Trip to the biography of James Joyce that his younger brother wrote so that someone would once 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 destiny of universal literature. For example, the fourteen-year-old Jim who, in the warm rain of glasgow, accompanies his father drunk, unable to walk in a straight line. Or the teenager who reads like a madman while downstairs one of his younger brothers, George, dies because of a bad medical recommendation. Or the older James Joyce, when he comes back from Paris a Dublin to bid farewell 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 finnegans 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 first-hand 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 portrayed 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 a police book to the extent that the reader must solve some kind of enigma, in this case there is an intrigue to continue: What did Stanislaus Joyce really want to do, the talentless literature professor who, like the moon, always lived on the light radiated by James?

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 moved very often. The main cause of the decline, according to Stanislaus, was the father’s unwillingness to work – first a low-rank public employee, later unemployed – which, added to almost total alcoholism, made him a difficult person to deal with. As good Irishmen, they knew two obsessions from boys who later took it upon themselves to fight: Catholicism and patriotism. Of course, there is already an unavoidable question 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 him and not his brother? Or, transferred to the first person: why him and not me?

At the beginning it is pointed out that James was a writer who did not create from imagination, but “took many incidents of 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 John Kelly of Tralee, a family friend who appears in the same novel under the name of Mr. Casey. And so the examples follow.

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, that which, according to John Joseph 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 subject from the perspective of a later great event, as if the first cigarette smoked in childhood or a bad grade at school were decisive for what came later, 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 different. It seems that Stanislaus, resigned to being a gray figure, wants to transcend through the work of his brother. 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 elaborated with other people’s experiences, fundamentally mine, as I will demonstrate 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 threads and changes of course are noticeable. The two brothers were educated in Catholic schools of the Jesuit order and were required 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 express the theological doubts that will appear later. Again the question arises 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 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 a misjudgment, in bad faith,” writes Stanislaus, “because James was outspoken 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 shortage of criticism and claims.

"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 honeys of the city are elusive. From there he publishes reviews in literary magazines of Londonin which criticizes Irish patriotism and Catholicism. His fellow writers never forgave him for 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 his autobiography? If most of us do not, it is out of humility: nothing justifies that the memoirs of us, mere mortals, are worthy of a book. Stanislaus found a way around the hurdle: 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 consign here and there some references that referred to the monumental work of James Joyce. He does it in the first few pages, as if to satisfy the editor. Then he completely forgets talks about the important thing: the stormy relationship with his father.

The best moments of the book, the ones that first come to mind, are those related 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 a child’s studies easier to have a drunk at the other end of the table asking him: ‘Will you pass?’, ‘Yes, I’ll try’, ‘That’s right, 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 explained to me scientifically that I did not have my own light, but that I 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 quiet: a drunken father and an increasingly poor household economy, brothers dying one after another 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 for drinks at the bar.

The spirit of the family seems to be encapsulated entirely in that night. It is true, James is present, but he is not the great writer who illuminates 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 superego 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 answer he receives is: “You don’t understand, boy.” The one holding the fine wire of the family skeleton. The one who comforts his mom and works as a wall to bounce James’s great ideas. The family member who nobody asks how he is doing because it is assumed that he has no big problems. That is nothing more and nothing less than Stanislaus Joyce, who only manages to make himself heard disguised as James’s biographer: welcome to his autobiography.


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Trip to the biography of James Joyce that his younger brother wrote so that someone would once pay attention to him

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