Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A Walking Tour of Joyce's Paris 2: Seventh Arrondissement and Champs Elysées

'a skyerscape of most eyeful hoyth entowerly' (Finnegans Wake 4.36)
'The Seventh Arrondissment, with its broad avenues and ornate, balconied houses, had always been one of Joyce's favourite sections of Paris. When he stepped out of his house he could see the Eiffel Tower rising like a fountain against the luminous sky; nearby the Seine, whose name he had transformed in his private language of a poet to the Anna Sequana, flowed quietly, endlessly, beneath time-worn bridges.'

Gisèle Freund and V.B. Carleton, James Joyce in Paris: His FInal Years, 1965, p11

We begin our second Paris walk in the wealthy Seventh Arrondissement, home to the French nobility since the 17th century. It has the biggest concentration of embassies, ministries and official residences in the city. At its centre is the massive Champs de Mars, with the Eiffel Tower at the north end. 



Running along the west side of the park, we find Avenue Charles Floquet, which has two James Joyce addresses.

Charles Floquet (1828-1896), radical French statesman

We walk north up the avenue until we reach number 26, where James Joyce lived from November 1922 to August 1923.

This one really should have a plaque. While he was staying here, on 11 March 1923, Joyce wrote a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver.

Yesterday I wrote two pages – the first I have written since the final Yes of Ulysses. Having found a pen, with some difficulty I copied them out in a large handwriting on a double sheet of foolscap so that I could read them. Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio, the Italians say. The wolf may lose his skin but not his vice or the leopard cannot change his spots.
Letters I p 202  

Yes this building is the birthplace of Finnegans Wake!

What Joyce wrote was a comic sketch about King Roderick O'Conor, the last High King of Ireland, reinvented as a Dublin publican collapsing in his pub after drinking all the dregs - the first of many Wake falls. Read my post about it here.

Walking north up the avenue, we find a second Joyce address, at number 8. He moved here from the Victoria Palace Hotel in November 1924, staying here until June 1925.

Joyce was hard at work fusing books one and three of the Wake together here. He told August Suter, ‘I feel like an engineer boring through a mountain from two sides. If my calculations are correct we shall meet in the middle. If not ...’ (quoted by Frank Budgen in 'Further Recollections of James Joyce')

'I think I have solved one – the first – of the problems presented by my book. In other words one of the partitions between two of the tunnellling parties seems to have given way.' 

To Harriet Shaw Weaver, 9 November 1924, Selected Letters 304

'The gangs are now hammering on all sides. It is a bewildering business. I want to do as much as I can before the execution.* Complications to right of me, complications to left of me, complex on the page before me, perplex in the pen beside my, duplex in the meandering eys of me, stuplex on the face that reads me. And from time to time I lie back and listen to my hair growing white.'  To HSW 16 November 1924, Letters 222

* Joyce had another eye operation, for cataract, in late November.


Now we walk west across the Champs de Mars, where Joyce must have walked many times.

Lisa and I found a nice Italian cafe in the park, where we stopped for a drink. There's a very old hand-cranked carousel behind. Children play 'catch the ring' here, a game once played by Marie Antoinette at Versailles. Riding the horses, they try to catch little rings placed on a rack.



On the west side of the park, we find the Rue de Grenelle, a street with many aristocratic mansions, which heads east.  

Rue de Grenelle

Paris is a very watery city. We saw water flowing out of drains and along the metro lines.

Walking up the street, we reach Square Robiac on our left.  This corner building, at number 2 Square Robiac (192 Rue de Grenelle) was the nearest thing that the Joyces ever had to a lasting home. They lived here, on the third floor, for almost six years, from June 1925 to April 1931.

'Joyce had been a migratory bird about the various quarters of Paris since his arrival in 1920 and it was not unti 1925 that he finally lighted in a comparatively permanent nest of his own...2 Square Robiac, a cul-de-sac off 192 Rue de Grenelle, in one of the oldest and pleasantest quarters of Paris....He was in the middle of history. During his walks he constantly passed great gates to cobbled courtyards where crumbling armorial bearings in dark stone spoke mutely of more spacious days....Dotting the long slowly twisting Rue de Grenelle were typical little French shops, cobblers, zinc-bistros, caves, cheap restauarants, merceries and épiceries as well as imposing government buyildings flying the tricolouer and foreign embassies. Joyce loved this quarter of Paris.'

