seen at its best, brightened as it was by the gentle autumn evening sun.

Thus began their unhappy sojourn in Pola, the first leg of their thirty-seven-year "voluntary exile" (LII, 82) in Europe. Joyce was not impressed by the city at all. Soon he was describing it as a "a back-of-God speed place ... a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear little red caps and colossal breeches" (LI, 57). Yet, contrary to the dismal impression which Joyce gives of it in his letters and Ellmann reinforces in his biography, Pola was a reasonably cosmopolitan place. It had a population of 45,205 people, 25,984 of whom were male, a fact which reflects the military role of the town. Official figures show that the majority of the population was Italian (24,056), but that there were also many Serbs and Croatians (10,388), Germans (4,654), and Slovenes (1,543). The city housed a complex ethnic mixture which included Bohemians and Dalmatians, they of the "little red caps", whom the locals referred to as Pomodori (tomatoes). It also boasted a proud history which had seen it being ruled by the Romans, and successively by the Byzantines, the Venetians, and briefly by the French under Napoleon, until it became part of the Austrian Empire in 1815. But it retained its Italian character and justified Dante's description of its being "the end of Italy"; and it was a part of the Istrian lands which the irredentists would attempt to redeem and rejoin to Italy.

It was under the Austrians that Pola began to develop and prosper. In 1863 it was chosen as the chief military port and arsenal of the Austrian navy because of its deep, natural harbour, and as a result the city began to enjoy a long period of growth which continued until the outbreak of the First World War. Most of the houses in turn-of-the-century Pola had been built in the latter decades of the nineteenth century to accommodate the workers who were arriving from all over the Austrian dominions seeking employment in the new industrial works and in the navy. The new arrivals made their homes in the districts springing up around the old historic city centre, which remained firmly in the hands of the Italian middle classes.

For the most part, however, it would appear that whatever vibrancy and variety the city had, it made a less than favourable impression on Joyce. Perhaps he compared it negatively with the metropolises he had recently visited, London and Paris, and the two that had held out false promises of gainful employment, Zürich and Trieste. Joyce was a city man and with these four cities, each of which had an indisputable prestige and importance, Pola could not compete.

It was in the town's Venetian centre that the couple found what was to be their home for a little over two months, "a furnished room and kitchen, surrounded by pots, pans and kettles", in a newly-built Hapsburg house on the second floor of number 2 via Giulia, just round the corner from the Berlitz School (LII, 68). The flat was adequate for the first couple of weeks of November when the weather was still mild enough to allow the mosquitoes, or musati as they were called in the local dialect, to torment Joyce, who frantically tried to frighten them away with a candle. This hopeless gambit succeeded only in attracting more, as he wrote to his father: "The weather is good summer here but I am pestered with mosquitoes all night" (LII, 69). However, the clement weather did not hold and, as a particularly harsh winter set in, the flat, with no heater or cooker, was cold, damp and unhealthy. Il Giornaletto di Pola published articles every day about the severity of the weather, including one headed "Freddo Siberiano" — Siberian Cold — which compared the weather in Pola with that in Manchuria and went into detail about frozen and burst water pipes. The temperature remained eight or nine degrees below zero for more than a week. Small wonder Joyce referred to his new home as "a naval Siberia".

Climatic problems notwithstanding, turn-of-the-century Pola was a civil and reasonably prosperous place with a certain amount of style. From their apartment James and Nora were able to appreciate the city at its best and would perhaps have been amused to peer out at the elegantly dressed wives of the naval officers who descended from the plush villas on the Monte Paradiso and paraded their fashionable new clothes, procured on shopping trips to Graz, Vienna or Trieste. This local display of style had its effect on Joyce who, mortified at his own shabbiness, grew a moustache, bought a new brown suit and a loose scarlet tie, got Nora to curl his hair "with a tongs — it is now properly en brosse", and declared in a letter to Stanislaus: "I look a very pretty man" (LII, 76). Despite his new-found sartorial elegance, he struggled to make friends and settle down, and had to rely almost completely on the school staff for company. Along with Nora, who began to study French in the hope of returning to live in Paris, he had major difficulties communicating with the locals as his Italian at this time was archaic and overly literary, and many of the Polesi simply would not have understood him. The Italian spoken, which to Joyce's untrained ears was corrupt, was in fact the Istro-Veneto dialect, which was often mixed with Istro-Croato. Not untypically, rather than face up to his own limitations, Joyce often blamed the city for his troubles, as in a letter to his aunt Josephine: "I am trying to move on to Italy as soon as possible as I hate this Catholic country with its hundred races and thousand languages" (LI, 57). Soon his resistance towards this linguistic confusion began to break down and within a few weeks he was already beginning to adopt a more colloquial Italian. By December he wrote of Nora to Stanislaus: "She calls me simple-minded Jim. Complementi, Signor!" (LII, 75). The use of "Signor" rather than the standard Italian "Signore" shows Joyce beginning to appropriate the Venetian dialect of Pola, one that was very similar to the Triestino he would later come to master in Trieste. Early on in Pola, however, many of his problems arose from his genuine inability to understand and make himself understood. His scholarly Italian was, as his friend Alessandro Francini Bruni put it, "a strange species [...] It is better to say archaic than strange, a crippled Italian full of ulcers. [...] At any rate, it was a dead language, which joined the babble of living languages coming out of that pit of poor devils at the school." That same babble would later become one of the major inspirations of Finnegans Wake.

