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Eugène and Maria Jolas papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 108

Scope and Contents

The Eugène and Maria Jolas Papers consist of letters, manuscripts, photographs, and printed material concerning the lives of Eugène and Maria Jolas. The collection documents their writing careers, their involvement with the entre-deux-guerres literary scene, expressly their production of the little magazine, transition, and their amicable and editorial involvement with James Joyce. The papers span the dates 1879-1986, with the bulk centering around the years 1927-1986.

The collection is housed in 69 boxes and consists of four subgroups containing seventeen series. Subgroup 1, Eugène Jolas Papers (Series I-VI) consists of Correspondence, Writings, Translations, DENA, Personal Papers, and Photographs. Subgroup 2, Maria Jolas Papers (Series VII-XI), consists of Correspondence, Writings, Translations, Subject Files, and Personal Papers. Subgroup 3, transition (Series XII-XIII), consists of General Office Files and Imprints. Subgroup 4, James Joyce Papers (Series XIV-XVII), consists of Correspondence, Writings, Photographs, and Papers of Helen Joyce. Boxes 65-66 contain Restricted Papers. Boxes 67-68 contain Oversize material.

The Eugène Jolas Papers begin with Series I, Correspondence , which consists of letters to and from Eugène Jolas during the period 1910 (when he first moved to New York) to 1952 (the year he died). The earliest letters extant are those sent by the young Eugène to his family during his early years living in New York City, dating from 1910-1913. (These are filed under Jolas Family.) Written in German, these missives are accompanied by English translations done years later by Jolas or a secretary in preparation for his autobiography. Letters from his wife, Maria Jolas, cover the years 1939-1950. Eugène's letters to Maria are filed in Series VII, Correspondence of Maria Jolas. Other Jolas family members represented include Eugène's brothers Armand Jolas, Emile Jolas, and Jacques Jolas, and well as Christine Jolas, their mother. All of these letters date from 1935-1952, many of them written during World War II.

Among the literary personages in this first correspondence series are Kay Boyle, Malcolm Cowley, Raoul Hausmann, Klaus Mann, Blanche Matthias, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Raymond Queneau, and Jean Wahl.

Series II, Writings , is the largest series in the Eugène Jolas Subgroup. The first subseries contains typescripts and printed versions of articles written by Eugène Jolas for various magazines and reviews between 1924-1951. Included are copies of his columns from 1924, "Rambles Through Literary Paris" and those from 1949-1950, "Across Frontiers." A number of his articles are criticisms of writers and movements, such as "Ernst Juenger et le crépuscule du nihilisme," "Surrealism: Ave atque Vale," and "Arts and Letters in Latin America." A number of articles concern James Joyce. They may be connected to works comprising the "Work on James Joyce" at the end of the next subseries, Books. Two manuscripts on Novalis are filed here as well, though they may be early versions of articles collected for the book, Novalis.

The second subseries, Books, makes up the greatest part of the Writings subseries. The main text here is Eugène Jolas' autobiography which he worked on for over a decade. Referred to in this archives as Man From Babel (one of several titles considered by Jolas) this work survives in several drafts, all unpublished, left by Jolas when he died in 1952. Due to the scattered nature of the material when it was received, an attempt has been made to generally group the chapter drafts which survived intact into broad time periods. The first texts filed here, however, are "German Diary" and "From a Frankfurt Notebook," loosely gathered notes and fragments that serve as very elementary versions of the autobiography. Following these are Drafts A through E, ordered by their apparent dates of creation. Each draft has most or all of the following divisions represented: Prologue, Childhood, Young Adulthood, Return to Lorraine, Reporter in Paris, New Orleans, Founding transition, 1930s, World War II, DENA, and Post-War. Included here are also draft fragments, which could not be matched with specific drafts, and miscellaneous pages and poems intended for inclusion in the work.

This autobiography provides various details about stages of Eugène Jolas' life. At times confessional, and at others very analytic, Man From Babel provides an account of his journalistic career and success in publishing transition before serving as a military writer and editor during World War II. The autobiography proceeds linearly, from Jolas' childhood in Lorraine, through his time in Paris, and up to his work with DENA, concentrating at length on his later accomplishments, while providing details about the entire transition era.

Other Books represented in this subseries include drafts of Der Moderne Reporter, which Eugène Jolas wrote at the request of the Information Services Division of the occupational government in Germany and War, about his experiences as a military newsman. "Work on James Joyce" consists of several articles and profiles which Jolas apparently intended to gather together for a volume about Joyce. Several outlines and notes for others works are included here as well.

