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Did you know that James Joyce once lived in Istria? Find out more in our article

Did you know that James Joyce once lived in Istria? Find out more in our article

The life on an amazing author in the small town of Pula

Today Pula is known for many things: the stunning Arena, the Golden Gate, an excellent sea view with Brijuni Islands in the distance, lovely beaches, the Pula Film Festival, concerts, cultural exhibitions, etc. However, not to many people know that the famous Irish author, James Joyce worked and lived here for a short period of his life.

Joyce hadn’t really planned to live in Pula. While still in Dublin, he was working to get an early version of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” published. However, the book was refused since Joyce publicly questioned the Catholic Church. This made the young author very angry, caused him to rebel against Ireland and made him leave his homeland in search for a better, more understanding country.

His plan was to work in Switzerland, at the Berlitz language school in Zürich. The post was promised to him, however, when Joyce and his girlfriend at the time (and later his wife) Nora Barnacle, came to Switzerland, the job was no longer available. Joyce and Nora decided to go to Trieste to try their luck there, however, there was no available posts at Trieste either. Finally, the author and his muse travelled further south and settled in a small Istrian town on the coast, Pula. They arrived on Sunday, the 30th of October 1904.

Pula, at the time the main Austro-Hungarian harbour, just opened a new Berlitz Language School that was supposed to attract navy officers and sailors as students.

A bronze sculpture of James Joyce with a building in the backgorund

The Joyces lived at Via Giulia 2, just across the road from the school. When Joyce wasn´t teaching, they mostly stayed at home or spent time together at the famous Caffè Miramar. Joyce continued his writing in Pula and made many notes on aesthetics which he later used in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. While living in Pula, Joyce also finished a couple of chapters of “Stephen Hero”. Here, he was first imbued with the idea of Ulysses - the split personality of the modern man. He later published a novel called “Ulysses”, which is considered to be one of the most important works of modern literature. While taking a stroll through Pula, you can relax at the Uliks (Ulysses) bar, right next to the Golden Gate, with Joyce´s bronze statue keeping you company on the terrace.

Supposedly, Joyce wasn´t very happy with his job - he was underpaid and could barely make a living for himself. This was of course making it even harder for him to work on his true love - literature. His way of dealing with this was to talk to his students about his work and other everyday subjects.

Even though Joyce was not the most enthusiastic of professors, it is reported that he could always keep his students interested and that many of them remained his friends for life.

It is no secret that Joyce was not very fond of Pula, especially when it got colder. In a letter to his brother he referred to Pula as “naval Siberia”. Joyce despised its “hundreds of races and thousands of languages, its ineffective parliament, the warships, and the faded uniforms everywhere”. Joyce, Nora and their baby son left Pula in March of 1905 and moved to Trieste.

Istria still honours one of its greatest citizens and what better way is there to do this than through art? While staying in Pula during the summer, make sure to attend the Ulysses theatre on Brijuni island and breathe in some of the atmosphere that inspired the great James Joyce.

Marija Kancir

+385 1 222 70 50