Given these difficulties it is hardly surprising that a rather homesick Joyce wrote to his father as early as February 1905 suggesting that Stanislaus might come out to join him. He was clearly missing home, the company of his brother and his former university companions, and he was suffering from what he termed his "worse than solitude of the intellect" (LII, 80). Perhaps because he was a young, untrained and inexperienced teacher overwhelmed by the relentless daily grind of the Berlitz School or because he found it a struggle to understand and meet the demands of his equally lonely and even more bored partner, who was condemned to spend her day in an icy, poorly furnished home, Joyce does not appear to have taken advantage of the more pleasant aspects of Pola. He never mentions the impressive Roman ruins, the arena, the Roman theatre, the Temple of Augustus, the fourth-century city walls, the Arco dei Sergei, the beautiful beaches, the surrounding Homeric villages, such as Cernico, or the famous castellieri (hill forts) which were dotted all the way down the Istrian peninsula. Only rarely did he use a day off to go on an excursion. Once he took Nora for a picnic in the little woods near Pola called Bosco Siano and in February of 1905 the couple went with a group of teachers from the Berlitz on a steamer to visit the island of Brioni, but even its resplendent natural beauty was lost on Joyce, who commented only on the local goat cheese, "Pecorino".

From one who later would liken Rome to "a man who lives by exhibiting to travellers his grandmother's corpse" (LII, 165), his reticence about the attractions of Pola and environs should not come as too much of a surprise. Joyce was not interested in stunning scenery or in architecturally magnificent cities, but in people and their cultures. His letters are devoid of physical descriptions of the European places he travelled through and lived in. Broad panoramic description is also largely absent from his books. Ulysses, for instance, provides an extraordinary physical impression of Dublin, but does so without using much actual description, through a careful gathering of opinions, associations, colours and odours, and a relentless accumulation of small, significant details.

Although it cannot have been easy for Joyce to break into Pola's provincial intellectual environment, there were events taking place which would undoubtedly have roused his curiosity. The socialists, for example, of the Circoli degli Studi Sociali (the social studies circle) provided a chink of light to a larger world through the lectures they organized at the Teatro Ciscutti, which was just a couple of doors down from Joyce's flat on via Giulia. Later in Trieste and Rome, Joyce would take an active interest in socialist debate, so it is possible that he attended these lectures in Pola, which were given by the very speakers he would follow in Rome — Arturo Labriola (1873-1959), the famous socialist editor of L'Avanguardia, and Enrico Ferri (1856-1929), lawyer, university lecturer, public speaker and politician, and, from 1900 to 1906, editor of L'Avanti!, the socialist party's newspaper. A secondary, but not insignificant, reason why Joyce would have attended was that the talks were given in standard Italian which he understood and would have been happy to listen to.

At the beginning of December, Labriola delivered a series of lectures on Saint Francis of Assisi (attacking the might, cynicism and pomp of the official Church) and on the theme of trade unionism and parliamentary action in the socialist movement. His thesis, that politicians and parliaments could not change the social order, that the workers had to join together to bring about change through means such as international strikes, was essentially that which Joyce summarized in a letter to Stanislaus from Rome in 1906 when writing about another of Labriola's lectures given at the Socialist Congress there. On 16 January Enrico Ferri extolled "the marvels of the nineteenth century", speaking about the Napoleonic era, the invention of electricity, steam power, and the results of industrial development in general.

