James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, in Rathgar in south Dublin. To mark the Irish author's birthday, we take a look at some interesting facts about him and his writing.
Joyce is known for such classics as "Dubliners," "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," "Finegan's Wake,” and perhaps his most famous "Ulysses," which details the exploits of one Stephen Dedalus over the course of a day in Dublin.
Joyce’s life itself would make for a fascinating story as there is much about the author unknown even to his most ardent fans.
Here are ten interesting facts about Irish writer James Joyce:
- The character Molly Bloom in his novel 'Ulysses' is based on his wife Nora Barnacle, who was from Co Galway. The novel even takes place on June 16 (otherwise known as “Bloomsday”) or the day Joyce met his future wife in 1904.
- Joyce studied Dano-Norwegian at University College Dublin in order to to be able to read the work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in its original form.
- Joyce left Ireland for Paris after completing his studies in 1902, originally moving there to study medicine.
- The Irishman settled with his family in Pola, Austria-Hungary in 1904 but was expelled soon after in 1905 when the government uncovered a spy ring and the Austrian authorities imposed an immediate expulsion order on all aliens.
- Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School of Language in Trieste, Italy.
- Joyce adopted Italian as his at-home language, having learned it while living in Italy.
- He returned to Ireland in 1909 to open Dublin’s first movie theater, the Cinematograph Volta at 45 Mary Street. Featuring Italian and European movies unpopular with the Dubliners, the cinema shut its doors in 1919.
- Joyce’s former Irish teacher, Patrick Pearse, was one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising and was considered to be the “President of the Provincial Government” of the Republic of Ireland.
- Joyce underwent over 25 eye surgeries in his lifetime.
- Before his book “Ulysses” was legally published in America in 1934, hundreds of illicit copies were seized and burned by the US Post Office in the 1920s.
You can listen to James Joyce himself read from his famous "Ulysses" here:
* Originally published in 2016, updated in June 2023.