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martes, febrero 02, 2010

Happy Birthday, James Joyce

It's the birthday of James Joyce, born in Dublin (1882), who said, "The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works." Joyce wrote Ulysses (1922) and Finnegan's Wake (1939); an autobiographical novel, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (1916); and a short-story collection, Dubliners (1914), among other works.

He was educated by Jesuits, first visited a prostitute at the age of 14, dropped out of medical school and aspired to be an opera star. He met and fell in love with a Galway hotel maid named Nora Barnacle when he was 22 years old, and he set the action of Ulysses on the day he had his first date with Nora, June 16, 1904. It's now commemorated all over the world each year as Bloomsday, after the novel's protagonist, Leopold Bloom.

Shortly after meeting Nora, he convinced her to leave Ireland with him and elope to continental Europe. He thought he'd lined up a teaching job as a language instructor, but that fell through, and he ended up working at a bank in Rome for a while. They were forever impoverished and constantly relying on Joyce's brother Stanislaus for money.

They had a son, Giorgio, and after that James and Nora slept head to foot, an attempt at birth control. It didn't seem to be an effective form, though, and Nora became pregnant with Lucia about a year after giving birth to Giorgio. Joyce was a doting father, liked to spoil his kids, never punished either one and once told an interviewer, "Children must be educated by love, not punishment."

Nora was famously apathetic toward her husband's writing. Joyce worked at night and laughed so loudly at his own words that Nora would get up and tell him to stop writing and stop laughing so that she could get a bit of sleep. Shortly after Ulysses (Joyce pronounced it "Oolissays")was published, she remarked to a fan of his: "I've always told him he should give up writing and take up singing." Ulysses took seven years of unbroken labor, which translated into 20,000 hours of work.

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