Joyce also had many opportunities to enjoy the cultural events staged in the Teatro Ciscutti, most of which were determinedly pro-Italian. Though he missed the opera season by a couple of days, his interest in immersing himself in contemporary European literature might have led him to attend some of the many readings of the works of Carducci and Pascoli, and of course his beloved Dante. He may also have chosen to reacquaint himself with Gabriele D'Annunzio's plays, having earlier travelled to London to see Eleonora Duse in La Gioconda and La Città Morta. During his stay in Pola these two plays were produced along with Francesca da Rimini and La Figlia di Jorio, so it was not by chance that he wrote to Stanislaus on 28 December asking him to "look up every English review for the past year and see if there is an article on D'Annunzio's `Figlia di Jorio'. If there is not I would prepare an article" (LII, 76).

There were also regular lectures held in the Biblioteca Civica (the city library) on various aspects of Italian life, literature and culture. All in all, between theatrical productions, readings and lectures, Joyce had many opportunities to experience Italian culture at first hand while in Pola; the reports in Il Giornaletto of these happenings were so full of rhetorical enthusiasm that it is hard to believe he did not follow their lead, taking at least occasional advantage of what was available.

Joyce's interest in things Jewish might also have been stirred during those months. The Dreyfus affair formed a central part of "La Soirée all'Arco Romano" held on 17 December. Professor Antonio Charles gave a series of recitations which included "L'Hirondelle de prisonnier ou l'affaire Dreyfus" (The Prisoner's Little Swallow or the Dreyfus Affair), a poem that "was written in 1898 when nobody thought Dreyfus would return to Europe". The last two lines would certainly have been recognized by Joyce as Dante's words written over the gates to the Inferno:

In ogni luogo, in ogni ora
Echeggio la mia triste dimora
Se voi venite dalla Francia
Lasciate ogni speranza
Voi ch'entrate.
(In every place, at every time
my sad sojourn echoes
If you come from France
Abandon all hope
ye who enter here.)

The political atmosphere in Pola was low-key (the council elections passed relatively quietly in January 1905), but the tensions within the community were fanned by the city's two newspapers — Il Giornaletto di Pola and Nasa Sloga — which represented pro-Italian and pro-Croatian sentiments respectively. Occasionally reverberations of outside events were felt and tensions grew in the city. The most dramatic example of this came with the riots that took place at the Italian Faculty of Law at the University of Innsbruck in November 1904. One of the constant demands of the Italian irredentists living in the Austrian dominions was for an Italian University in Trieste, which in itself was not the final end, but a first symbolic step towards the reunification of Trieste and the other Italian territories of Austria with Italy. This was always refused, but as a sop the Austrian authorities had finally agreed to set up an Italian faculty of law in Innsbruck. Although this decision deeply upset both the Italians, who felt hard done by, and the Austrians, who resented the concession, the imperial authorities pressed ahead. The inauguration of this new faculty in Innsbruck, which was held on 4 November, had disastrous consequences. Il Giornaletto di Pola did not miss the opportunity to report the events in full: A battle broke out when a huge crowd of German students attacked the Italians attending the faculty. Two people were killed, fifty-two wounded and two hundred and seventy-two were arrested. The Italian faculty was devastated, shops and hotels ransacked.

These terrible events proved a godsend for the irredentists in all the Italian cities of the empire, who took to the streets to vent their anger. Even in sleepy Pola, as Joyce reported to Stanislaus, "There was a little disturbance here after the Innsbrück riots" (LII 69). A performance of Aidelberga Mia in the Teatro Ciscutti on 5 November was interrupted when the actors, dressed as German students, sang the student song "Gaudeamus igitur". The report in Il Giornaletto of 6 November reads as follows: "As soon as they appeared, the audience began to whistle, some people shouted: `Out with the barbarians of Innsbruck! We want an Italian university in Trieste! Enough! Get off the stage! Bring down the curtains!'" The protest spilled onto the streets. On 13 November two thousand people turned up at a meeting in the same theatre to condemn the events at Innsbruck and renew their demand for a university in Trieste.

