Thursday 14 December 2017

Two literary giants sought wartime help from Irish embassy officials

SOME of the country's most famous writers and their families sought help from Irish diplomats as they were caught up in the conflict.

Shortly before his death in 1941, James Joyce sought help in getting his invalid daughter Lucia Ann moved from a clinic in occupied Paris to a similar facility in Switzerland, where he was living.

When he died, his family were left in financially straitened circumstances.

In October 1941 the Society of Swiss Writers appealed to Berne Charge d'Affairs Francis Cremin for Ireland to intervene with the Nazis on behalf of Paul Leon, a former secretary and close friend of Joyce.It feared Joyce's literary heritage would be "completely lost" if Leon died as "no one else understood Joyce's work so intimately".

But Leon, a Jew, was executed in a concentration camp.

In France, Samuel Beckett was also having problems. ''They can't believe that I can be called Samuel and am not a Jew," he said in a letter to the Paris embassy.

In August 1941, the High Commissioner in London was contacted about the impending release of Brendan Behan (16) who had been sentenced to three years in Borstal for possession of explosives.

Irish Independent

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