It was difficult for Joyce to put Ulysses behind him. Recent scholarship
has shown that he began taking notes for a new work in late October, 1922,
but it was not until 10 March, 1923 that he overcame his writer´s
block and produced two pages, a portrait of King Roderic O´Connor
in the guise of a publican cleaning up after his bar-room has emptied.
By the autumn of 1923, despite an intervening illness, he had completed
in all half-a-dozen sketches.It was from one of these, the Earwicker fragment,
which was for several years the opening pages of the book, that the starting
point for his new work emerged. It was in this way that work o Finnegans
Wake, as we understand it, began in the winter of 1923-24. Having found
this new direction, he worked energetically and continuously, by the beginning
of 1926 he had completed Parts I and III. At this point, he paused to take
stock. He next drafted the Geometry lesson and made tentative plans for
the rest of part II. It was in this year that he met Eugene and Maria Jolas
who where planning to produce the literary magazine
"Transition". They offered to publish Joyce´s "Work in progress",
his working title for the unifinished book. Joyce, to whom deadlines acted
as a spur to creativity, accepted the offer with delight. Accordingly,
in the second half of 1926, he quickly wrote what is now the first chapter
of the book, this appeared in the first issue of "Transition". At the same
time, with serial publication now available to him, he began to revise
and refine all of parts I and III. This phase of the work which included,
in 1927 a second interpolation of a new chapter, namely 1.6 with its portraits
of the protagonists, into the already written part I was completed by 1929.
By contrast in the 1930, Joyce worked very slowly indeed. Family and health
worries plagued him to such an extent that the exceptionally complex Part
II took many years to compose. Between 1923 and 1930, Joyce had to undergo
ten operations on his eyes. His father died in 1931. His daughter Lucia
became schizophrenic in 1932. The first published sections of the work,
free of the later additions they accumulated before the final publication
in book form on 4 May 1939, met with a hostile reception from many of his
friends and admirers, particularly from his brother Stanislaus and from
Ezra Pound. In 1937 and 1938 he revised page proofs for publication, adding
as was his practice copious amounts of new material. late 1938 saw the
final stages in the compositional process. Joyce retrieved early sketches
that he laid aside in 1923 and reworked them as best he could into the
almost completed work. It was into the newly drafted final and shorter
Part IV, the Ricorsom that he incorporated this early material. So in this
and in other respects, the final section brings us back to the beginning.
The work, which he had begun with such energy that he hoped it might be
finished by the end of the 1920, took sixteen years to complete.
Throughout this time, the Joyce family lived in Paris, their financial worries greatly eased by the support of Harriet Shaw Weaver who was, in effect, Joyce´s patron from 1917 until his death. Still even in Paris, the Joyces remained peripatetic as paupers. By the time they left the Hotel Lutetia on the boulevard Raspail in December 1939 to escape the war, they had had over 120 different addresses, less than twenty of them in Paris itself, the others being holiday adresses, staging points on various visits to other parts of France, England, Wales, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark, but never Ireland. Of the remainder, some were hospital and sanatorium adresses that Joyce´s and Lucia´s afflictions had made necessary. Joyce´s mobility all through his life was extraordinary. He had had more than twenty adresses in Dublin and he kept up the pace on his sojourns in Pola, Trieste, Rome and Zurich. It was only in Paris, though, that he became the centre of a nucleous of friends, helpers and admirers. Much of the time he had been driven from pillar to post by poverty, sixteen years of it between his departure with Nora from Dublin in 1904 and his arrival at 9 rue de LÚniversite in Paris in July 1920. Paris at least gave hism the support of stable friendship, even though these were strained by the reaction to Finnegans Wake. Sylvia Beach, Adrienne Monnier, Valery Larbaud and Stuart Gilbert were the chief supporters of Ulysses, the daybook, while Work in progress, the provisional title for Finnegans Wake, the nightbook, was nurtured by Eugene Jolas and his American wife, Maria McDonald, the editors of the famous inter-war journal Transition which published episondes from the great work at intervals over eleven years, from 1927 to 1938. Joyce also became friendly with Lucie and Paul Leon, to whom he entrusted many of his manuscripts during the german occupation. But his Parisian circle was wider than these few names would indicate. On 23 February 1934, in a temporary structure next door to the famous La Coupole restaurant in the Boulevard Montparnasse, a presentation of Work in Progres was organized by a number of Joyce´s friends. Louis Gillet, Leon-Paul fargue and Edouard Dujardin were among the speakers who defended and praised the work. The audience included Samuel Beckett, George Antheil, Philippe Soupault and many others. Before, on 26 March 1931, there had been a public reading of the "Anna Livia Plurabelle" section of the Wake, with Adrienne Monnier reading in French and Joyce in English. Most famously of all. Valery Larbaud had delivered a lecture on Ulisses to 200 people in Monnier´s bookshop on 7 December 1921, it was published in the Nouvelle Renue Francaise in the 1922 and soon thereafter translated into English for inclusion in T.S. Eliot´s journal Criterion, thus launching Joyce in France and building a beachhead for him on the largely hostile English coast. Joyce was not only celebrated in Paris, he was aided and abetted in the most practical ways. Three women, Harriet Shaw Weaver, Sylvea Beach and Adrienne Monnier, were his most dedicated allies and friends. The latter two introduced him to the Parisian literary world, the outlines of which had already been sketched for him by Ezra Pound. It was Sylvia Beach´s Shakespeare anc Co. that published Ulysses, Pomes Penyach and the volume of essays in defence of the Wake, put together at Joyce´s instigation by a group of friends, under the cumbersomely comic title Our exagmination round his factification for incamination of Work in progress 1929. No comparable support or contact had been at Joyce´s disposal when he lived in Zurich in 1915-18, where Lenin an his companions lived and where the Dadaists held court at the Cafe Voltaire. Only Dublin was more important to him. But in Dublin Joyce was regarded as much a character as a writer. In Paris he was an writer pur sang, Maria Jolas tells of an occasion, at the British Institute in Paris, When Joyce was introduced to Sir James Frazer, the author of the Golden Bough. That is sufficient. From Ulysses almost straight into Finnegans Wake, Joyce spent twenty-two years writing the two books that would become central to the twentieth century´s concept of modernism. Whatever else happened, he wrote. Yet no one so dedicated to that activity ever brought it into question as much as he did, particularly in those years he was based in Paris.
