It is thanks to Joyce that we have a much clearer idea, not only of what went on in people’s inner lives in Dublin in 1904 but in urbanized life everywhere: these men and women’s secret trials and triumphs, their uncensored desires and fears, were hidden from view before brave artists such as Joyce (and Tolstoy and Flaubert before him) broke Victorian taboos and demolished the line of propriety.
-Fin Keegan, Dubliner: The Story of James Joyce amzn.to/KZA1iy
“For a smaller group of people, with palpably grandiose notions, it is up to everybody else to accommodate their new personality, often in a new place where they are free to be who they want to be without much question: great achievers from Bob Dylan and Oscar Wilde to Picasso and Andy Warhol have done this, often changing their name, their physical appearance, even (in the case of Joseph Conrad or Samuel Beckett) the very words they think in: how complete a remaking of oneself is replacing the Mother Tongue?”
He rose from years of hunger and disappointment to become the most renowned literary artist of the age. Walk into any bookshop or library worthy of the name and you are likely to find his work on the shelves. His candour, once censored, is now prized; his graceful prose cherished; and his struggle for recognition thoroughly documented: James Joyce was a one-off who changed literature forever.
He was also a man who, sent out by his hungry family to buy food, returned instead with a hand-painted silk scarf.