A strikingly personal collection of documents by and relating to James Joyce has recently been donated to the James Joyce Foundation in Zurich.
The documents have been given by Hans E Jahnke, the stepson of Joyce’s son, Giorgio. Dr Jahnke inherited them from his late mother Asta, who was Giorgio’s second wife and consequently his heir.
The documents, which were held in a battered trunk, were handed over at a ceremony in Zurich by Dr Jahnke in the presence of the Irish Ambassador to Switzerland, Joe Lynch, and a number of other guests.
These documents are unusual in that they are more personal than any of the Joyce material that has turned up recently. They include 50 letters by Joyce (37 of them to Giorgio) and 34 postcards (23 to Giorgio).
Some of the letters are addressed to both Giorgio and his first wife, Helen Fleischmann, and some to Helen alone. These letters will help to flesh out the activities and relationships of Joyce during the 1920s and 1930s and are an important addition to Joyce’s biography. They are likely to be more personal than Joyce’s letters to Paul Leon released by the National Library in 1992, which were mainly about business matters.
There are also a large number of letters to James, Nora and Giorgio Joyce, including 113 from his publisher Sylvia Beach. Among these is an important letter in which she announces that she will publish Ulysses.
This collection will also be of interest to Samuel Beckett scholars since it includes a letter and a postcard to Joyce from Beckett (instances of their correspondence are very rare).
There are also five letters to Nora or Giorgio from Beckett written after Joyce’s death.
The collection includes a touching letter to Nora from Stanislaus Joyce, James’s brother, telling of his feelings just after his brother’s death. There are also some legal and medical documents, among them items concerning the condition of Giorgio’s sister, Lucia.
Most of the manuscript material relates to Finnegans Wake and, unusually, Joyce’s poetry. The most important Finnegans Wake item appears to be what the foundation describes as “21 sheets of Finnegans Wake Notebook material” for Part II, Chapter 3 of the work.
The Zurich James Joyce Foundation, under director Fritz Senn, was already a considerable presence in the Joyce world. This bequest stipulates that the papers must be available to researchers, enhancing the foundation’s status as a major centre of Joyce scholarship.
© The Irish Times