Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Birthday James Joyce - Feb. 2, 1882 – Jan. 13 1941

He was a Dubliner-to-the-core even though, as a young adult, he fled Dublin and lived most of his life in Trieste, Paris, and then Zurich. He wrote, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.” He liked to think that, should Dublin disappear in the future, it could be recreated exactly by consulting his Ulysses, a novel which many book-worldly-people consider to be the greatest of the Twentieth Century; it comprises one day, June Sixteenth, in the life of a fictionalized Dubliner named Leopold Bloom; Joyce's life and work are celebrated throughout the world on June 16th, Bloomsday.

I love reading biographies of authors. I’m a groupie. I like to say that I even want to know what they had for breakfast. 

I learned today that while living in Trieste James Joyce liked to start his day with a presnitz and caffè at a pastry shop called Pirona.  A presnitz is a sweet Austrian pastry filled with nuts and, variously, figs, plums, apricots, raisins, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, and rum. It's been reported that James Joyce devised Ulysses in this café.
I was in Trieste in 1977 looking for the spirit of James Joyce, but back then I didn’t know about Pirona and presnitz.

I may need to return.

(A diversion: I had arrived in Trieste early in the morning after an all-night train ride from Vienna. I walked, within a lovely sunny brightness, to the main square, a short distance from the stazione, and, having chosen a penzioni from my guidebook, approached a handsome, elaborately uniformed guardi and asked, "Dove è via Tivernella?" A puzzlement fell across his face -- perhaps because I had neglected to make the 'i' of Tivernella sound like an 'e' and the 'e's' sound like 'a's'. He non capisca. I pulled out a notepad and pencil and wrote via Tivernella. "Ah!," he exclaimed, as if all now has been revealed. "Ah! Via Teever-naaaaay-la!" He drew out and intoned the 'e' of 'nella' as if it were a musical phrase, understanding me now, but unfortunately having no idea where the street was. He said something to a passerby. The passerby pointed out that via Tivernella was just across the plaza! The guardi found this uproariously funny; he lay his hand on my shoulder, laughed, blew kisses into the air, and, pointing across the plaza, said, "Buono! Buono!"

He's a perfect example of why I love Italians and want, in my next life, to be one.)

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce died of a stomach ulcer at the age of 58 on January 13, 1941, and is buried in Zurich.


  1. oh Mr Joyce..a stomach ulcer...wonder what was a going on in your youness!
    Trieste...G, OF COURSE you have to return!!!!!!!

    A man's errors are his portals of discovery.'

    Takes a wee while to nod one's head to that one;-), however when the nod occurs oh my what a moment THAT is!!!!!!!!
    glass raised to nodding
    now, to a search for presnitz...will make it during the week...
    G, we're all authors..think of the words we all produce in our speaking lives...that being the breakfast will I be having...a case of food poisoning...yuck on a grand level!!!!

  2. Must admit food poisoning died a brave death...with acceptance and a profound awareness that it's the way of things...not too sure if I'll rage against it or not...given that I think it's so much a part of the journey...