Journey into the biography of James Joyce that his younger brother wrote so that someone would ever pay attention to him

Stanislaus (left) was two years younger than James. He left his brother’s biography unfinished because he died before he could correct it.

Must imagine to James Joyce in his life before glorybefore being compared to Albert Einstein Y Sigmund Freud. That is, before his masterpiece, the Ulises (1922), will change the fate of world literature. For example, the fourteen-year-old Jim who, in the warm rain of Glasgow, accompanies his drunk father, unable to walk in a straight line. Or the teenager who reads like a madman while downstairs one of his younger brothers, George, dies on a bad medical recommendation. Or the older James Joyce, when he returns from Paris a Dublin to say goodbye to his dying mother: in that closed room with the smell of death, the priest asks those present to kneel and cry out to the Lord. In the solemnity of the moment everyone kneels except two people. One is James; the other is his brother Stanislaus.

Stanislaus Joyce he was James’s younger brother. He was also her best friend.: nobody had so many talks with the author of the Finnegan’s Wake like Stanislaus; No one better understood his origin and the inspiration of almost all the references that appear in his work. With the Spanish edition of My brother James Joyce (Adriana Hidalgo) originally published in 1957we can explore firsthand the relationship between the two and recover the first twenty-two years of James, since Stanislaus died in 1955 and the book was left unfinished.

There are different reasons to read a novel to the end: Vladimir Nabokov He argued that the immature reader identifies with the adventures of the characters, and that instead mature readers read to know where the author is going. In this case, the fate of the sitter is what matters least. What information can you give us My brother James Joyce that has not already offered Richard Ellman, the obsessive biographer of the greatest Irish writer? If every book is police to the extent that the reader must solve some kind of enigma, in this case there is an intrigue to move on: What did Stanislaus Joyce, the talentless professor of literature who, like the moon, always lived on the light that James radiated, really wanted to do?

James and Stanislaus Joyce were born in Dublin, in 1882 and 1884 respectively, in a large middle-class family. Over time, heThe family became poorer and poorer and he moved very often. The main cause of the decline, according to Stanislaus, was the father’s lack of willingness to work – first a private public employee, then unemployed – which, added to almost total alcoholism, made him a difficult person to deal with. As good Irishmen, two obsessions they knew from boys that they later took it upon themselves to fight: Catholicism and patriotism. Of course, an inevitable question is already hovering over when there are two brothers and one of them is a genius: if they were born in the same house under the same circumstances, why he and not his brother? Or, transferred to the first person: why him and not me?

At the beginning it is noted that James was a writer who did not create from imagination, but “took many incidents from his experience, and transformed and invented others.” Thus, Stanislaus affirms that the objective of the book is to search for the origin of the images that appear in the literature of his brother James. For example, a teacher who lived with the family, Mrs. Conway, a “nasty and obese” woman […]. She must have suffered from sciatica, I suppose, because she had difficulty sitting down and getting up ”, she appears recreated in Portraits of a Teenage Artist. Another example is Joh Kelly from Tralee, a family friend who appears in the same novel under the name Mr Casey. And so, the examples follow one another.

The "Ulises" by James Joyce, a monumental novel, is considered one of the most important literary works of the 20th century.
James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a monumental novel, is considered one of the most important literary works of the 20th century.

The first pages are very professional, in the worst sense of the word. Stanislaus looks for anecdotal correspondences between the life and work of his brother, which, according to Juan Jose Saerconvert to biography in “a genre haunted by the shadow of triviality”. The problems of biographies are the problems of life. Reading the life experience of the biographee from the perspective of a great later event, as if the first cigarette smoked in childhood or a bad grade at school were decisive for what came after, makes the scattered and chaotic mass of the experience remain reduced to a neat and tidy box.

Nevertheless, With the passing of the pages and the correspondences between life and work, it seems that the reason for the book is something else. It seems that Stanislaus, resigned to being a gray figure, wants to transcend through his brother’s work. One example among others: “Actually, only two of the stories, ‘Un encuentro’ and ‘Una madre’, are based on personal experiences. The rest of the stories are pure fiction or made with other people’s experiences, mainly mine, as I will show later”.

