Joyce, Piran, Refošk, Eyeballs, Proof

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If there is only one aspect of the academic world that is an improvement over that of the tavern, it is that disagreements in academia more often come to their apex with savage calls for proof rather than fisticuffs. Even these can come as a surprise, though. Back in Portorož some twelve years ago when I casually mentioned to my boss, Dr. Dušan Fabe, that James Joyce’s eye troubles began in Piran and thus his visit to Piran consituted an extremely important event in Joyce’s life, Dušan greeted this with a sort of academic’s version of prove it, motherfucker or I’ll knock you on your ass. It was an oddly aggressive rejoinder, but, luckily, I could prove it, and I did. See, the biography of Joyce written by Richard Ellmann, published by Oxford University Press in 1959, happens to be such a good literary biography that it is considered by many to be a blueprint for future literary biographers. It is, to say the least, a definitive source. On page 549 of the 1979 paperback reprint Ellmann writes that Joyce, while in Paris, ‘consulted a well-known French opthalmologist, Dr. Victor Morax, on May 23 (1922). In his notes the doctor wrote that Joyce blamed the origin of his ailment upon a night’s drinking at Pirano in 1910, after which he had spent the early hours of the morning on the ground.’

Case closed, now let’s get some lovers of Joyce’s work to include Piran on their itineraries. Trieste has a walking Joyce statue, a bust in the giardano pubblico, and plaques galore. Piran has, up to now, indifference to a great story.

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