Herbert Gorman, James Joyce, 1941, p 355.

The flat was unfurnished, which gave James and Nora Joyce their first opportunity to reveal their taste in interior decoration.  Thanks to Harriet Shaw Weaver's generosity, they could splash out.

'They had the walls repapered, the floors carpeted, and six windows and three doors draped in brocade....'The house so far is all right,' wrote Joyce the householder to Miss Weaver, 'but it seems to have cost a lot of money'....The total reached a hundred and twenty-five thousand francs – equivalent to a year of Joyce's interest income. Miss Weaver may or may not have been consoled to learn that the Joyces had decorated three of the rooms in 'her' colours, blue and yellow.
  Their friends all crowded in for a look and privately found it dreadful.'

Brenda Maddox, Nora, p.303

Elliot Paul, the transition editor, wrote that 'One would say that the rooms were occupied by a dentist of Detroit Michigan.' ('Farthest North: A Study of James Joyce', Bookman 75, 1932, p.159)

'The Joyce apartment, at least the living room in which we sat, upset me. Nothing looked right. In the whole world there wasn't a more original writer than Joyce, the exotic in the English language. In the work he had on hand he was exploring the language of the dream world. In this room where he led his life I must have expected to see some of the marks of his wild imagination. Yet the place was conservatively respectable....The room was all in a conventional middle-class pattern with, if I remember, a brown patterned wallpaper, a mantel, and a painting of Joyce's father hanging above the mantel.'  

Morley Callagahan, That Summer in Paris

'The only picture that I had ever seen in his flat, apart from his family portraits...was a reproduction of Vermeer's view of Delft. It hung over his mantelpiece, and he considered it a very fine work of art. I think one of the reasons, if not the reason, why he admired it so much was that it is the portrait of a city....
   In general he was not interested in modern art....(When) I asked him his opinion of the latest Picasso, or Braque...he would stare blankly at them, his face registering no interest or emotion, and would ask, after a time:
– How much are they worth?'

Arthur Power, Conversations with James Joyce, 1974

Joyce would also have loved the canal
Nora Joyce, in a 1927 letter from the Hague to Giorgio, describes Joyce's discovery of the painting:

'yesterday we went to look at paintings at a small yet beautiful museum by a pond that they call the mauritshuis there is a very big painting there of an old man with a cow by a tree in a meadow very lovely but your father thought another painting the most beautiful and that is the view of Delft your father says it is the most beautiful painting in the world because you can stare at it for hours and still see new things Lucia thinks it is boring and she cares more for another painting by Johan Vermeer and that is a lovely girl with a pearl we will send you a postcard of it she looks a bit like Lucia'


We now walk east along Rue de Grenelle until we reach Rue Fabert,  where we turn left. At number 40, we find the office of transition, the avant-garde journal founded by Eugene Jolas.

Eugene Jolas is best known for his manifesto for 'The Revolution of the Word':


From 1927, transition published 13 extracts from Work in Progress, but Joyce refused to sign the manifesto. He believed that he was writing for the plain reader!

Here's a portrait of Joyce by Cesar Abin which Jolas commissioned for transition in 1932, for his 50th birthday.

Have a look here at Stella Steyn's lovely Wake illustrations from transition.



We retrace our steps back to Rue de Grenelle, where we carry on walking east until the street meets the Rue de Bourgogne on the left. On the corner here, there's the little Café Resto au Coin de La Rue.

In the late 1930s, this was Madame Lepeyre's bistrot, where Joyce regularly met his assistant Paul Léon for aperitifs. Joyce came here in December 1938 and read the closing words of the Wake, which he'd just written, to Léon:

'The first version, which was only about two a half pages long, was written in one afternoon, in December 1938. It was a veritable deliverance. Joyce brought it with him when we met that evening for his usual half-past eight rendez-vous in Madame Lapeyre's pleasant bistrot, on the corner of the Rue de Grenelle and the Rue de Bourgogne...'

'In Memory of Joyce', Poésie No V (1942), reprinted in James Joyce Volume 2: The Critical Heritage, (ed Robert Deming)

The final words form the begining of the sentence completed on the book's opening page, a sentence which took Joyce twelve years to write!

