Fritz Senn is founder and Director of the James Joyce foundation in Zurich. The Foundation was formally established in 1985 and has provided numerous scholars and amateurs alike with outstanding resources; the library is extensive, holding more than five thousand volumes and including dozens of translations into more than forty languages. I first met Fritz when I was a student at the Dublin James Joyce Summer School in 2011 and was impressed by his unassuming disposition and his unconventional delivery of lectures, which he always delivers without notes. His publications include Joyce's Dislocations, edited by John Paul Riquelme (1984), Inductive Scrutinies: Focus on Joyce, edited by Christine O'Neill (1995), and a collection of interviews, The Joycean Murmoirs, which was was published in 2007 and edited by Christine O'Neill. In this interview, Fritz elaborates on his continual engagement with group readings of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, the early formation of a Joycean community and the establishment of the Foundation, as well as discussing the impact of the recent expiration of copyright on Joyce's work and the controversy surrounding the release of The Cats of Copenhagen by Ithys Press.
The James Joyce Foundation houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Joyceiana in Europe. How did you acquire it?
I became interested in Joyce in the '50s, and at that time no Joyce Industry had as yet evolved. There weren't many books on Joyce around and it was easy to keep up with publications. From a moment that I cannot now determine, I grabbed whatever I could lay hands on, and also collected magazine articles or offprints, posters--everything faintly connected. I engaged in a lot of correspondence with Joyce scholars, critics or translators. Within an increasing network, authors often sent you their books or articles. I made as many contacts as possible; people with similar obsessions tend to find each other. Over a number of years, a lot of material came together and a substantial collection kept growing. Most of the studies at that time were done by American academics, far ahead of all the others. I was also lucky to get to know some people who had met Joyce--Frank Budgen, above all, and Joyce's Zurich friend Carola Giedion-Welcker. Then, in 1982, the Jubilee Year, something changed when I lost my job.
What was your job at that stage?
I was working for a publisher, first as a proof-reader, then an editor. When the company was restructured they got rid of me. For a time I was at a loss and helpless, yet it was comforting to see how a growing Joyce community that had developed over the years came to my aid with suggestions and proposals. Somebody local approached the bank that had installed the James Joyce Pub in 1978. I don't know if you saw it when you were in Zurich; it's not far from the Foundation. It was the old (pre-crisis) Union Bank of Switzerland that had bought and set up the interior of the pub imported from Dublin...