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Death in Zurich

I am passing out. O bitter ending! I’ll slip away before they’re up. They’ll never see. Nor know. Nor miss me. And it’s old and old it’s sad and old it’s sad and weary I go back to you my cold father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms. I see them rising! Save me from those therrble prongs! Two more. Onetwo moremens more. So. Avelaval. My leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still. I’ll bear it on me. To remind me of. Lff! So soft this morning, ours. Yes. Carry me along, taddy, like you done through the toy fair! If I seen him bearing down on me now under whitespread wings like he’d come from Arkangels, I sink I’d die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup. Yes, tid. There’s where. First. We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousendsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the

In December 1940 James Joyce left Vichy (unoccupied) France for Switzerland, having managed to persuade the authorities there, after a first refusal of entry, that he was not Jewish (in Joyce’s own words “que je ne suis pas juif de Judée mais aryen d’Erin” – that I am not a Jew of Judea but an Aryan of Erin). He spent Christmas Day in Zurich with his friend Sigfried Giedion. Joyce admired Giedion’s solid house, with its thick walls and small windows, but he was also disposed to poke fun at Swiss cleanliness. After dinner he and his son, George, sang songs in Irish and Latin and played a record of Count John McCormack singing “Oh moon of my delight”.

On January 9th, Joyce and Nora dined with Paul Ruggiero at Frau Zumsteg’s restaurant on the Kronenhalle, but Joyce had no appetite. At home afterwards he was overcome by cramps. A doctor was called, who administered morphine, but on the following day he had to be taken by ambulance to the Schwesterhaus vom Roten Kreuz. An X-ray showed he had a duodenal ulcer. Finding him much weaker that afternoon Ruggiero went off to Joyce’s bank and returned with a form for him to sign which would enable George Joyce to have access to his father’s account. At one o’clock in the morning of January 13th, Joyce woke and asked for his wife and son, but he died at 2.15am before they arrived.

On January 15th the body was carried up the hill to Zurich’s Fluntern cemetery and the funeral ceremony was held in the Friedhofkappelle in the presence of the immediate family and Lord Derwent, British minister to Bern, the Swiss poet Max Geilinger and Professor Heinrich Straumann. The tenor Max Meili sang Monteverdi’s “Addio terra, addio cielo”. Joyce’s daughter Lucia, in a mental institution in France, told of her father’s death and burial in Zurich, said: “What is he doing under the ground, that idiot? When will he decide to come out? He’s watching us all the time.”

Nora stayed on in Zurich. One of her chief recollections of her husband was the pleasure he took in sounds. She took visitors up to the cemetery, which adjoins the Zoological Gardens, which Joyce had compared to the ones in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. “My husband is buried there,” she said. “He was awfully fond of the lions – I like to think of him lying there and listening to them roar.”

Source: James Joyce, by Richard Ellmann, published by Oxford University Press.

13/01/2014