Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Introduction: The Books Awake

Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Introduction: The Books Awake

Article excerpt

A famous photograph captures Joyce and Sylvia Beach seated at the rue de l'Odéon Shakespeare and Company. A newspaper placard denouncing "The Scandal of 'Ulysses'" decorates the wall behind them. Joyce, unbowed but bowtied, vails one eye (his left is hidden behind an eye patch) while Beach regards him intently. The table before them is strewn with miscellaneous papers and documents. A rubber-stamp rack in the foreground reminds the viewer that the bookshop is also an active lending library.1

Although it is absent from either edition of Richard Ellmann's James Joyce (1959; 1982), the photo has been widely reproduced. First published as early as 1928 in Sisley Huddleston's Paris Salons, Cafés, Studios, it also appears, for example, in Chester G. Anderson's James Joyce and his World (1967); as a detail gracing the cover of the 1992 Penguin Ulysses; and on the cover, albeit less severely cropped, of Bruce Arnold's revised The Scandal of "Ulysses" (2004).2 Something of a mainstay of new modernist readings of Joyce, the image has been made to represent both a magisterial indifference to mass culture - Joyce's back is literally to the "Pink 'Un" and its outraged denunciation - and the role of scandal in the marketing of modernism.3 In such readings, the photograph is universally dated to 1922, that much-trumpeted annus mirabilis of literary modernism.

In fact, the photograph could not have been taken before the spring or summer of 1926. Whereas critics have tended hitherto to concentrate on the poster behind Joyce, what makes this terminus a quo so certain are the books arranged on the shelves behind Beach. Taking a magnifying glass to a print of the photo or consulting a suitably high-resolution scan reveals a veritable who's who of transatlantic modernism between the world wars: inter alia, Wyndham Lewis's Tarr (1916); Robert McAlmon's Explorations (1921); Theodore Dreiser's The "Genius" (1915) and Twelve Men (1919) but also his An American Tragedy (1925); Joseph Conrad's The Arrow of Gold (1919) but also his The Rover (1923); George Moore's Memoirs of My Dead Life (1906) but also three copies of his Héloľse and Abélard (1925); Ford Madox Ford's The Marsden Case (1923); E.M. Forster's A Passage to India (1924); and Aldous Huxley's Along the Road (1925). Joyce, it is worth noting, is not represented in this exclusively male set of writers. A copy of The Lucky Prisoner, among the more recent books published when the photograph was taken, lies flat on the shelf immediately above Beach's head. This translation of Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau's Le Prisonnier chanceux; ou, Les aventures dejean de la Tour-Miracle (1847) was issued by W. Heinemann in March 1926.

In fine, then, the newspaper placard denouncing "The Scandal of 'Ulysses'" was already something of a museum piece by the time the photograph was taken, part of the in-house archive at Shakespeare and Company that documented the early travails of Ulysses. The image does not represent Joyce in the middle and muddle of his first campaign for the novel; rather, it captures the writer who was already the author of "Anna Livia Plurabelle", for example, already the self-styled engineer of "Work in Progess". Latter-day instrumentalizations of the newspaper placard may well take their cue from the photo for, by the summer of 1926, the immediate 'scandal of Ulysses' was instead the ongoing Roth piracy - the unauthorized republication of episodes of Joyce's novel in Two Worlds Monthly.4 Decrying scandals of Ulysses has had a long and varied history, it seems.

The chief authority for the earlier dating of the photograph is Beach herself. Her handwritten annotation on a print of the photo that is now part of the James Joyce Collection at the University at Buffalo reads: "Photo by New York Times [sic] of James Joyce & Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare and Company bookshop 12 rue de l'Odéon Paris 1922".5 While the image did appear in the New York Times Book Review for 18 November 1928, it was reproduced there to illustrate a review of Huddleston's Paris Salons, from which it derives. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.