James Joyce left Dublin in 1904, bound for Trieste and a job teaching English at the Berlitz School. He was to live there for the next eleven years. Italo Svevo, born and bred in Trieste, worked there for his family’s marine paint company. He had also written two novels, published privately and unsuccessfully. In 1907, wanting to improve his English to do business with the British Admiralty, Svevo went to Berlitz, where Joyce became his teacher.

Svevo was then 46 and Joyce 25. Despite their different backgrounds, Irish Catholic and Triestene Jewish, they had, intellectually, much in common. They admired each other’s writing. Joyce improved Svevo’s English. Svevo helped Joyce stay solvent, and also became the inspiration for Leopold Bloom. In Ulysses, the near father-son relationship between Stephen Dedalus and Bloom in Dublin was very close to that of Svevo and Joyce in Trieste.

The two writers lived through the great political and cultural upheavals of the early 20th century, and their story has a fascinating supporting cast – W.B. Yeats and G.B. Shaw, Proust and Hemingway, Freud and Jung, H.G. Wells and T.S. Eliot. Although often living in different cities – Zurich, Paris, London – their friendship survived. When Ulysses was finally published in Paris in 1922, its success enabled Joyce to help Svevo find a publisher for his great comic masterpiece The Confessions of Zeno. European literature owes a great deal to that meeting in Trieste.


Stanley Price is a novelist and playwright. He went to school in Dublin and London, read history at Cambridge University, and then worked as a journalist in London and New York. He has written four novels, five stage plays, and numerous television plays, two of which Close Relations and Genghis Cohn have won international awards. He has also written two works of non-fiction, Somewhere to Hang my Hat, An Irish-Jewish Journey and The Road to Apocalypse (with Munro Price).

"Lovely, modest and precise....this is an enchanting book, as evocative as Svevo's own writing, full of a novelist's skill in evoking character and entirely convincing in its reading of events" Philip Hensher, The Spectator

“Witty, informative and elegantly written….Stanley Price understands, as all the very best biographers do, that quotidian, commonplace detail and gentle humour can attract the reader far more than grand theorizing”  Times Literary Supplement

 “Stanley Price’s admirable book, so rich in detail and characterisation…fascinating work of scholarship” Jan Morris Literary Review.

 “Beguiling” Roy Foster

 “Crystal clear and brilliant prose”  L’Osservatore Romano

“Readable, amusing, measured and humane”  Jewish Chronicle


ISBN: 978 0 9927364 84
248pp; 234 x 156mm
Paperback with flaps
16 b/w photographs

Biography/Literary Criticism
7 April 2016
Somerville Press