They came here because Léon lived nearby, at number 27 Rue Casimir-Périer, which is where we head next.
There's plaque on the wall but it's not to Joyce or Léon but to the writer Sophie Rostopchine, Countess of Ségur.

After the war, Lucie Léon–Noel turned the flat into a shrine to Joyce and her husband Paul, who was murdered by the Nazis. It was photographed by Gisèle Freund for her book.

'It seems to me,' Lucie Léon-Noel said recently, 'that one way of keeping the memory of those we love alive in our hearts is to preserve the things – and the ambience – just as they were during those years which Joyce and my husband called the Sweetness of Life, when twice a day there would be those two familiar raps on the door and the little maid would announce, 'C'est Monsieur Joyce, Madame.''

Gisèle Freund and V.B. Carleton, James Joyce in Paris: His FInal Years, 1965, p102.

Joyce always sat in the chair on the left.

You can now see the table and chairs in the Joyce Centre in North Great George's Street, Dublin. There were plans to buy the flat from Alex Leon to set up a museum, but funds were short, so the furniture was bought instead.

I photographed the chair in 2019
It's a shame that the chair has been reupholstered - it was originally blue velvet, and would have contained some of Joyce's DNA!


We walk north, turning left into Rue Saint-Dominique and the right up Avenue Bosquet. On our left, we turn into Rue Edmond Valentin, which is dominated by a view of the Eiffel Tower.

Number 7 on the left here was the Joyce home from February 1935 to April 1939. This was one of their grandest addresses, and it was where Joyce finished writing Finnegans Wake. This is the building that Joyce would step out from and 'see the Eiffel Tower rising like a fountain against the luminous sky.'

'We started moving our things into the new empty flat I have taken yesterday, 5 rooms, lift, private telephone, chauffage, 4th floor, clear outlook as right opposite is a hotel particulier of 2 storeys. Little or no traffic in the street which has only 12 houses and is not a suite of any other street. Only one flat on each landing and this cornerless and quite bright.'

To George and Helen Joyce, 13 July 1934, Letters III 309

Though Joyce found it bright, Nino Frank was struck by the apartment's gloom:

'The apartment on the Rue Edmond-Valentin...was of the same substantial and anonymous sort as the one on Square Robiac, less cramped however, and including in particular a vast drawing room, where Mrs Joyce's portrait occupied the place of honour....The children were no longer around – Giorgio was married, Lucia in the hands of psychiatrists – and the parents found themselves alone in an apartment that had become immense and silent.
  I detected something new in this apartment: the absence of sunshine, or abundant light. Does my memory deceive me? It seems to me that I always saw it plunged in semiobscurity or invaded by ever-darkening air.'

Nino Frank, 'The Shadow that had Lost Its Man', 1967, in Portraits of the Artist in Exile p91

Some of the most famous photographs of Joyce were taken here, in 1938-9, by Gisèle Freund. To mark the publication of the Wake, she took this colour one for Time.

 Here he is leaving the building with Eugene Jolas.

Gisèle Freund has a more positive description of the apartment:

'Joyce, basically a family man, had established a real home in the rue Edmond-Valentin, a place with meaning and memories. Here were his personal books and pictures, comfortable chairs that invited long hours of conversation, for Joyce was a most considerate host; against the living room wall stood a rented piano that satisfied his passion for music; on it were flowers and family photographs.'

James Joyce in Paris: His FInal Years, 1965, p11


It's a five minute walk from here north to the Seine, and Joyce's favourite bridge, the Pont de l'Alma

'How often Joyce and I watched the Seine from the Pont de l'Alma' 
 Paul Léon (quoted by Freund p17)

The Seine was a big inspiration to Joyce in writing the Anna Livia episode, which he described as 'an attempt to subordinate words to the rhythm of water.' According to C.P.Curran, 'Joyce felt some misgivings about it the night it was finished, and went down to the Seine to listen by one of the bridges to the waters. He came back content.' (Ellmann p.564)

We tried to listen to the Seine, but we could only hear the heavy traffic rolling over the bridge.



Across the bridge, at 7 Place de l'Alma, we find Chez Francis, another of Joyce's favourite restaurants.

