Litkicks Message Board Archive

Paul Leon, 1942

Posted to Poetry and Politics

Back in 1940 one of James Joyce's friends returned to Paris. He was named Paul Leon, and was Jewish. He was able to collect some of Joyce's papers, but stayed one day too long. A web page on Joyce relates it this way:

By August 1940 all had 'changed utterly'. Joyce, who had fled in December with Nora to Saint-Gérand-le-Puy (where Stephen, Georgio's son, was in boarding school), was desperately looking for a way out of France to Zurich. Léon, after a falling out with Joyce in 1939, arrived in Saint-Gérand on a cart drawn by a small donkey and make his peace with Joyce. Leon insisted on returning to Paris to see his son graduate, although Joyce begged him not to go. While in Paris in September he rescued some of Joyce's books and papers from the flat and delivered them to Count O'Kelly, the Irish ambassador to occupied France. When Beckett saw him in Paris he became alarmed and told him 'You must leave at once'.63 He stayed on one day to late. The very day his son was scheduled to graduate he was arrested by the Germans and interned near Paris. In December, with the help of Joyce's long-time friend, Paul Ruggiero, the family (with the exception of Lucia, who was in a clinic in occupied France) was able to leave. Beckett, horrified at what was happening around him, joined the Resistance. Léon was killed by the Nazis in 1942.

That's from this specific link. Ellman's Joyce bio covers it in much more detail.

Leon naively did not believe that there were people out to kill him and that what was happening was real. Or he thought he could sneak by.

No amount of great literature or art or beauty was going to save Leon or stop the Nazis. Beckett's response was not to write a fantastic work of art, for example.

The Nazis also liked and recognized great art. That is the most horrible aspect of the Nazis and humanity in general. Great evil can be done by those who know and appreciate and even create great beauty in art.

And heroic good can and is done by those who wouldn't know a piece of art from a tin can.

People's don't know what is going on, but the Finnegans of the world need to wake up.