During the 1920s, the author of Ulysses met Ernest Hemingway in Paris. Despite being both well-known heavy drinkers, they began to frequent cafes and bars together. James Joyce was unathletic and had failing eyesight, but his drinking buddy was tall, strapping, and prone to violent outbursts. But did you know that James Joyce depended on Hemingway to defend him?
In 1920s Paris, James Joyce would get drunk, start fights, and then hide behind Ernest Hemingway, yelling, “Deal with him, Hemingway!”
Ernest Hemingway as James Joyce’s First Line of Defense
Ernest Hemingway, a significant supporter of Ulysses, met Joyce at Shakespeare and Company and later became a frequent companion in Parisian bars with writers such as Wyndham Lewis and Valery Larbaud.
Ernest Hemingway appeared to be at odds with the majority of the prominent male artists of his day, from Wallace Stevens and T.S. F. Eliot to Fitzgerald Scott. He had a very strange relationship with Orson Welles, with whom he reportedly slapped Max Eastman in the face with a book at least once.
His bluster and bravado only add to his warm friendship with James Joyce. Joyce, the labyrinthine thinker of Byzantine thoughts and creator of symbolic systems so dense they constitute an entire field of study; physically weak and intellectually monkish, despite his infamous carnal appetites, Joyce exemplifies the artist as a reclusive contemplative.
Joyce was described in Hemingway’s 1961 obituary in The New York Times as a thin, wispy, and unmuscled man with defective eyesight, which was possibly due to a syphilis infection, and the two writers did a certain amount of drinking together in Paris.
Once, in one of those casual conversations you have when you’re drinking, Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world. He was afraid of some things, lightning and things, but a wonderful man. He was under great discipline, his wife, his work and his bad eyes. His wife was there and she said, yes, his work was too suburban ‘Jim could do with a spot of that lion hunting.’ We would go out to drink and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn’t even see the man, so he’d say, ‘Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!’Ernest Hemingway, American Novelist
James Joyce’s Bad Eyes
While Joyce’s persistent financial problems caused him to live a life of creative discomfort, he also had to deal with a near lifetime of medical discomfort. Joyce had anterior uveitis, which required around 12 eye surgeries. Scholars speculate that his iritis, glaucoma, and cataracts were caused by sarcoidosis, syphilis, tuberculosis, or other congenital problems, due to the relatively unsophisticated state of ophthalmology at the time and his decision not to listen to contemporary medical advice.
Joyce’s vision problems forced him to wear an eye patch for years and write on large white paper with only red crayons. Because of his ongoing vision problems, he named his daughter Lucia after St. Lucia, the patron saint of the blind. (Source: Mentalfloss)
Image from OpenCulture