The following subseries contains Eugène Jolas' poetry. His poems had were sorted and organized after his death by his widow and her arrangement has been respected here. The first section, Books of Poems, reflects volumes actually published by Jolas, or groups of manuscripts and typescripts gathered together by Maria Jolas with the intention of being published as books. Most of Eugène Jolas' published books of poetry are extant here, except for his earliest works, Ink, Cinema, Succession in Astropolis and his later volumes I Have Seen Monsters and Angels, Mots-Déluge, The Language of Night, and Angels and Demons.

The four unpublished collections of poems are Lorraine Poem, Poems About Stars and Planets, Reporters, and Selected Poems. (Wanderpoem did appear in a limited edition in 1946, published in Wiesbaden by Transition Press.) The poems which make up each of these proposed volumes have been kept in the order in which they were originally filed, with individual poem titles or incipits listed. The spelling, especially in terms of accents and capitalization, follows the manuscript. The poems within Reporters fall into a number of sections and subheadings, which have been retained as to the basic hierarchy. Most of the poems are undated, except for a number in Selected Poems, because they had been published previously.

The next section of poems, Poems as Organized by Maria Jolas, has also been kept in original order. Maria Jolas and a secretary classified Jolas' poems according to language: English, French, German, and Multilingual Poem. Titles and incipits have been listed in agreement with the Master Lists compiled at the time. Multilingual refers to the poems written in Atlantica, the polyglot Eugène Jolas invented.

The remaining poems in this series, Other Poems, are those which were not previously catalogued by Maria Jolas. They include many of Jolas' single published poems from his native language newspaper, Stimmen aus Lothringen. Also here are various fragments, titled and untitled found among his papers.

Three small subseries complete the Books series. Speeches contains a program noting a speech by Eugène Jolas on James Joyce. Stories contains two short pieces, one published and one in typescript form. The last subseries is Writings of Others. Most of the works included here appear to be drafts of stories and articles by reporters working for Jolas when he edited German newspapers after World War II. A number of pieces by authors such as Swedenborg, Tolstoy, Hugo, Blaise Cendrars, and Martin Buber are typescript versions of essays and clippings Jolas may have used in preparing critical articles.

In Series III, Translations , the principal is Novalis, a collections of translations accompanied by critical essays by Eugène Jolas. The other translations filed here are Nadja by André Breton, Earthwalker by Dorothy Donnelly, Les Chimères, Les Filles du Feu, and Aurelia, by Gérard de Nerval, and a French Catholic Anthology of mystical poets. Though Eugène Jolas did a large number of translations during his most productive years, only these few titles survive in the archives.

Materials concerning Jolas' career as a military journalist are contained in Series IV, DENA (the Deutsche Allgemeine Nachrichten Agentur "DANA", but known in English as DENA). Writings by Eugène Jolas, in the form of articles produced for various newspapers, and a draft, in English, of a "Journalism textbook", can be found here. Articles by other reporters are extant, as well. A number of publications, from DENA, from the United States Government, and from miscellaneous outside sources are filed in this subseries. Various working documents, such as government information circulars and memoranda have been retained. Specific wartime memorabilia and documents can be found here. Specifically, the employment application assessments detail the political histories of Germans who attempted to apply for positions with DENA. Housed in the Oversize boxes are propaganda posters showing scenes from concentration camps, accompanied by German texts.

Series V, Personal Papers , concerns Eugène Jolas. Included here are profiles of Jolas, the majority of which were written in tribute to him after his death. Scripts of a tribute by Radio Strasbourg from 1957 are also filed here. The remainder of this small series consists of items such as notes, tax documents, legal papers, and horoscopes.

The final series in the Eugène Jolas subgroup is Series VI, Photographs . This is the only series which gathers together like materials from the papers of both Maria and Eugène Jolas, for ease of reference. Eugène Jolas appears in photographic prints dating from 1910, in New York with brother Jacques, through a final portrait from 1951. The Jolas family from Forbach is documented here. Maria Jolas appears in some early portraits and several later poses with her grandchildren and colleagues during the 1970s and 1980s. Group photographs include many members of the Jolas' extended family from the late 1930s, including Henri Matisse, Barbara Constant, Mara Thaon, and Georges Pelorson.

The second subgroup, Maria Jolas Papers, consists of five series which, for the most part, parallel those in the Eugène Jolas group. The first of these is Series VII, Correspondence , which includes letters to and from a wide-range of people and organizations spanning from 1935 to 1986. