The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-1920

By: John McCourt

Publication Date: 16 June 2001

(3 customer reviews)


Winner of the Premio Commisso in Italy for Best Biography 2004.

‘McCourt has opened a whole new vista on Ulysses. No other critic or biographer has so clearly identified the cosmopolitan, indeed, the Oriental, aspects of Joyce’s great symphony of cities. …. His book is a revelation.’ – John Banville, The New York Review of Books

Since the publication of Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce in 1959, Joyce has received remarkably little biographical attention. The Years of Bloom, based on extensive scrutiny of previously unused sources and informed by the author’s intimate knowledge of the culture and dialect of Trieste, is possibly the most important work of Joyce biography since Ellmann, re-creating this fertile period in Joyce’s life with an extraoridinary richness of detail and depth of understanding. Now available in paperback.


The Years of Bloom is an engaging, readable, and meticulous study. By scrutinising unpublished material and undertaking an elaborate survey of local sources McCourt has added much to our sum of knowledge about Joyce. More importantly, he has enriched our reading of Joyce’s works … this absorbing book encourages us to expand the contexts in which we engage with Joyce’s fiction.’ – Anne Fogarty, The Irish Times

‘John McCourt brings to his task a uniquely rich and balanced sense of the real city inhabited by Joyce and the remembered city about which he was always writing. Joyce is given to us in this book in the kind of loving detail his talent deserves, though without papering over his often reprehensible behaviour and character.’ – Bruce Arnold, Irish Independent

‘John McCourt has lived and worked in Trieste for the past 10 years. His researches into its life, and the politics of the intensely interesting period when it was the major Austro-Hungarian seaport in the Mediterranean, have yielded a rich and well-told narrative.’ – Daily Telegraph

‘John McCourt’s book is a must for all Joyce scholars, but it will interest and entertain many common readers as well.’ – Masolino D’Amico, Times Literary Supplement

‘One of the many delights of McCourt’s book is the way he makes creative curiosity a literary imperative in the Irishman’s self-exiled life. …McCourt is even in judgement, generous in opin-ion, and wonderfully informative about events and attitudes in Europe a century ago.’ – Hayden Murphy, The Herald

‘McCourt’s excellent local knowledge of Trieste is documented to great effect in The Years of Bloom. It provides a compelling case for re-evaluating the importance of Trieste for Joyce’s work by relating his artistic development to the cosmopolitan life of the city.’ – John Nash, Sunday Business Post


‘This book changes our entire view of Joyce’s Trieste. It establishes the city as a vibrant crossroads of cultures, languages and religions. Joyce was born in Dublin, but as McCourt shows, he grew up in Trieste.’ – Colm Toibin

The Years of Bloom is a fundamental contribution to the study of Joyce’s life and work, presenting it in a largely new light. The outstanding feature of the work is McCourt’s ability to see all the background material that he has unearthed in Trieste as a major contributory element in Joyce’s creative faculty. The publication of The Years of Bloom is an extremely important cultural event.’ – Giorgio Melchiori

‘As an Irish scholar living in Trieste, McCourt has uncovered a wealth of information on Joyce that others have missed. McCourt’s detailed study of Joyce’s life in Trieste illuminates the creative process that informed his work during this crucial period when Joyce came to maturity as a writer.’ – Michael Patrick Gillespie

JOHN MCCOURT was born in Dublin in 1965 and educated at Belvedere College and University College Dublin. Since 1991 he has lived in Trieste, where he teaches at the University of Trieste and where he founded and directs the annual Trieste Joyce School. He is the author of James Joyce: A Passionate Exile (an illustrated biography), Dubliners: A Guide to Text Analysis, and, with Renzo Crivelli, Joyce in Svevo’s Garden.


3 reviews for The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-1920

  1. Lilliput Press

    “The book, besides being very well researched, is a rare opportunity to sit in a Trieste cafe and gossip about Molly, Stephen, James, Frank Budgen and so many more. The books steps out of the Aula Magna and you can actually tastes and smell the drinks!” DAN-U SOPHIA

  2. Lilliput Press

    “Like many other readers of Joyce, I considered Trieste to be merely “anywhere but Dublin” — i.e., it was significant to the author only because it was where he began his self-imposed exile from Ireland. In his writings, I felt, Joyce never really left Dublin, and he could as well have been in Mombasa or Ulan Bator for all the effect that his city of residence had on his work. So this book was a revelation to me: although Joyce originally landed in Trieste by happenstance, he quickly grew to feel at home there, and the city provided a cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse, and culturally rich environment in which his art grew to maturity.
    McCourt provides ample and convincing evidence of the degree to which Joyce’s experiences in Trieste influenced his most important works, from the Triestine puns in “Finnegans Wake” to the main characters of “Ulysses,” and how productive he was as a writer during his years there. What I found especially fascinating were the details McCourt unearthed about the rest of Joyce’s life: in his perennially unsuccessful pursuit of financial stability, he was (inter alia) a partner in a cinema, a bank clerk, and a would-be exporter of Irish woolens; his domestic life was continually in uproar (Nora lacked his facility at learning languages, and was marooned at home with a series of babies and, from time to time, Joyce’s transplanted siblings); but he was a good English teacher, and, through his private tutoring, he became acquainted with many financially and intellectually influential members of Triestine society. (The influence went both ways: the writer/businessman Ettore Schmidt was on the verge of giving up his literary ambitions when Joyce convinced him not to, and he went on to write several classic novels under his pen name, Italo Svevo.)
    This book was originally a doctoral dissertation, and it suffers at times from the graduate-student tendency to include Absolutely Every Detail relevant to one’s subject (I sympathize: been there, done that). But, in general, it’s readable, clearly written, well organized, and, although the basic structure is chronological, the author gives each chapter enough of a thematic focus to make it more than a mere recitation of dates and events. I found the book entertaining as well as informative, and I feel it’s a valuable resource for anyone interested in Joyce or, for that matter, in early 20th century European literary history.”

  3. Lilliput Press

    “The major influence of Trieste on Joyce’s work is convincingly conveyed in this rewarding book, which also serves as a portrait of this fascinating city in the first part of the twentieth century. Joyce’s unsettled life is set against the background of the cosmopolitan Imperial Trieste he came to see as his home and where he wrote a good deal of his work. Dr. McCourt’s book is erudite, often funny, and ultimately illuminating.” RICHARD BARLOW

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Weight 0.52 kg
Publication Date

16 June 2001


Paperback, 321pp