James Joyce in Siberia

Ireland, Croatia and literature figured in the previous post. Inevitably, James Joyce sprang to mind. When I walked around in Pula, I saw a wall plaque close to a Roman arch. It commemorates the fact that from October 1904 to early 1905 Joyce taught English to Austro-Hungarian naval officers in Pula. Joyce had wanted to go to Trieste or Zürich, but the Berlitz language school he worked for stationed him in Pula.
He seems to have disliked Pula and was burning with desire to go to Italy, or Trieste to be more precise. Joyce writes in a letter to his aunt Josephina Murray: "I am trying to move on to Italy as soon as possible as I hate this Catholic country with its hundred races and thousand languages (..). Pola is a back-of-God-speed place - a naval Siberia (..) Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear little red caps and colossal breeches." (Quoted in a book with the amazing title Sentimente, Gefühle, Empfindungen: Zur Geschichte und Literatur des affektiven von 1770 bis heute.)
If Joyce had not gone to Italy, Italy would have come to him as Italy colonized Istria after World War I. Apart from that, I don't quite understand what drew him to Trieste. First of all, it was not until after the First World War that Trieste belonged to Italy. Trieste, just as Pula, belonged for centuries to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Second, if I were a writer, longing to work in Italy, I'm sure a could find a more inspiring town than Trieste. Not that I hate the place, but it's not quite like Florence or Venice. And if it was melancholy Joyce was looking for, why didn't he simply move to Zagreb?
Whatever made Joyce dislike Istria, the Croatian peninsula is hugely popular with tourists. Not without reason. The best compliment is maybe a complaint of an Italian friend of mine: "I don't like Istria. It reminds me too much of Italy."

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