Trieste was where James Joyce wrote A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, Giacomo Joyce, and significant portions of Ulysses. A little museum - Museo Joyceano - holding an archive and offering info on Joyce's Triestine years, can be found in the city. But only if you look very hard. It's located within the Museo Sveviano - dedicated to Trieste's finest indigenous author and JJ's friend and mentor, Italo Svevo.
We watched the little dvd film about the Joyces' peregrinations within the city, their constant poverty and struggle, and the flowering of JJ's career. We bought a couple of postcards. Then as we were leaving we literally bumped into Erik Schneider, the museum's director, and a Joycean scholar. Except he was at pains to point out, he's not one of those Joyceans. And no, he's not an academic either, he wanted us to be clear about that. I think he wanted, not unreasonably, to distinguish himself from those Joyceans who dress up in Edwardian stuff and descend on Dublin every June 16th. Or even more worryingly, the Joyceans who recreate Paddy Dignam's funeral and wake.
His not being an academic is harder for him to get away with, since he told us he travelled to Oklahoma City just to read the Trieste journal of Stanislaus Joyce, JJ's long-suffering brother. And he's published several articles on JJ. But no matter. We forgive him. Especially as he gave me not one but two v large posters as souvenirs, that were printed for the opening of the museum, Bloomsday last year, the Ulysses centenary. Erik is one of life's true gentlemen. Which made his trenchant views on the restrictive policies of the Joyce Estate all the more startling. Longstanding readers may recall I was all set to adapt A Portrait for BBC Radio earlier this year, until a firm 'No' came back from Stephen Joyce et al to the Beeb's request for rights.
Here's me in the Museo Joyceano.
And with the man himself
And here's B and Spike with Svevo outside.
We passed by Svevo every day, and Spike liked to address him, in a silly voice, thus:
How Do You Do, Sir?
Those people in the background were from the Italian coastguard, which keeps a serious presence in the port. I think they were having a parade nearby.