February 2, 1922: James Joyce sees his novel, Ulysses, published. Parts of the work were published by the Quarterly Journal of Arts and Letters, The Little Review, between March 1918 and December 1920. The Little Review printed Modernist American and English writers and was the first publication to include Dadaist poetry and artwork. Ulysses was published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach, an American ex-pat living in Paris. The book is considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature.
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born in Rathgar, Dublin, Ireland on February 2, 1882 to a staunch Catholic family. He was the eldest of twelve children. Although moderately wealthy, the family’s fortunes were mismanaged by John, James’s father, who was an alcoholic. They eventually were living in poverty. James was educated by Jesuits and began writing in earnest. He lost his faith, much to his family’s chagrin, by the time he was 16. By the turn of the century, he had written a well-received literary review of an Isben play and wrote two plays, now lost. He finished school and went to Paris. James developed as a writer and a drinker over the next few years.
Ulysses is a work of genius using several techniques for crafting prose. The stream-of-consciousness novel is meticulously structured while using allusions, parodies, and puns to tell the tale of Leopold Bloom. Modern Library ranked it first on a list of 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. The book is divided into 18 episodes. Depending on the publisher, the nearly 265,000 words are printed on 644 to 1,000 pages. Joyce’s rich vocabulary for the work contains 30,030 words.
Ulysses is divided into three sections. Part I: The Telemachiad, contains three episodes but no Leopold Bloom. Part II: The Odyssey, contains eleven episodes and Bloom, the protagonist and antihero finally shows up in episode four. Part III: The Nostros, contains the final three episodes. It took Joyce seven years to write the novel. He was prosecuted for obscenity (Nausicaā episode, number 13). Joyce went on to write Finnegan’s Wake before his death. He died in 1941 after suffering a perforated ulcer. He was 58.
James Joyce – an essentially private man who wished his total indifference to public notice to be universally recognized. – Tom Stoppard
It’s tough to make the distinction between poetry and well-written prose. Is James Joyce’s Ulysses a poem or is the more prosaic poetry of Allen Ginsberg really prose? – Ron Smith
A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery. – James Joyce
Men are governed by lines of intellect – women: by curves of emotion. – James Joyce
Also on this day:
Punxsutawney Phil – In 1887, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania celebrates their first Groundhog’s Day.
Iditarod Beginnings – In 1925, diphtheria serum arrived in Nome, Alaska.
Castaway – In 1709, Alexander Selkirk was rescued from the deserted island.