Friday, 30 September 2016

The Joyce Trail in Trieste. Part 1

From Trieste to Joyce, in the Public Gardens
'La nostra bella Trieste!...I long to see the lights twinkling along the riva as the train passes Miramar. After all, Nora, it is the city which has sheltered us.'  

Joyce, writing from Dublin to Nora in Trieste, 7 September 1909, Selected Letters p170

Like Joyce, we came into Trieste by train, a beautiful route with views of the Adriatic, and a glimpse of Archduke Maximiian's white castle, Miramare, as the first sign that you're approaching the city.  

When they first arrived here in October 1904, Joyce left Nora sitting on a bench outside the station while he went to look for a room.  He then managed to get himself arrested along with a group of drunk English sailors in a bar. Nora, who had no money and didn't speak a word of Italian, was left alone on her bench for several hours until Joyce was finally released. 

Lisa re-enacts the scene.

Trieste has a choice of two Joycean hotels to stay in, the Hotel James Joyce and the Hotel Victoria, which includes the actual apartment he lived in from 1910-12. We picked the Victoria, but stayed in their self-catering block next door. 

There's a plaque by the door, which is part of a Joyce trail you can follow around the city. It includes not just all Joyce's addresses, but those of some of his students, the schools he taught at, his favourite bars, theatres, a cinema, a pastry shop and even a brothel.  It's based on a wonderful book, James Joyce: Triestine Itineraries, by Renzo Crivelli and the Joyce Laboratory of Trieste. Yes, the University of Trieste has a Joyce laboratory!  You can download a map of the trail from the Joyce-Svevo Museum website.

I bought the kindle version, since the book, which is bilingual, is quite heavy.

When Joyce lived in the Victoria Hotel building, his landlord was the pharmacist, Giovanni Picciola, whose business is still there. When I mentioned this on twitter, the James Joyce Gazette wittily commented, 'Chemists rarely move.' (Bloom's thoughts on Sweny's in Dublin: 'Chemists rarely move. Their green and gold beaconjars too heavy to stir.')

Joyce had some colourful things to say about Picciola when faced with eviction in 1912.  Here's his letter to Stanislaus.

I called in at the chemist to buy some reading glasses.

The Victoria offers a luxury 'James Joyce suite'. I asked the desk staff if this was the room the Joyces lived in. They said it wasn't and that the Joyce apartment was too small and dark to be converted into accommodation.

The helpful and friendly staff of the Hotel Victoria

The suite has quotations from Joyce, in Italian, on the furniture. Here's a photo, from their website. Sadly, the quotes don't include 'Picciola is a pig'.

'Style is the only thing that interests me,' says the chair in the foreground.  This was Joyce being deliberately provocative to Stanislaus in 1936: 'For God’s sake don’t talk politics. I am not interested in politics. Style is the only thing that interests me.’

The armchair carries the famous quotation from Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses: 'A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.' That's something that Nora and Stanislaus could have flung in Joyce's face so many times in the Trieste years (e.g. after being evicted by Picciola): 'Is this another of your portals of discovery, then?'

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