It has often been suggested, perhaps first by Stanislaus Joyce, that the admiration of a close circle of friends was harmful to Joyce because it closed him off from the world and allowed him to cherish his eccentricities to an inordenate degree. The charge is usually made by those who regard the Wake with hostility. Yet to dismiss Joyce´s last work as an unfortunate development is to take a strange view both of it and of its predecessors. It is perfectly possible to argue that the effect of the Parisian cenacle on the Wake was profound in the sense that it brought the question of the audience for the work into sharp focus. But the various attemps to present the Wake to the public were aimed at breaking Joyce out of his ghetto of admirers and making him known to a larger audience. Joyce himself was anxious to have his work ratified by public recognition. Nor was anyone more conscious that his Parisian circle for Ulysses was distressed by the path he took in the Wake. The admiration he received was not uncritical.Precisely because he had embarked on such a solitary and opaque project, he needed a microphone to announce and explain his labours to the world. Only Paris in the inter-war years had the cultural system to supply that. Above all, it had the journal transition and its indefatigable editor, Eugene Jolas. He and Stuart Gilbert and later Jacques Mercaton were the Joyce-appointed trustees for his audience. They were to create the taste by which he would be received both by providing explanations and translations. The merciless and paradoxical task of translating Joyce´s later work preoccupied and amused Jolas. In his own words to the Czech artist, Adolph Hoffmeister.
In addition, although Paris in those years was full of famous literary exiles, Hemingway, Stein, Scott Fitgerald, Pound and many others, Joyce wore his exilic rue with a difference. Exile was not, for him, an experiment. It was a crucial element in his integrity as a writer and, more specifically, as an Irish writer. Ireland remained central to his work at the cost of remaining peripheral in his life. He avoided it with an obsessional care, readily seizing on paranoiac excuses to keep out of it. When his wife Nora, visited Galway in 1922 with her two children, the train she was travelling in was caught in the crossfire of a Civil War ambush. Joyce regarded this as no accidental matter. Like so much in his own work, the appearance of randomness was contradicted by the emergence of design. Ireland was dangerous to live in , to go to. Imaginatively, he remained there by staying away from it. So too he remained aloof from the glamorous Paris of the expatriates, keeping to his own favourite restaurants, les Trianons, Fouquet´s and Chez Francis, eating hardly at all and drinking too much white wine. His friendship with Robert McAlmon and his admiration for Ernest Hemingway, although real, did not make him a member of the expatriate circle. Even though he had an excerpt, tales told of Shem and Shaun, published by the Black Sun Press of harry and Caresse Crosby, the most professionally exotic members of the expatriate community, Joyce stayed aloof, a presence in Paris for other writers, forever elusive and shut away in one of his many addresses. His longing for Dublin was sustained by his never indulging it by actually paying it a visit. To Jacques Mercanto he described Ireland as a Wretched country, dirty and dreary, where they eat cabbages, potatoes and bacon all year round, where the women spend their days in church and the men in pubs. The when his wife, Nora protested, he smiled and said, Dublin is the Seventh city of Christendom, and the second city of Empire. It is also third in Europe for the number and quality of its brothels. But for me it will always be the first city of the world. Ireland´s and Dublin´s squalor and glamour were always intertwined so too was Dublin embedded in all his other cities, Trieste, Rome, Zurich and, most especially Paris. At Joyce´s bithday party on 2 February 1939, at the Jolas house in Neuilly, he chose his moment to reveal the title of what had hitherto been known only as Work in progress.