Joyce occasionally went to the dances that were held in the Croatian National Hall and is reported to have enjoyed watching the navy officers dancing and to have sometimes sung with them. He also paid his first visits to the "cinema", Il Bioscopio Elettrico, where eleven different programmes, ranging from comedy to scenes from the Russo-Japanese war, were presented between November 1904 and January 1905. Much appreciated among the films were Ali Baba ed i 40 Ladri and La lampada magica di Aladino. In a letter to Stanislaus, Joyce specifically mentioned going to the cinema and seeing "a series of pictures about betrayed Gretchen", and described how "Lothario throws her into the river and rushes off, followed by rabble" to Nora's comment "O, policeman, catch him" (LII, 75). He may also have enjoyed the various concerts featuring works by composers as diverse as Strauss, Suppé, Lehar, Schubert, Wagner and Donizetti, as well as William Vincent Wallace, which were put on by La Banda Cittadina and the Marine orchestra.

What was the nature of Joyce's relationship with Nora in this period? Alone and often with time on their hands, they certainly had ample opportunity to get to know one another more deeply. That Joyce had become genuinely protective of his partner is evident from his letter to Stanislaus: You are harsh with Nora because she has an untrained mind. [...] Her disposition, as I see it, is much nobler than my own, her love also is greater than mine for her. I admire her and I love her and I trust her — I cannot tell how much. I trust her. So enough. (LII, 79-80)

In her book Nora, Brenda Maddox says that "Nora was delighted with her new life", but this is surely to overstate the case. Nora, like James, was happy with certain aspects of their new life together — their freedom, her role as "La Signora Joyce", their new status as "Mr and Mrs Joyce" (she signed herself "Nora Joyce" in a letter of 28 December to Stanislaus), their enjoyment of a regular sex life. "She wonders", James wrote to Stanislaus on 19 November 1904, "how you can live at home and often asks me to help you to go abroad." In the same letter Joyce takes an almost juvenile delight in parading his sexual thrills to his brother, stuck at home in Dublin: "I really can't write. Nora is trying on a pair of drawers at the wardrobe" (LII, 71).

But she spent practically all of her time at home alone and had more than her share of low moments. Like any young couple, they had their misunderstandings and rows, and even if Nora told Joyce he had a "saint's face" she soon came to realize that he did not have a saint's demeanour. Their "lovers' quarrels", as Nora called them, were regular, and on more than one occasion she told Joyce he was childish (LII, 75). One such quarrel took place in the Caffè Miramar in December 1904. Sitting alone, Joyce wrote a desperate note to Nora, who was at another table: Dear Nora for God's sake do not let us be any way unhappy tonight. If there is anything wrong please tell me. I am beginning to tremble already and if you do not soon look at me as you used I shall have to run up and down the café. (LII, 74)

Yet despite these disagreements they seem to have experienced a joy in getting to know each other, in sharing their own and their families' histories, and in enjoying a frank and active sexual life. Joyce was keen that he should keep nothing secret from his partner, and he expected the same of her. He also reported many of Nora's intimate secrets to Stanislaus: Nora's father is a baker. They are seven in family. Papa had a shop but drank all the buns and loaves like a man. [...] She told me something of her youth, and admits the gentle art of self-satisfaction. She has had many love-affairs, one when quite young with a boy who died. (LII, 72)

Later, he would recycle much of this material in his writing. This element of betrayal in Joyce's behaviour, in his doubling as husband who celebrated her and artist who, at least partially, mocked her, would persist, and perhaps it was just as well that she would never read his work too carefully.

In Pola James and Nora enjoyed a lifestyle well beyond their means, and once they had established this habit they would (or could) never break it. In his letter of 3 December 1904, Joyce described the rhythms of his new life in copious detail to Stanislaus: We get out of bed at nine and Nora makes chocolate. At midday we have lunch which we (or rather she) buys, cooks (soup, meat, potatoes and something else) in a locanda opposite. At four o'clock we have chocolate and at eight o'clock dinner which Nora cooks. The[n] [we go] to the Caffé Miramar w[here we read] the `Figaro' of Paris and we [come] back about midnight. (LII, 73)

The Caffè Miramar, which was advertised as "Il più elegante caffè della città", was situated on the waterfront overlooking the port and Pola's famous iron bridge. It was thronged with the middle classes: lawyers, officers, medical people, who came to chat and drink coffee, to play billiards, and were served by both German- and Italian-speaking staff. Joyce and Nora went there in the evenings after dining out cheaply in the locanda opposite their apartment, the Osteria da Piero, a down-to-earth place frequented by workers who ate fried fish, drank wine, and sang drinking songs in the local dialect. Stocked with a selection of international newspapers, the Caffè Miramar allowed the couple to stay up to date with what was going on in the world. Nora enjoyed The Daily Mail while Joyce read the English, French and Italian papers, and Il Giornaletto di Pola, which carried local and international news, parliamentary reports from Rome and Vienna, updates from Trieste (the administrative centre of the Austrian territories in Istria), as well as features on the theatre.

