Self-Portrait – Sylvia Beach

RTÉ Player: TV50

Watching this. Archive interview from 1962 with Sylvia Beach, publisher of Ulysses, who talks about her life and Joyce, Hemingway and lots of interesting times and people.

‎”Joyce was sitting at table and Ezra Pound was teasing him…” You get the idea of the calibre of her friends!

Good to know he pronounced “book” properly! I mean in the Dublin way.

Fascinating about Hemingway arriving in her shop with wounds still not healed from the war. “Would you like to see my wounds?” “Very much.” So he showed her. … She organised a boxing match … Hemingway broke his thumb in the course of it. His opponent was subsequently killed fighting for the resistance. … Now she’s talking about Austin Clarke. …

Onto Beckett now. Scott Fitzgerald. Thornton Wilder. … What an interview. Louis Aragon.

Joyce would recite Walt Whitman to her, an enthusiasm he shared with her when Whitman was not liked at the time.

She watched the Germans arriving … “The tears were streaming down our cheeks.” A German soldier demanded her copy of Finnegans Wake from the window of her shop. She refused. He came back later and threatened to confiscate all her stock when he found that FW was no longer in the window. She moved everything out and hid the stuff in an empty apartment. Very brave! They came back and found the shop gone, name removed, shelves removed. shuttered.

She got a writer called Gordon Craig out of detention by appealing to the Gestapo. Later they arrested her and took her away, complained about her having a Jewish assistant in the shop and so forth. They were rounding up all Americans in the city and detained 400 of them at the city zoo. There were armed guards up above us and we were below in what we called The Monkey House…(not verbatim).

‎…moved to another prison for 6 months. … on and on, fantastic interview. Retreat of the Germans – “shooting at us”.

They machine gunned the people in the town while retreating. “We had to lie on our stomachs” … later stretchers taking wounded away. “We were liberated by Ernest Hemingway …. I heard this big voice shouting Sylvia, Sylvia!”

…and he wouldn’t stay for tea. He said, “Oh no, I have to liberate the cellar of the Ritz!”

Author: Stephen Moran

I was born in Dublin and made my way to London on a bike in my mid-twenties. It’s where I can still be found though ever further out, most recently as far as Harrow. I no longer own a bicycle.

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