The Most Dangerous Book: Ulysses at One Hundred

One hundred years ago in Paris, Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company, her English-language bookstore on the Left Bank, published the first edition of Ulysses and presented the first two copies to James Joyce on his fortieth birthday, February 2, 1922. She subscribed to the generally accepted notion that the author was a genius, and Joyce would no doubt have agreed. He was never short of confidence, even when penniless, and thought nothing of adding ninety thousand words to the printer’s proofs of the novel, driving Ms. Beach’s costs through the roof. But she was still delighted to act as the book’s fairy godmother, although Joyce later sold the rights to Random House for forty-five thousand dollars, without offering her a penny. “I understood from the first,” she wrote, “that working with or for Mr. Joyce the pleasure was mine—an infinite pleasure: the profits were for him.”

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