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Literary centenary  Bid launched to return James Joyce ashes from Zurich to Ireland 

grave of James Joyce with statue

James Joyce's ashes lie in a grave of honour in Zurich with a statue of the writer. 

(Keystone)

A group of politicians in Dublin has begun moves to get the ashes of writer James Joyce returned to Ireland from Zurich, Switzerland.  

A committee of Dublin city council this week approved a motion calling on the mayor to start the process. The aim is to “give official recognition to someone towards whom we have not been very grateful in the past”, councillor Dermot Lacey told the AFP news agency.  

The motion calls for the restitution of the ashes of Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle by 2022, which will mark 100 years since the publication of his most famous work, Ulysses

His ashes, along with those of his wife, are in the Fluntern cemetery in Zurich, where tourists come to visit.   

"If we receive an official request, we will examine it carefully," a spokeswoman for the Zurich authorities told Swiss television SRF on Thursday. A decision on the matter would have to be taken by the Zurich executive, as the ashes are in a grave of honour paid for and maintained by the city. 

"Absurd" and "ill-advised"

However, several experts of the Zurich-based Joyce Foundationexternal link argue the claim by the two members of the Dublin City parliament is absurd and ill-advised.

Fritz Senn, director of the Joyce Foundation, is convinced that there are too many legal and practicable obstacles.

"Not least because approval of [Joyce's ] nephew, Stephen James Joyce, won't be forthcoming," he is quoted by Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper.

Joyce, who lived from 1882 to 1941, died at age 58 in Zurich after an operation for an ulcer. The Irish government, at the time largely under the influence of the Catholic church, refused to repatriate the body, because of the writer’s virulent stance on Catholicism.   

Ulysses, which was published in Paris in 1922, was banned in Ireland because of its explicit scenes.  

The famous author had a difficult relationship with his home country and spent much of his life in continental Europe. But his best known works, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake and The Dubliners evoke the Irish capital.

Although he never returned to Ireland in the last 29 years of his life, he remains a cult figure there. 

SRF/AFP/jc, urs

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