News of a more urgent and personal nature arrived shortly before Christmas when they discovered that Nora was pregnant. The couple were plunged into crisis. They were almost completely alone in this outpost at the far end of Europe, they had no experience of child-rearing, and to make matters worse, Joyce's position at the school seemed to be less than totally secure. Joyce complained of having little money or liberty and said in a letter of 28 December 1904 to Stanislaus: "My new relation has made me a somewhat grave person and I have got out of the way of dissertations. I drink little or nothing, smoke vastly, sing rarely" (LII, 75). Three days later he wrote telling his aunt Josephine that "The money here is all irregular for some weeks" and suggesting that they would have to move house: "It is possible that I shall leave this address next week as the house is unhealthy and I want as much health as possible for Nora" (LI, 57).

A move to a new apartment in number 7 via Medolino, where they went to live with Joyce's immediate superior in the school, Alessandro Francini Bruni, his wife Clotilde and their little son Daniele, eased things for James and Nora a little if only because this apartment was bigger and warmer and had a kitchen. On the down side it was farther from the centre of the city and situated in what was essentially a working-class district. (This was to be one of Joyce's few spells in an area which did not have middle-class pretensions.) Despite serious linguistic difficulties, Nora developed a close friendship with Clotilde and was reassured that she would have at least one other woman to turn to for help and advice following the birth of her child. Francini Bruni and Joyce also got on well together. Francini Bruni was born in 1878 in Siena and brought up in Florence, where he attended Catholic schools and then graduated in literature from the University. Like Joyce he had recently eloped, and he had arrived to take up his post in Pola just three weeks before his Irish colleague. Soon the two men were discussing literature and planning a joint translation of Moore's Celibates, the title of which must have been a source of ironic amusement for this unmarried father and his new friend, an unmarried father-to-be. Francini Bruni and Joyce exchanged lessons, though it would appear that Joyce managed to have many more Italian lessons than he gave English.

The greater part of Joyce's day was spent at the Berlitz School, which was situated in the Casa Scracin on Clivo Santo Stefano, near the Porta Aurata — the Roman Arch. The Berlitz was still finding its feet when Joyce arrived, and Almidano Artifoni had invested heavily in setting it up, being careful to find a suitable premises "of four or five well decorated rooms with tall ceilings in the city centre". He strenuously publicized the school and on 1 October had placed a half-page advertisement in Il Giornaletto which specified that separate classes would be held for men and women, and for "signori ufficiali" (military officers) and "signori borghese" (civilians). By the time the school opened on 17 October, it had sixty-two pupils on its rolls. Probably in return for the advertising income it was earning from the school, Il Giornaletto printed an extremely complimentary "short par" (U, 7.989) telling of how a sister Berlitz school had won a prize in the World Exposition in St Louis. Two weeks later Artifoni had placed a large notice announcing the arrival of the new English teacher, "James Joyce B.A.". In the advertisement of 6 November, Joyce's Bachelor of Arts degree was somewhat flatteringly translated as "dottore in filosofia". By 8 February, more than thirty advertisements later, the school had some 180 students on its books.

Joyce took his place on a small, not particularly distinguished staff, including Amalija Globocnik from Ljubljana, who taught Croatian, Francini Bruni and Giuseppe Bertelli, both of whom came from Tuscany and taught Italian, Bibulich, the German teacher from Graz, Soldat and Née, French teachers from Paris, and finally Joyce's fellow English teacher, H.J. Eyers. Joyce became friendly with Globocnik, whom he normally referred to as "Fraulein" and described as "a melancholy little Androgyne and very sentimental with me" (LII, 75). Apart from feeling sorry for the Joyces, in her spare time she gave private lessons to Commander Miklós Horthy, the future admiral and later regent of Hungary. Joyce also spent time with Eyers, who was a good pianist but "a rather dull-witted young man with no manners and insipid as cork". His closest friends remained the Francini Brunis.