'Joyce hated to go to any restaurant other than those few which he habitually frequented, and nothing would induce him to go to the well-known bohemian cafés of Montparnasse. When he did not go to the Trianons he sometimes dined en famille at the Café Francis...which faces the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, and after a visit to the theatre he would call in there before returning home.'

Arthur Power, Conversations with James Joyce, p 47

I was thrilled to find it still in business, though there's no plaque to James Joyce!


We head north up the Avenue Marceau and then south west down Rue de Bassano, searching for the Hotel Belmont which stood at numbers 28-30.

The hotel is gone and this modern building stands on its site. Joyce lived here briefly, from April to May 1932. He had been planning to return to London, where the Joyces lived for several months in 1931 (and where he finally married Nora). But Lucia had a breakdown at the Gare du Nord, screaming that she hated London and wouldn't go.

'Lucia had a crise de nerfs at the Gare du Nord so I had to take the trunks off the train, abandon our journey to London and definitely give up our Kensington flat. So here we are in a hotel again, after 12 years in Paris!'

To Valery Larbaud, 13 May 1932, Letters III p245


From Rue de Bassano we walk north along Rue Kepler until we reach Rue Galilée.  Turning right we walk to number 42, another Joyce address.

Joyce lived here from late November 1932 to 19 July 1934.

Harold Nicolson, the British author and diplomat, visited Joyce here in February 1934, leaving a vivid account in a letter to Vita Sackville-West:

Joyce by Lipnitsky mid 1930s
'I walked to James Joyce’s flat in the Rue Galilée. It is a little furnished flat as stuffy and prim as a hotel bedroom. The door was opened by the son. A strange accent he had, half-German, half-Italian — an accent of Trieste. We sat down on little hard chairs and I tried to make polite conversation to the son. Then Joyce glided in. It was evident that he had just been shaving. He was very spruce and nervous and chatty. Great rings upon little twitching fingers. Huge concave spectacles which flicked reflections of the lights as he moved his head like a bird, turning it with that definite insistence to the speaker as blind people do who turn to the sound of a voice. Joyce was wearing large bedroom slippers in check, but except for that, one had the strange impression that he had put on his best suit. He was very courteous, as shy people are. His beautiful voice trilled on slowly like Anna Livia Plurabelle. He has the most lovely voice I know — liquid and soft with undercurrents of gurgle.
   He told me how the ban had been removed from Ulysses ('Oolissays', as he calls it) in America. He had hopes of having it removed in London....He seemed rather helpless and ignorant about it all, and anxious to talk to me. One has the feeling that he is surrounded by a group of worshippers and that he has little contact with reality.  This impression of something unreal was increased by the atmosphere of the room,
Pope Pius XI blesses Ulysses by mistake
the mimosa with its ribbon, the birdlike twitching of Joyce, the glint of his glasses, and the feeling that they were both listening for something in the house.  
   He told me that a man had taken Oolissays to the Vatican and had hidden it in a prayer-book, and that it had been blessed by the Pope. He was half-amused by this and half-impressed. He saw that I would think it funny, and at the same time he did not think it wholly funny himself.
   My impression of the Rue Galilée was the impression of a very nervous and refined animal – a gazelle in a drawing room. His blindness increases that impression. I suppose he is a real person somewhere, but I feel I have never spent half-an-hour with anyone and been left with the impression of such brittle and vulnerable strangeness.'

Diaries and Letters, 1930–1939, ed. Nigel Nicolson (London and New York: Atheneum, 1966) pp. 164–5.


We continue walking up Rue Galilée until we reach the Champs Elysées. Turning right we walk east along the avenue until we reach Fouquet's restaurant at number 99. This was Joyce's favourite restaurant in the 1930s. 

There's a red carpet outside, and the names of film stars written alongside. Fouquet's is famous for hosting the César and Molière Awards gala dinners - the French equivalent of the Oscars. The French associate Fouquet's with Nicolas Sarkozy's election celebration there, which set the tone for his 'bling-bling' presidency. Today it's full of rich tourists who shop at the huge Louis Vuitton flagship store over the road.

The restaurant's connection with the film industry goes back to Joyce's day.

