James Joyce's Early Years ; My Brother's Keeper by Stanislaus Joyce

James Joyce's Early Years ; My Brother's Keeper by Stanislaus Joyce edited, with introduction and notes, by Richard Ellmann. Preface by T.S. Eliot

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New York : Viking Press, 1958. First Edition. Hardcover. 266 pages ; 21 cm. $5.00 dust jacket. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.

Of this always vivid, scrupulously candid book by James Joyce's brother, T. S. Eliot says it is "worthy to occupy a permanent place on the bookshelf beside the works of his brother." Three years younger than James, Stanislaus Joyce was his constant boyhood companion, shared his pranks and adventures, acted as his "whetstone" in discussing books and ideas, rebelled with him against their native Ireland, and watched over him in his long exile in Trieste. Stanislaus kept a journal of these years, and used it as a basis for this unique biographical study. When he died in Trieste in 1955 he had carried the book through James's twenty-second year. It foreshadows, however, much of the life to follow, and gives us an extraordinary amount of new material about the personal sources of Joyce's books and about his family, friends, and way of life. Because Stanislaus had the gift of language and was a perceptive observer with razor-sharp opinions, this is both a work of literary distinction and an amazing portrait of a young man in his times. Correcting many errors in other biographies, it enlarges the picture supplied by the recent Joyce Letters, and brilliantly illuminates the development of a genius.

Stanislaus has done salty sketches of James's early friends and uninhibited portraits of his unhappy family—the ne'er-do-well father; the put-upon, priest-ridden mother; assorted relatives and neighbors. Special venom is reserved for the Jesuits and the professional patriots and bigots of his strife-torn land. Thus we see the factual background behind the imagined scenes of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, and Ulysses. We emerge with an enhanced conviction of Joyce's sincerity of purpose, intense creativeness, originality of mind, and profound artistic integrity.

Quoted in the text are several unpublished or uncollected pieces of early Joyce writings preserved by Stanislaus.

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