Joyce's days in Pula remembered

LooseLeaves/Sadbh: There is so much on offer as part of the Bloomsday centenary celebrations that it would be easy to miss the…

LooseLeaves/Sadbh: There is so much on offer as part of the Bloomsday centenary celebrations that it would be easy to miss the smaller events - for example James Joyce in Pula, a recently opened exhibition at the Freemason's Hall, on Dublin's Molesworth Street.

While the exhibition is small and largely composed of word and photomontage panels, it's forte is how it evokes the image of Joyce and Nora Barnacle during their stint in Pula (now in Croatia) between October, 1904, and March, 1905.

When Joyce initially failed to get a job in Trieste, they travelled south along the Adriatic coast to Pula, then the naval base of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, where a job had materialised at the Berlitz School, mainly teaching officers from the naval shipyard and arsenal.

"A naval Siberia," Joyce called Pula, the place where he was to write 'Clay', from Dubliners, and work on Stephen Hero.


One of the exhibition's curators, Daniel Nacinovic, points out how Joyce would have been influenced by being in such a "Babylon of languages" in this place where Mitteleuropa and the Mediterrainean meet. Italian, German and Serbian would have been among the languages spoken.

Pula is proud of its Joyce connection: a bronze statue of him by Mate Cvrljak in the Uliks cafe is just one of the ways in which he is remembered. According to biographer Richard Ellman, Joyce put on weight, grew a moustache "and with Nora's help in curling began to wear his hair en brosse. He felt the first stirrings of dandyism". He bought a suit, rented an upright piano and kept up his passion for singing. But soon the couple were on their way back to Trieste, where a job had become available.

Joycean ire

A fascinating episode in the long story of Ireland's reaction to James Joyce is analysed in the current issue of Studies. In an essay by Bruce Stewart called Another Bash in the Tunnel: James Joyce and the Envoy, the focus is on a volume called A Bash in the Tunnel: James Joyce by the Irish (1970), edited by man of letters and publican John Ryan, and including articles by Flann O'Brien, Patrick Kavanagh and others which they had contributed to a James Joyce special issue of Envoy, which Ryan had published in 1951.

Stewart says that apart from isolated enthusiasms in that issue of Envoy and its sequel, the pieces represented a moment when the expropriation of Joyce's Dublin triggered apoplectic irritation on the part of its living literary denizens. They simply carped, he adds giving a flavour of what was said at the time. "It remains a pity that they did seek in Joyce's works an explanation for their own confusions of the same time as they berated transatlantic Joyceans for their inevitable failings," Stewart concludes.

The current issues also has an article on Joyce's schooldays by Bruce Bradley - the doorway of Belvedere College adorns the cover of this issue - Peter Costello on Joyce and the remaking of Modern Ireland, and James Pribek SJ on Newman and Joyce.

Althorp festival

More than 80,000 people a year flock to Althorp House in Northamptonshire, England, the childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales, to pay homage to the late princess but as of next month it will also be attracting a different type of visitor. Caroline Spencer, second wife of Earl Spencer, will inaugurate the Althorp Literary Festival on June 19th with Marian Keyes, Sebastian Faulks, Sarah Dunant, Sally Vickers and Rachel Billington among the writers participating.

Spencer says that as well as the Diana pilgrimage, she wanted the house to offer something else, reflecting her interest in literature and her husband's interest in history. Novelist Gillian Slovo will, for instance, discuss Stalin with historian Simon Sebag Montefiore.

The event will take place annually and the readings and debates will take place in the house where Diana grew up.