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James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born in Rathgar (Dublin) on 2 February 1882 into a family of modest wealth. He was the eldest son and had numerous siblings, not all of whom survived. In 1888, James was sent to the prestigious Clongowes Wood College, a boarding school run by the Jesuit order. From 1893 on, he went to Belvedere College in Dublin, another Jesuit school. Joyce was an outstanding pupil, scoring high marks in composition. In 1898, he entered University College.

During these formative years in school and attending university, Joyce received a classical education, suffered when Parnell fell from power, struggled with religious doubts and had his first sexual experiences with prostitutes. More important, Joyce developed his own artistic ideals. He read extensively, mostly modern authors like Ibsen and met many figures of the Irish Literary Renaissance, among them W.B. Yeats and A.E. (George Russell). But Joyce never committed himself to this nationalist and folklore-inspired movement - he always remained distant and aloft.

After graduation in 1902, Joyce unsuccessfully enrolled as a medical student in Paris. On one of his visits back in Dublin, sometime in June 1904, Joyce met and fell in love with Nora Barnacle, a Galway country girl working in Dublin as a chambermaid. With her he left Ireland in 1904 to spend the rest of his life in exile in Trieste, Zürich and Paris. They never married until 1931. He laboured continuously to support his family with his writing, but always had to rely heavily on some form or other of patronage. Apart from life-long financial difficulties, Joyce suffered from a deteriorating health (his eyes were operated on several times), and died in Zurich on Jan 13 1941 from a perforated stomach ulcer.

Some of his "Dubliners" stories appeared in the "Irish Homestead" in 1904, but Joyce managed to have the book published in 1914 only after a prolonged dispute with London editor Grant Richards. "The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", developed out of the material of (fragmentary) "Stephen Hero", was serialized the same year in "The Egoist" by Harriet Shaw Weaver and published in bookform in 1916. Also in 1914, Joyce commenced his work on "Ulysses" only to be interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. Shortly after the war, from 1918 to 1920, "Ulysses" was serialized in "The Little Review" and finally published in Paris by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Co. in February 1922. A London edition saw the light at the end of 1922 (The Egoist Press), and "Finnegans Wake" was published in London in 1939 only two years before Joyce's death.