Earning regularly for the first time, Joyce appears to have been reasonably happy. On 19 November he wrote telling Stanislaus, "I am fairly fixed here £2 a week for sixteen hours weekly" (LII, 70). This did not block occasional moments of melodramatic despair, in which he looked upon his life in Pola as though it were a sentence he was condemned to serve. One such expression of hopelessness came in his letter of 7 February to his brother: "My life is far less even than formerly in spite of its regularity. I reach prostrating depths of impersonality (multiply 9 by 17 — the no of weeks)"; but in the same letter he could still admit, "I reach levels of great satisfaction" (LII, 81).

His job, which he described to aunt Josephine as "all kinds of drudgery" (LI, 57), involved teaching the English language to the officers and technicians who had not been accommodated in Eyers's classes. The school hoped to attract a wider range of new students and claimed in its advertisements to cater for "doctors, engineers, medical people, lawyers, officials and professional people in general from businessmen to shopkeepers, and students from secondary and high schools". As Herbert Gorman rightly pointed out, "The lot of a Berlitz School teacher is an arduous one", and to survive it, Joyce had to acquaint himself quietly with the school's teaching method. Faced with several groups of beginners or near beginners, and being without an adequate command of their mother tongues or the dialects they spoke, Joyce was careful to follow Berlitz's methods faithfully, at least at the beginning. The textbook through which he led his students was M.D. Berlitz's First Book — an orderly, repetitive ninety-one-page volume which aimed to teach through the exclusive use of English. Joyce had no choice but to do this because it was what the newspaper advertisements promised: "Starting immediately from the first lesson, the student will not hear spoken anything other than the language he must study, and a teacher of the Berlitz School of Languages will never use the student's mother tongue to make himself understood."

In order to teach English grammar, syntax, phonetics, and pronunciation, Joyce was forced to analyze patterns that he had always taken for granted, so as to render them understandable to students. In thus distancing himself from his own language, Joyce was in fact deepening his appreciation of it, and this process cannot but have helped him as a writer. The Berlitz method might well be traced in Ulysses, in particular in the impersonal catachetic technique of "Ithaca" (although Joyce's religious education at Belvedere was a more obvious and important source here). The novel contains linguistic echoes of the types of drills Joyce used in the Berlitz, repetitions of verb forms, tenses, and vocabulary. Examples of this from "Ithaca" might include: "What did Bloom see on the range?" and "What did Bloom do at the range?" (U, 17.157-60) or "Alone, what did Bloom hear?" and "Alone, what did Bloom feel?" (U, 17.1242). Another classic method used by language teachers which Joyce employed was to have students describe in as much detail as possible pictures, each other, or the room they were in. Joyce repeats this technique in "Ithaca", when he poses questions such as "Describe the alterations effected in the disposition of the articles of furniture" (U, 17.1279-80) and then supplies endlessly detailed answers.

Joyce managed to squeeze a considerable amount of writing into the breaks between teaching in this period. He continued to work on Stephen Hero and wrote several of the short stories that would make up Dubliners, all of which he sent to Stanislaus, and one of which, "After the Race", was published in The Irish Homestead in Dublin on 17 December 1904. He also published two songs — "What counsel hath the hooded moon" and "Thou leanest to the shell of night" — in The Venture, an annual of art and literature in London. Finally, he had his ninety-six-line broadside "The Holy Office" printed in Pola. It was to be the last thing he published until March 1907.

All in all, despite bouts of loneliness and occasional moments of despair, things went reasonably well for Joyce in Pola. For the first time in his life he was earning regular money and managing to write. Meanwhile, as this article from Il Giornaletto of 18 February shows, the school was thriving: It's wonderful to see, and it is a tribute to the city — that of the 210 seats of The Berlitz School of Languages, spread around almost all the world, no other has ever achieved such immediate and conspicuous results. 160 is the remarkable number of students of the Berlitz, and how many have departed, called elsewhere by interests and duties to the state? They have left with that natural bitterness of those who must renounce spiritual gain.

Why then after just five months in Pola did he write to Stanislaus on 28 February 1905 telling him to address his next letter "to the Trieste school, Via S. Nicolo, 32, as I am transferred there. I leave Pola on Sunday morning for Trieste" (LII, 84)?

