So this month I published a book. It was an incredible experience, especially because it was with a talented author and about a fascinating topic. The book is called A Little Circle Of Kindred Minds: Joyce in Paris and it’s written by Conor Fennell. As you might imagine, it is about James Joyce and the group of friends he built up during the twenty years he spent in Paris. All of which serves as precursor to the article below from The Times Literary Supplement yesterday:
“There Joyce continued to retreat from formal Irish identity. At the end of 1931, when his father died in Dublin, he would not go to Ireland for the funeral, as he felt he would not be safe from prosecution. In 1932, he declined an invitation to a St Patrick’s Day party in Paris when told the Irish ambassador would be there; he feared his presence might imply an endorsement of the new Free State. That same year he refused an invitation from W. B. Yeats to become a member of the new Irish Academy of Letters as “I see no reason why my name should have arisen at all in connection with such an academy” (though he wished it success). Indeed, as he was writing Finnegans Wake, he asked Miss Weaver, “Why go on writing about a place I did not dare to go to at such a moment, where not three persons know me or understand me . . ?”.
via The British James Joyce by Brenda Maddox – TLS. I wanted to suggest that what Maddox is saying is just not plausible. Especially when you consider just how obsessed with Dublin Joyce was. Just as an example I thought I’d share a little of Conor’s excellent book:
Austin Clarke got similar treatment when, in the winter of 1923, he used to meet Joyce promptly at 6pm outside the church of St Sulpice. The two would adjourn to a quiet café where, after a long silence, Joyce would ask: ‘Is Mulvaney’s shop still there at the corner?’ – the first of many questions. When Kenneth Reddin arrived at Joyce’s apartment in Square Robiac he found it full of Irish newspapers, including provincial ones. He was impressed that Joyce was able to recall the smart remarks by witnesses at Kilmainham District Court over which Reddin presided. At dinner at the Trianons Joyce challenged him and the artist Patrick Tuohy to name the shops from Amiens Street station (now Connolly station) to Nelson’s Pillar, first on one side then back on the other. ‘Mostly he was three or four shops in front of us,’ said Reddin. ‘When Tuohy and I left a gap, he filled it. When he named a new proprietor, he named, and remembered the passing of, the old.’
When you read about the man in that way it becomes impossible to believe he was anything but Irish in the true sense. Yes he might have, at times, had issues with the state and even some of the people, but there was no way he could be described a s British as Maddox seems to claim. I could say you should read more of Conor’s book to uncover the truth and I really do think that would help, but perhaps that might be just a little self-serving!