Evidence for Joyce’s acquaintance with Louis Aragon before the mid-1920s has been largely circumstantial. Sure, they moved in the same circles, counting Sylvia Beach, Adrienne Monnier, Ezra Pound and John Rodker among their mutuals. (This handsome devil is Aragon in 1925.)
Thanks to Mikio Fuse we know that in the summer of 1924 Joyce got his hands on Aragon’s recently published 𝘓𝘦 𝘓𝘪𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘨𝘦. There’s a sprinkling of notes from the collection in one of the early ‘Work in Progress’ notebooks.
For his part, Aragon started reading the 𝘓𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸 𝘜𝘭𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘴 in the spring of 1921 on Rodker’s recommendation. Around the same time, he borrowed 𝘈 𝘗𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘵 and 𝘌𝘹𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘴 from the Shakespeare and Company lending library.
We now know (thanks to this tweet) that Joyce encountered Aragon’s ‘Suicide’ in 1920 – less than five months after its appearance in the first issue of 𝘊𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘦, Francis Picabia’s two-issue Dadaist magazine.
The same issue of 𝘊𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘦 includes this cheerful chappie but Joyce never saw him. (More’s the pity.) Even though he was in Paris, Joyce read ‘Suicide’ not in a French Dadaist mag but a Dublin newspaper.
‘Suicide’ was printed (untranslated) in the 𝘍𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘯’𝘴 𝘑𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘢𝘭 on 7 September 1920.
The writer described Dada at one point as ‘association of ideas gone mad, a cretinized James Joyce in his latest phase’.
Joyce took the sting out of the line when he repeated it to his brother on 14 September (hey, that’s today!). Among ‘reports at present in circulation’ about Joyce was ‘That I founded in Zurich the dadaist movement which is now exciting Paris (report of Irish press last week)’.
The writer of the newspaper article? No surprise, given the French context: it was A. J. Leventhal. (Seen here in a 1928 portrait by Harry Kernoff.)
Joyce didn’t seem especially bothered by the dig when he had Leventhal over to his Boulevard Raspail apartment five months later. The author of ‘The Day of the Rabblement’ knew what it was to announce oneself with a bang. Joyce even sang ‘Hatikvah’ (in German) for his guest.
Three years later, Leventhal’s appreciative review of 𝘜𝘭𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘴 appeared in the one-issue 𝘒𝘭𝘢𝘹𝘰𝘯 and Joyce sent a letter of thanks to ‘Laurence Emery’. It’s not clear if he knew the author had called on him back in February 1921 or, in 1920, had done Dada for Dublin.

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