Friday, September 21, 2012


Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach
(tales of brave Ulysses)

Now it's no secret that the hero Ulysses has friends high up, or, rather, a friend — in fact, the Goddess Minerva. She appears now in one, now in another, disguise. This time it was in the very male form of Ernest Hemingway.

I hope the following disclosures won't get Hemingway into trouble with the authorities — surely they wouldn't bother someone who is a Nobel Prize winner — but it was due to Hemingway that my copies of Ulysses penetrated into the United States.

I set my problem before Minerva-Hemingway. He said, "Give me twenty-four hours," and the next day he came back with a plan. I was to hear from a friend of his in Chicago, a certain Saint Bernard B., a most obliging friend, whom I call Saint Bernard because of his rescue work, and he would let me know how the business could be carried out.

This man wrote to say that he was going ahead with his preparations and that he was moving over to Canada. He asked if I would be willing to pay the rent on a studio in Toronto, which I agreed to at once, of course. Then he sent me the address of his new domicile and told me to ship all copies to him there. I sent them off, and, since there was no ban on Ulysses in Canada, they reached him safely. The job he then undertook was one requiring great courage and cunning: he had to get hundreds of these huge books across the border.

Daily, he boarded the ferry, a copy of Ulysses stuffed down inside his pants, as he described it to me later. It was in the days of bootlegging, so a certain number of odd-shaped characters were around, but that only increased the risk of being searched.

As the work progressed, and he was getting down to the last few dozen copies, Bernard imagined the port officials were beginning to eye him somewhat suspiciously. He was afraid they might soon inquire more closely into the real nature of the business — presumably selling his drawings — that took him back and forth every day. He found a friend who was willing to help him, and the two of them boarded the ferry daily, each with two copies now, since they had to work fast — one in front and one behind; they must have looked like a couple of paternity cases.

What a weight off our friend's minds, and off his person, when he got the last of his great tomes over to the other side! If Joyce had foreseen all these difficulties, maybe he would have written a smaller book.

Anyhow, the Ulysses subscribers in America who received their copies should know that they have Hemingway and Hemingway's obliging friend to thank for that large parcel the American Express delivered at their door one day.

from Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare and Company
(Harcourt Brace, 1959)

sylvia beach & james joyce

last heard, the above book, that looks like it was left behind in the laundromat, goes for $65,000