Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Beginnings and Early Writings

Manuscripts | Publications

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In the summer of 1928, James Joyce and Sylvia Beach had begun to make plans for a volume of critical essays on Joyce’s “Work in Progress,” eventually published as Finnegans Wake. Joyce arranged to have articles written by his principal acolytes and more or less directed their researches. In order to give the collection an air of impartiality, he and Sylvia Beach decided to add two made-up “letters of protest.” Beckett’s contribution to this work was titled “Dante. . . Bruno . Vico . . Joyce.” Beckett’s intention in establishing the idiosyncratic punctuation of the title of his article was to indicate the approximate time gap between the respective figures: 300 years from Dante to Bruno, 100 years from Bruno to Vico, and 200 years from Vico to Joyce.

 

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Menu of the luncheon—the Déjeuner “Ulysse”—given by Adrienne Monnier on Thursday, 27 June 1928 at the Hotel Léopold in Les Vaus de Cernay, not far from Versailles, to mark the publication of the French translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses nearly five months earlier.

One of the invited guests was Beckett, described by James Joyce in a July letter to Valery Larbaud as one of “two riotous young Irishmen” in attendance. James Knowlson, in his biography of Beckett titled Damned to Fame (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1996), writes that when he asked Beckett where he was in the group photograph taken at the luncheon, Beckett replied: “Probably under the table” (p. 109).

The menu bears the autograph signatures of Joyce and a number of the other guests. It is the copy given to Madame Marie Scheikévitch, a Russian-born close friend of Marcel Proust.

 

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Eugene Jolas, an American of French and German extraction fluent in all three languages, founded Transition as a vehicle for his “Revolution of the Word,” the focus of which was to publish James Joyce’s “Work in Progress” (Finnegans Wake) serially. The first issue, which appeared in April 1927, also contained Beckett’s short story “Assumption.” Beckett’s poem “For Future Reference” appeared in the June 1930 issue of Transition (No. 19-20).

Jolas’s coeditor was Elliot Paul, an American novelist and music critic. As time went on, Jolas’s editorial voice became the dominant one.

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