Alfonso, how did you come up with the idea to create a graphic novel about the life of James Joyce?
There are a lot of reasons I decided to write the book, no one reason alone. It was a test in a way, to see if I could actually do it. I like to try to build a life with all the elements around a character: the scenery, the places, the other characters, and to recreate the atmosphere of the time through my drawings. I suppose it’s similar to making a film, but with paper and ink. It was a very interesting experiment! The other reasons were more philosophical: James Joyce was a pioneer in 20th century literature: he changed people’s view of the world and society, he rejected the big heroic characters and gave prominence to ordinary men and women, real life, the little details of human existence. And the third reason, and maybe the most important one for me, is the rebelliousness of Joyce, his optimism, and the way he overcame so many challenges during his life. Perhaps this is an Irish trait, I think you can see it throughout Irish history.
How was your experience of researching the book and the life of James Joyce?
The most important thing for me was to try to get across to the reader the spirit of Joyce, this great artist and his world, his vision of life. When I was researching the life of James Joyce, two essential books for me were the biography of Joyce by Richard Ellmann and ‘Joyce for Beginners’ by David Norris & Carl Flint. Also, of course, Joyce’s books: in ‘Ulysses’, ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ and ‘Dubliners’, I found lots of small details that helped me to build Joyce’s Dublin.
You also did some research for the book in Dublin, how was that?
I spent many months doing research for the book in Dublin and the experience was fantastic! I didn’t just want to create my drawings from old photos in books. In order to get across the essence of a place, you have to visit that place. I walked the Dublin streets, I saw the colour of the sky, I drank beer in the pubs, I ate fish and chips, I talked to Dubliners. Old photos are all very well, but Dublin is a magical city, and you have to go to the heart of Dublin to try to understand Joyce. Maybe this special atmosphere is not always visible to people who live in Dublin, but for me as a visitor, it was a joy the first time, the second time and every time I return to this wonderful city.
Thanks very much for the chat Alfonso!