“As Stevie grew older I loved to watch him crawling onto his grandfather’s knee and asking him grave little questions,” Helen Joyce later wrote in an unpublished memoir. Her father-in-law, she added, “was infinitely patient with him and was always willing to stop and talk to him or to answer as he grew older his incessant ‘whys.’”
Stephen was raised in France, New York and Switzerland, where, as their only grandchild, he lived with James and Nora Joyce. (James Joyce died when Stephen was almost 9.)
Stephen spent his high school years at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, where he wrote an essay in 1948 about his grandfather titled, “The Man Whom I Loved and Respected Most in This World.” Admitted to Harvard in 1950, it took him eight years to graduate.
He married Solange Raythchine in 1955; she died in 2016. The couple lived on Île de Ré, off the Atlantic coast near La Rochelle, and had no children.
For more than three decades Mr. Joyce was a midlevel, self-described “international civil servant” for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a global research and advocacy organization based in Paris. He focused on sub-Saharan Africa. He retired in 1991 to become the full-time Joyce executor and literary executioner.
English had been his worst subject in school, he said, and at first he was intimidated by his grandfather’s novels, which have often confounded even committed Joyceans for nearly a century since “Ulysses” was published. Joyce and “Ulysses” are commemorated annually on Bloomsday, June 16 — both the anniversary of his first outing with his future wife, Nora Barnacle, and the date on which the novel takes place in 1904 as it follows, and delves inside, the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, as he goes about his day.
When Mr. Joyce finally got around to reading his grandfather’s books (“I am a Joyce, not a Joycean,” he liked to say), he said he had been surprised that the denser ones, like “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake,” were not so baffling after all.
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