Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Joyce Trail in Pula

Continuing the Joyce trail in Istria, which we visited last September...

From Trieste, we travelled by bus south to Pula in Croatia, where Joyce lived from 1904-5. He hated Pula, then called Pola, describing it as 'a back-of-God-speed place - a naval Siberia - 37 men o'war in the harbour, swarming with faded uniforms. Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear little red caps and colossal breeches.' (Letter to his Aunt Josephine, 31 December 1904).

Pula is full of Roman antiquities, including a huge amphitheatre, a beautiful temple to Augustus (left), and a Roman Arch. Joyce doesn't mention any of these in his letters. He had little interest in antiquities or architecture (apart from a liking for Gothic churches, which reminded him of his own writing). When he later lived in Rome, he said that the city reminded him of  'a man who lives by exhibiting to travellers his grandmother's corpse.'   (Letter to Stanislaus, 25 September 1906).

When we arrived we found the city full of super fit-looking people wearing shirts carrying slogans like 'Run Swim Ride Repeat' and 'Believe!' It was the Iron Man triathlon, and the streets were roped off for their running race. Here's one of the runners racing past the Temple of Augustus.

Joyce taught at the Berlitz School, directly opposite the Arch. It's now the Boutique Hostel Joyce.

I found this photo on their website.

 There's a plaque on the wall to him too.

The school was run by Almidano Artifoni, whose name Joyce gave to Stephen's music teacher in Ulysses. There's a hilarious memoir of Joyce in Pula by his friend, and fellow teacher, Alessandro Francini Bruni, which you can read in the James Joyce Quarterly here.  Here's a paragraph to give the flavour of it.

This is backed up by Joyce's letter to Stanislaus of 10 November 1904, where he says, 'The Italian they speak is very corrupt'!

Next door to the school, there's a wonderful shrine to Joyce in the form of the Caffè Uliks, which has a great bronze statue of him by Mate Čvrljak. This is one of my favourite statues of him, though it's shame that, like the Trieste and Dublin ones, it shows him as the middle aged writer of the Paris years. Joyce was in his early twenties when he lived here. It was in Pula that he first grew his moustache (and had his hair curled by Nora with tongs, remarking to Stanislaus, 'I look a very pretty man').

Joyce is sitting at the table looking at the Roman Arch.

Photo from the Uliks brochure
We were lucky to get the table, and share a drink with the great man.

'How dare you be so rude about lovely Pula!'

He's a popular photo opportunity, especially for women, who like to sit on his knee.

They sell bottled Guinness, which comes in a Joyce glass. They also do a Joyce cocktail (Jameson’s, Martini Bianco and pear liqueur) and a Nora (Bailey’s, Bacardi and cream).

 The same image is on the table tops.

When we sat down, it was a lovely sunny day. I was wearing my Finnegans Wake Hundred Letter Thunderword t-shirt.

Astonishingly, soon after Lisa took this photo, the sky erupted with a loud 'bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!'  This was one of several thunderstorms we had while in Istria – it struck me that Joyce had chosen a bad place to live for someone with a morbid fear of thunderstorms. Just as the first runners came by, rain started to pour from the sky.

Eventually, we took refuge inside the bar, which has a Joyce collection in a glass cabinet. There's a maquette of an another statue by Mate Čvrljak, showing Joyce walking.

Since Joyce lived in Pula, the names of the streets have all changed from Italian to Slavic. So it's much harder to follow his trail here than in Trieste. But, thanks to a 1910 map on the wall of our apartment, we were able to find Via Giulia, where he first lived, at number 2 on the second floor. It's the street leading down from the Arch, where there's now a Macdonalds.

We couldn't find his second address, Via Medolino, where he lived from January to March 1905.



On 2 February 1905, Joyce and Nora celebrated his 23rd birthday with a boat trip to the little island of Brioni, though in his letter to Stanislaus he only remarked that the place was 'famous for cheese'.  We had a day trip to the same island, where I was struck by this memorial to Robert Koch.

In 1903, the year before Joyce arrived in Pula, Koch had eradicted malaria on Brioni, by draining the swamps where the mosquitoes bred.

This is the same Robert Koch whose methods are promoted in Ulysses by Mr Deasy!

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