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Will Godfrey Will Godfrey

What Happened When James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway Got Into a Bar Fight?

The legendary writers experienced their fair share of scrapes in the cafés of 1920s Paris.

18 Substance

Today is Bloomsday, celebrated worldwide by fans of James Joyce, whose sprawling modernist masterpiece Ulysses, with its protagonist Leopold Bloom, detailed the events of a single ordinary day in Dublin: June 16, 1904.

As the author of what’s widely considered the greatest English-language novel of the 20th century—even if not all of us quite manage to read the whole thing—Joyce the writer is in little need of defense. But that wasn’t so with Joyce the drinker during the time he spent in Paris in the 1920s, when he would go out boozing with a fellow writer by the name of Ernest Hemingway. According to the New York Times‘ Hemingway obituary, published in 1961:

Mr. Joyce and Mr. Hemingway did a certain amount of drinking together. The author of “Ulysses” was a thin, wispy and unmuscled man with defective eyesight. When they were making the rounds of the cafes and Mr. Joyce became embroiled with a brawler, as he frequently did, he would slip behind his hefty companion and cry, “Deal with him, Hemingway. Deal with him.”