Tall figure, deep voice, sometimes growling. On the phone, the illusion was almost perfect. “Hello, this is Joyce”, intoned Stephen James Joyce. Stephen as Stephen Dedalus, one of the protagonists ofUlyssesthe masterpiece of world literature that his paternal grandfather, James Joyce (1882-1941), published just one hundred years ago.
The last direct descendant of the Dublin writer, Stephen Joyce died in 2020 at the age of 87. In his eulogy, the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, handled the understatement with elegance. He greeted a personality “very invested in what he considered a duty”adding that this was not always accomplished “in harmonious circumstances”.
Stephen Joyce criticized the Irish government for having mistreated the writer during his lifetime – who lived largely in exile – and for not having summoned any official representative to his funeral. Never mind that water had flowed under the bridges of the Irish capital and that James Joyce had been celebrated for more than half a century, each year, on June 16, throughout the country, on the occasion of Bloomsday, the date of the day during which takes place Ulysses. Stephen Joyce railed against the” commercial exploitation “ windfalls of sound ” no no “ (grandfather, in Italian).
In 2004, the heir threatened to cancel the Rejoyce Dublin festival. He succeeded in banning a series of public readings as well as performances of Joyce’s only play. Invoking, again, infringements of his copyright, he failed, on the other hand, to deprogram the exhibition planned for the National Library of Ireland on the manuscripts ofUlysses. To safeguard the event, the Senate adopted an emergency amendment intended to make an exception to copyright when the works are used in the context of public exhibitions. Senator David Norris did not fail to point out “Astonishing Irony” underlying Stephen Joyce’s approach, concerning a writer “who fought for freedom of expression, wanted to reach the widest possible audience and was so totally against censorship throughout his life”.
“Stephen Joyce spilled his bile all over the world” − A French translator
Stephen Joyce entered literary history for two reasons. Insignia of honor, his grandfather consecrated his birth with the poem Ecce puer. “From the dark past/A child is born; /With joy and sorrow/My heart is torn”, wrote Joyce, who was mourning the simultaneous death of his father. Four years later, he invented a tale for his grandson, The Cat and the Devil.
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