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James Joyce children's book sparks feud

image captionThe book has been illustrated by Casey Sorrow

A children's story by James Joyce has been published for the first time by a small press in Dublin.

However the Zurich James Joyce Foundation has called its publication an "outrage", saying it had not granted permission for the book's release.

The Cats of Copenhagen was written in a letter to Joyce's grandson in 1936 as a "younger twin sister" to the already published story, The Cat and the Devil.

The story tells of a Copenhagen in which things are not what they seem.

Publisher Ithys Press says Joyce's works are now in the public domain.

The letter, in which the tale was found, was donated to the Zurich James Joyce Foundation by Hans Jahnke, the stepbrother to Joyce's grandson Stephen James Joyce.

'Legal and valid'

In a statement, the Foundation said it had "allowed serious bona fide scholars to inspect its documents", but was "never approached or informed" about the Ithys book.

"The Foundation is therefore all the more dismayed to learn that a copy of the letter to young Stephen Joyce of 1936 must have been used for its publication in book form," it said.

It added it "was left completely in the dark - it never permitted, tolerated, condoned or connived at this publication, and it rigidly dissociates itself from it".

In response, Anastasia Herbert of Ithys said: "The unpublished works of James Joyce are now (since 1 January 2012) in the public domain.

image captionJames Joyce originally wrote the story in a letter to his grandson Stephen

"A publication such as that of The Cats of Copenhagen is legal and valid and any attempt to interfere with its free dissemination is both unlawful and morally reprehensible."

She added the attempt by the Foundation "to assert some right on this now public-domain document is preposterous.

"The book was conceived not as a commercial venture but as a carefully crafted tribute to a rather different Joyce, the family man and grandfather who was a fine storyteller.

"In this tiny text, we see Joyce commenting on fascism, even in its guise as communism, with the 'red boys' carrying out the orders of the Politburo."

The Foundation's Fritz Senn told The Guardian that although Joyce's published works entered the public domain in Europe on 1 January, it had not yet been determined whether non-published material was also out of copyright as well.

Ms Herbet said the argument raised a significant number of questions "about ownership in a post-copyright age".

"Is it really only bona fide scholars who have the right to see, interpret, adapt, and publish from works in these archives?" she told the BBC.

"And who exactly qualifies as a 'bona fide' scholar?"

Ithys has printed a limited run of 200 illustrated copies, ranging in price from €300 (£250) to €1,200 (£1,000).

More on this story

  • Copyright lifted on Joyce's work