A Model for Leopold Bloom

When Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School in Trieste, one of his pupils was an older Jewish industrialist named Ettore Schmitz, who published under the name Italo Svevo. He became one of Joyce’s closest friends in the city and a source for the main character in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom. Svevo, like Bloom, married a Gentile and had what Joyce’s biographer Richard Ellmann called “an amiably ironic view of life.” Joyce encouraged his student to persevere as a writer. Svevo’s best-known book, La coscienza di Zeno (Zeno’s Conscience), was published one year after Ulysses. In a 1927 lecture, translated later by Joyce’s brother, Svevo describes the feeling among Triestines “that [Joyce] belonged in a certain sense to us.”

Front and back cover of Italo Svevo (1861–1928), James Joyce: A Lecture Delivered in Milan in 1927 by His Friend. Translated by Stanislaus Joyce (New York: New Directions, 1950)
The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Sean and Mary Kelly, 2018; PML 197843