JOYCE, James

JOYCE, James Exiles

Richards, 1918.

First edition. Bound in contemporary three quarter blue morocco by Douarin. Top edge gilt. Author's presentation copy, inscribed on the half title, "To Jacques Benoist-Mechin / James Joyce / 3.xi.921 Paris". Some browning to the page edges, joints a little worn, a very good copy indeed.

Jaques Benoist-Mechin (1901-1983) was to become an influential French intellectual and man of letters as well as an important official in the Laval government. At the time he met Joyce, though, he was a young music student of twenty with a passion for contemporary literature and ideas, and Joyce's work in particular. He was one of Sylvia Beach's earliest regular customers at Shakespeare & Company, and so it was that he was asked by Beach to translate portions of Ulysses into French for a lecture by the celebrated French author and critic, Valery Larbaud at Adrienne Monnier's library.
"He was young but serious and intelligent, and he could converse with older writers. Most importantly, he could read and appreciate the most difficult works in both languages, for he had spoken English during the first fourteen years of his life." (Fitch - Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation)
Benoist-Mechin agreed on the condition that his contribution was to remain anonymous: his aristocratic father would not have approved of his association with such a controversial book. The translations were made from published portions from the Little Review, whilst Joyce was still making revisions and additions to the finished text. Joyce spent time with Benoist-Mechin in the back of Monnier's shop ironing out any difficulties that arose. The meetings had a significant effect on the final words of the novel, which in the draft Benoist-Mechin was translating from were "I will". The younger man argued that for the translation "oui" was a stronger and smoother ending. Following a day of discussion in which they dragged in all the world's great philosophers, Joyce agreed that not only would "the most positive word in the language" serve at the ending to the French translation, he would add it to his revisions of the English version. Occasional subsequent correspondence between to the two men exists, but their relationship was one of brief intensity, the evidence of which are the copies of Joyce's works (bought from Shakespeare & Company) bearing Joyce's presentation inscriptions.

Slocum & Cahoon 14

Stock ID: 22898


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