Offbeat Paris


A Joycean encounter

6th arrondissement - rue de l'Odéon

Until recently, the only physical reminder that Joyce had lived in this city for nearly 20 years was this plaque placed at the original address of a bookshop, Shakespeare & Co, in rue de l'Odéon. Shakespeare & Co. belonged to Sylvia Beach, Joyce's first publisher and benefactor. To add insult to injury, the plaque is not the work of the Paris city authorities, nor even of Irish officialdom. Instead, the only people who found it worthwhile commemorating the spot where 'Ulysses" was first published and put on sale was the James Joyce Society of Sweden and Finland (J.J.S.S.F). The City of Paris made amends of sorts in 1999 when it named a square near the new Bibliothèque Nationale de France after Joyce. Fittingly enough, the garden in question is out of the way and not easily accessible.

James Joyce lived at 19 different addresses during his time in Paris, as often as not in hotels. But his first address when he arrived in Paris from Trieste was in rue Cardinal Lemoine, also in the fifth arrondissement. A pleasant place, made up of apartments and one or two single-family homes around a small communal garden. Naturally, this was the first stop in a tour of Joycean Paris organised back in 1995. The "tour guide" for the day was Stephen Joyce, the redoubtable grandson of the great man. But as he went through the history of Joyce in Paris while we stood in the grounds of Joyce's first address in rue Lemoine, a truculent concierge stole up behind Joyce and began asking questions as to what we were doing in a private courtyard. "Qui êtes-vous? Vous n'avez pas le droit. Ici, c'est une propriété privée" etc..etc.. Exacerbated, Joyce turned around, launched a thunderous "allez vous faire voir, Madame" and got on with the show. The tour ended at Fouquet's on the Champs Elyses, one of Joyce's favoured watering holes, where his grandson plucked out of his leather satchel priceless first editions of 'Ulysees' in English and French.

More on James Joyce at my other site,


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