Fortunately, Stanislaus forgets his threat and focuses on the family story. It is the advantage that the book is not finished: there are still no corrections, the frays and the changes of course are noticeable. The two brothers were educated in Catholic schools of the Jesuit order and were forced to take communion. Stanislaus’s doubts regarding religious truths are of a very high quality, and there are several discussions with his brother about it.. James, on the other hand, does not manifest the theological doubts that will appear later. Again the question arises as to why My brother James Joyce It doesn’t read exactly like a biography: the years go by and the author prioritizes minimal facts, while omitting others that would be important in a professional biography. For example, the conflicts that James later had with the idea of ​​God.

Another reading key is that of the brother as a defender. The original title of the book is My brother’s keeper, that is, “my brother’s keeper.” Once famous, James Joyce was criticized by his contemporaries for various reasons. “Yeats, Russell, and the envious Eglinton insisted on my brother’s arrogance, but it was misjudged, in bad faith,” writes Stanislaus, “because James was frank in his lack of appreciation for men of letters who play with literature.”. There is a long string of pages devoted to the love-hate relationship between James and William Butler Yeatsthe great Irish poet who opened the doors of Paris with recommendations and contacts, but with whom there was no lack of criticism and complaints.

"My brother James Joyce" It was published by the Adriana Hidalgo label.
“My brother James Joyce” was released by the Adriana Hidalgo label.

In 1903, James Joyce travels to Paris to study medicine, but fails: he is hungry, the honey of the city is elusive. From there he publishes reviews in literary magazines of Londonin which criticizes patriotism and Catholicism in Ireland. His compatriot writers never forgave him scathing criticism. Other writers, like Italo Svevo, were also critical of the author. Thus, and from this point of view, Stanislaus wrote My brother James Joyce to clean up James’ image. But if that were the real goal, a few pages would have to be amputated. In fact, the best. Discarding the book as a defense, there is one last possible justification.

Who has never dreamed of writing their autobiography? If most of us don’t, it’s out of humility: nothing justifies memoirs of us, mere mortals, being worthy of a book. Stanislaus found a way around the obstacle: he was lucky enough to be the brother of one of the forty or fifty geniuses who left their mark on the 20th century. Thus, Stanislaus knew that he had the green light to write his memoirs.. The only condition was to record here and there some references that refer to the monumental work of James Joyce. He does it on the first few pages, as if to satisfy the editor. Then he completely forgets and talks about what is important: the stormy relationship with his father.

The best moments of the book, the ones that come to mind first, are those referring to Stanislaus’s relationship with his father, a problem that James does not have.. In those parts, Stanislaus forgets to talk about his brother’s work: he is in full evocative trance. For example: “School hours passed in the midst of great tension and at home there was no possible relaxation. It doesn’t make it easier for a child to study having a drunk at the other end of the table asking him: ‘Will you pass?’, ‘Yes, I’ll try’, ‘That’s it, that’s what I want’ (repeated dozens of times). And then again: ‘Will you pass?’, ‘I’ll try’”.

Scenes like that are scattered throughout the autobiography. “My father called me ‘my brother’s jackal’, and when he got tired of repeating it, he scientifically explained to me that I had no light of my own, but rather shone with someone else’s., Like the moon”. “Everything that rots forms a family,” he wrote Fabian Casas. The workings of home engineering were anything but smooth: a drunken father and an increasingly poor home economy, siblings dying one after the other of disease. The mother never recovers from the death of one of her other children and dies at the age of forty-four. The father, after her funeral, stays until dawn drinking at the bar.

The spirit of the family seems to be encapsulated in that night.. It is true, James is present, but he is not the great writer who lights up the century; he’s just a good supporting character. And then yes: in that long family night that lasted more than twenty years, Stanislaus is the moon. The he super-ego of the house: the superjoyce. The most reasonable, the one who advises, the one who does the right thing and seeks the best for others. He is the only one who, that morning, confronts his father for destroying everything, and the only response he receives is: “You don’t understand, boy.” The one who holds the fine wire of the family skeleton. The one who comforts his mother and acts as a wall for James’s great ideas to bounce off. The family member who nobody asks how he is doing because it is assumed that he does not have big problems. That is nothing more and nothing less than Stanislaus Joyce, who only manages to make himself heard in the guise of James’s biographer: welcome to his autobiography.


We wish to give thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable material

Journey into the biography of James Joyce that his younger brother wrote so that someone would ever pay attention to him

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