Novelist James Joyce is born this day in Dublin, Ireland, the eldest of 10 children. His father, a cheerful ne’er-do-well, will eventually go bankrupt.
Joyce attended Catholic school and University College in Dublin. A brilliant scholar, he learned Dano-Norwegian in order to read the plays of Henrik Ibsen in the original. In college, he began a lifetime of literary rebellion, self-publishing an essay rejected by the school’s literary magazine adviser.
After graduation, Joyce moved to Paris. He planned to become a doctor to support himself while writing, but soon gave up his medical studies. He returned to Dublin to visit his mother’s deathbed and remained to teach school and work odd jobs. On June 16, 1904, he met Nora Barnacle, a lively uneducated woman with whom he fell in love. He convinced Nora to return to Europe with him. The couple settled in Trieste, where they had two children, and then in Zurich. Joyce struggled with serious eye problems, undergoing 25 operations for various troubles between 1917 and 1930.
In 1914, he published The Dubliners. The following year, his novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man brought him fame and won him several wealthy patrons, including Edith Rockefeller.
In 1918, the American journal Little Review began to serialize Ulysses, Joyce’s revolutionary stream-of-consciousness novel. However, the U.S. Post Office stopped the publication’s distribution in December of that year on the grounds that the novel was obscene. Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.
Joyce’s last novel, Finnegan’s Wake, was published in 1939, and Joyce died two years later.