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Fate of Friend Clouds Debut of Joyce Papers

April 06, 1992|From Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ireland — A treasure-trove for James Joyce scholars opened Sunday when the National Library made public a collection of letters and papers retrieved by a friend from Nazi-occupied Paris.

The archive, which includes Joyce's correspondence with T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Henri Matisse, is a "priceless addition to our knowledge," said Prime Minister Albert Reynolds at a ceremony at the library.

But the opening of the archive was clouded by the recent release of diplomatic documents indicating that Ireland did nothing to protect the life of Paul Leon, who retrieved the Joyce papers.

Leon, a Russian Jew, apparently died as a Nazi prisoner in 1942.

Joyce wrote of Leon: "For the last dozen years in sickness or health, night and day, he has been an absolutely disinterested and devoted friend, and I could never have done what I did without him."

After Joyce left Paris in 1939 as the Nazi threat grew, Leon collected the papers from his apartment and gave them to the Irish Embassy in Paris with the condition that they not be released for 50 years after Joyce's death. Joyce died in Zurich in January, 1941.

The Irish Times newspaper reported Saturday that four recently released documents from the Department of Foreign Affairs show that the Irish government was aware that Leon was in danger from the Nazis but did not intervene with German authorities. Ireland was neutral in World War II.

The newspaper said one of the documents was a cable from Ireland's ambassador to Germany, which said in part: "In my opinion there is danger that intervention on behalf of L. might be regarded as interfering in internal German matters . . . and might even have some effect on our good relations."

In a response to the ambassador, the Irish foreign ministry agreed that he should do nothing, the newspaper said.

The Irish Times said it is believed Leon was shot during a forced March in April 1942, but there is no record of his death.

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