Joyce wartime passport lists Nora Barnacle as wife


JAMES JOYCE’S wartime family passport, recording the writer’s movements across Europe as he penned his masterpiece Ulysses, is to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London next month.

A striking feature of the unique literary artefact, which tracks Joyce’s peripatetic existence between Trieste, Zurich, Paris and London during and after the first World War, is Nora Barnacle’s stated status as Joyce’s wife.

In fact, the couple had eloped from Ireland in 1904, and would not get married until 1931.

The passport almost exactly maps, arguably, his most creative period, covering the writing and publication of the book for which he is best known.

The passport, which consists of a double-sided sheet on white and pink paper folded to form 10 panels, was issued to Joyce, Nora, and their two children, Georgio and Lucia, by the British consulate in Zurich on August 10th, 1915.

The couple had fled Trieste three months earlier, fearing the prospect of internment after Italy entered the war against Austria, a fate that eventually befell Joyce’s brother Stanislaus.

Upon arriving in neutral Switzerland in June, the writer had applied to the British consulate in Zurich to obtain a passport, ostensibly to safeguard his family.

The unusual item is being sold by a private collector at an auction of rare books and other memorabilia on July 14th, and is expected to fetch between £50,000 and £70,000 (€55,600 and €77,900).

Joyce’s profession is stated as an English teacher, with a mention that he wore eyeglasses under the section for “special peculiarities”.

The passport, which contains visa stamps for various locations across Europe such as Chiasso, Brigue and Boulogne, was renewed three times by Joyce up until September 1922, shortly after the publication of Ulysses.

The writer belatedly renewed the passport on September 20th, 1917, after its expiry on August 10th, before leaving to spend the winter in the Swiss lake resort of Locarno, where he underwent a major operation for glaucoma.

When the war ended, the passport shows Joyce obtained the necessary Swiss and Italian visas to return to Trieste, where he resumed his English teaching job.

However, by 1920, convinced his literary career would be better served by moving to Paris, the novelist once again moved his family.

On the outbreak of the second World War, the Joyces fled again to Zurich, where Joyce would die in 1941, as a result of complications arising from a perforated ulcer.