'We were at dinner in a luxurious Champs-Elysées restaurant renowned for its bar, which movie moguls and near-moguls had made an annex to their head office. Joyce sat in his regular seat, turning his back to the public as was his custom, and ordering bisque, which he loved, and some Rhine wine.'

Nino Frank, 'The Shadow that had Lost Its Man', 1967 in Portraits of the Artist in Exile p91

Louis Gillet tells us that Joyce discovered Fouquet's while he was living nearby in Rue Galilée

'When he migrated later on to the Rue Galilée, he took his station at Fouquet's; he kept this new custom even after he came to lodge again on the left bank, at Champs de Mars. He always occupied the same table, and at the table, the same seat.'

Louis Gillet, 'The Living Joyce', 1941, in  Portraits of the Artist in Exile p182

Joyce's old Dublin friend Mary Colum describes a memorable evening in Fouquet's

'He went regularly now to Fouquet's, in the Champs Elysées, the haunt of celebrities of all kinds. He could not, with his poor vision, see many of the diners, but he liked to be told who they were.
   Once, while we were waiting for a table in this place, we sat on a bench next to a man in tweeds and a blonde, rather tired-looking woman, without makeup in a black suit. The woman looked so familiar I began to wonder where I had seen her before. Nora enlightened me: 'You have seen her in the cinema; she's Marlene Dietrich.'
  I turned to the woman impulsively and asked, 'Are you Madame Dietrich?' She answered, not unpleasantly, 'And who Madame are you?' I responded that I did a little writing. 'Oh then you will like to meet Monsieur Remarque,' she said, introducing the tweed-clad man with her. In return I introduced the man at my side: 'Monsieur James Joyce.'
  The effect was electrical. I had not imagined that such a writer would be of interest to a movie star, but Miss Dietrich and, more naturally, the novelist with her were excited at the encounter and were loath to leave when their table was announced.  The observant waiter gave us a table next to theirs, so the conversation was continued for a time. 'I saw you', Joyce said to the star, 'in L'Ange bleu'. 'Then monsieur,' Miss Dietrich replied, 'you saw the best of me.'
  Joyce was amused by it all. 'I thought the years when I was a literary lion were over,' he said, smiling, but with a kind of melancholy. He was at the last lap of Finnegans Wake, and, as usual, was mobilizing helpers.'

Mary and Padraic Colum, Our Friend James Joyce, 1958, p.229 
Dietrich in 1937, not long before she met Joyce

Sightings of Marlene Dietrich in Fouqet's seem to have been a regular event for the Joyces. Here's another old Dublin friend, C.P.Curran:

'One supper party in Fouquet's remains in my mind because we had Marlene Dietrich as our nearest neighbour.....Going there one evening from his flat, whether of malice aforethought or not, Joyce conveniently forgot a book he wished to give me and so – sending our wives ahead  Joyce with Eugene Jolas and myself went back to fetch it and, ignoring warnings given us, we interposed an interval en route for pernods. Warned I suppose by the earlier arrival of our wives, there was a great to-do when we made our entrance. Piccolo and commissionaire were strung out on the pavement. Piccolo signalled commisonaire, commissionaire passed the signal to the maitre d'hotel advancing from the doorstep. I almost saw a red carpet....The maitre d'hotel, preceded by the piccolo carrying my two-volume Lasteyrie...led us in procession to what I suppose was Joyce's accustomed place. 
   I found Nora pointing out celebrities to my wife as we arrived, both forgetful of reproaches in their anxiety not to miss Marlene's usual moment of arrival. But the manner of our entry was a challenge – hers was no more distinguished – and when she did arrive I kept my attention fixed on Joyce and our conversation and for the rest of the evening did not remove my eyes from his. I imagine that Nora did not fail to appreciate my sense of values. At any rate the pernods were forgiven.'

C.P.Curran, James Joyce Remembered, 1968, p89

I love the fact that Curran 'almost saw a red carpet'. Did he experience a timeslip into the future? 


  1. This is a tremendous blog. Well done Peter. I lived in Paris for a while, many years ago, so it brought back such memories. And I'm a bit of Joyce nut too, so it was utterly absorbing. I agree too about he lack of plaques to Joyce, especially in Rue De Grenelle

    1. Thanks Eamon! I want to go back and track down some more of his addresses