James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner – Quick Review

Joyce Graphic

Alfonso Zapico  300px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg

The O’Brien Press (2013), 235 pages

A Present

I don’t buy many graphic novels but when I get one as a present I always enjoy them.  James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner is a straightforward biography of James Joyce.  It starts around the time of his birth and ends with his death.  The drawing is excellent and superbly captures Joyce’s various homes in Dublin, Paris, Trieste, and Zurich.  Zapico pulls no punches in describing Joyce’s tempestuous relationship with Nora Barnacle or in describing Joyce’s difficult personality.  Joyce was a genius but his arrogance and eccentric behaviour could leave a lot to be desired.  Zapico also graphically illustrates the effects of Joyce’s alcoholic drinking habits on his family, especially Nora.  Nonetheless it is hard not to feel some sympathy for Joyce.  His artistic genius was never fully appreciated in his home country.  He struggled to make ends meet (although when he did get money he frittered it away) and was forced to move across Europe by two world wars.  His daughter, Lucia, struggled with mental illness, a mental illness that possibly wasn’t helped by her parents’ chaotic lifestyle.  Towards the end of his life Joyce suffered the debilitating effects of trachoma and he died in Zurich on 13th January 1941 at 2.15am.  Joyce’s works stand as a worthy testament to his genius but Zapico’s graphic novel provides a great introduction for those who want to find out more about his life.



Sackville St Dublin (before being renamed O’Connell St. in 1924)



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