Joyce certainly would have been happy to get to Trieste and might even have requested a transfer there. He would have heard the people of Pola speaking of it as a mythic city, the great emporium of the Hapsburg Empire, a naval capital with an Italian heart. Perhaps, sensing his unease in their small, provincial town, they advised him to make for Trieste. But why would a school which was consistently attracting new students suddenly transfer one of only two English-language teachers? Francini Bruni suggests that Joyce was sent to Trieste because his superiors thought his teaching abilities could be better exploited by the school there: They thought, if Joyce is so useful in luring insects for the finch, he might do the same or even better for us in Trieste. And so as soon as they had him in their hands, they seized him, packed him up like a salami, and sent him to Trieste by express freight.

Over three decades later, in a 1954 interview with Ellmann, Francini Bruni offered a different explanation of Joyce's departure from Pola, recalling that the Austrian authorities had discovered an espionage ring in the city and, as a result, expelled all foreign residents (JJ, 194). The Triestine Joyce critic Stelio Crise has given some credence to this possibility as well. There is, however, no evidence that Joyce was suspected of anything or that any general expulsion order was issued. The expulsion theory also fails to explain why the Austrian authorities would "expel" anyone from Pola to Trieste, a bigger and far more politically sensitive city of the empire. For one month after Joyce's departure, Francini Bruni continued to offer his services in the local paper as a private language teacher, something he would hardly have done (or been allowed to do) if he or his fellow teachers were under pressure from the Austrian authorities. Moreover, it is most improbable that a British subject like Joyce would be forced to leave before his Italian colleagues, unless Joyce was seen as being too friendly with the naval officers, who were in a state-of-war alert.

Interestingly, Giuseppe Bertelli might have been in danger of expulsion at this time. According to Crise, "Bertelli was kept under constant watch by the Austrian police, both because he was an Italian citizen and because of his political beliefs. Bertelli had been the editor of Il Lavoratore, the newspaper of the socialist party in Trieste, and he spoke at numerous meetings held by the socialists." As early as 22 January 1904, the police in Trieste were keeping Bertelli under surveillance and writing to their counterparts in Florence for information about him. On 30 December 1904 a police spy in Trieste reported that on the previous night an editorial board of the socialist paper Il Lavoratore had been formed at a meeting of the socialist party and that Giuseppe Bertelli, already known as a "diligent socialist agitator", had taken part. In early 1905 "L'evidenz Bureau della Marina da guerra austriaca di Pola" asked the police in Trieste for information on "Signor Bertelli, director of the Berlitz school of Pola", and underlined that the request for this information had be kept absolutely confidential. But if there was any expulsion in 1905, Bertelli survived it; he didn't leave the empire until 1906, when he went to America having embezzled funds from the Berlitz school in Trieste.

According to the later records of the Austrian authorities in Trieste, Joyce was seen as a quiet person without any criminal record, certainly not as an agitator. Given his own written testimony of his dull life in Pola, and given the fact that Nora was not particularly happy there, it is likely that he either requested a transfer or gratefully accepted one when it was offered to him. While Pola was an out-of-the-way place which Joyce wanted nobody to know he was in, Trieste was an important city, big enough for him to develop his ambition in. He could look on a distinguished list of people who had spent lengthy periods of time there before him — Napoleon, Nelson, Casanova, Stendhal, Verdi, not to mention Charles Lever and Richard Burton, who had both served as British Consul there.

Joyce read Lever's Lord Kilgobbin while in Trieste and later sprinkled several allusions to this and Lever's other novels in Finnegans Wake. When he writes of Shem, who "quit to hail a hurry laracor and catch the Paname-Turricum and regain that absendee tarry easty" (FW, 228.22-4), Joyce invokes Lever's novel Harry Lorrequer and alludes to the Irish novelist's own six-year stay in the Adriatic city. In Richard Burton, banished to Trieste as a punishment for his independent political views, Joyce found a most illustrious role model with whom he had much in common. At the wildest estimates, Burton is purported to have known forty languages and dialects, Joyce, eighteen. Both men were fascinated by "the East" and shared an uncommon interest in matters of sexuality. Burton used his enforced exile (he was never recalled from Trieste) to complete and publish books — The Kama Sutra; A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights' Entertainment; The Perfumed Garden of the Sheikh Nefzaoui, a manual of Arabian Erotology — that would thoroughly scandalize late Victorian British society. Joyce too would send home books that would so scandalize the Irish reading (and non-reading) public that they would accuse him of being the Antichrist.

But first, Trieste awaited him.

-- End of excerpt

Source:

  • Excerpts - http://print.google.com/print/doc?isbn=0299169804 - pending authorization for "fair use" by the author, John McCourt.

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