Joyce's Self-Imposed Exile
It might be surprising for some people to know that James Joyce, the writer who wanted
to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of [Ulysses], spent most of his life outside of his native Ireland. Dissatisfied by the religious and social restraints of Ireland, he left the country in 1904 and spent the rest of the life as an exile, moving to Trieste before being forced out of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire because of his nationality at the onset of World War I. He continued to travel, living in Zurich for a few years before spending much of his middle age in Paris. Traveling through Europe today, it is easy to see his impact with bars, cafes, streets and squares named after him in Zurich, Paris, Trieste and Dublin. Trieste, Italy especially has made a claim to Joyce's time there with detailed walking tours providing a detailed list of his apartments and favorite cafes. This map chronicles Joyce's endless travels during his life. It does not provide ever location but it should give you an idea of the scope of his journey and provide the information needed if you would like to learn more about one of literature most famous exiles.
View James Joyce in a larger map
Paris, France (1903)
Trieste, Austro-Hungary (1904-1914)
Zurich, Switzerland (1915-1919)
Paris, France (1920-1940)
2 Square Robiac
Zurich, Switzerland (1941)
Joyce's position as an expatriate had a profound effect on his style of writing and his own personal philosophy. Exile for Joyce is not a punishment but an opportunity, as,
exile represents escape from the limitations of one's culture and the chance to forge a truer and deeper human self by transcending these boundaries. Writing around the same time as Joyce was fellow Irishman William Butler Yeats, who expressed his own disillusionment towards the middle-classes' materialism and cynicism in his poem "September 1913," a reflection on the Dublin Lock-out. In the poem he often repeats the line:
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave.
The characters in Joyce's work embody this belief and provide a glimpse into his own experience through these autobiographical representations. JD Cawelti writes in
Eliot, Joyce and Exile that in Ulysses we follow the Joyce stand-in Stephen Dedalus who,
deeply alienated from the dominant powers ruling Ireland-the British empire and the Roman Catholic Church- has gone to France. After the death of his mother he returns home to Dublin,
only to feel himself no longer at home in any way. The other main character
Leopold Bloom, as an Irish Jew, is almost by definition an exile, representing an distance from his country because of his religion in a overwhelmingly Catholic country and even from his religion with his limited knowledge of the Jewish homeland in Palestine. Much of the protagonist’s anxiety and dissatisfaction during the events of Ulysses stems from their role as outsiders; reinforcing the idea that exile is not only a physical experience but also a deeply powerful unconscious force. It does suggest however that the value that Joyce attributed to exile only becomes possible when the exile is chosen and not forced onto them as with Leopold and Stephen. When a person is strong enough to make that choice, it becomes a force of resistance best described by a quote from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use, silence, exile, and cunning.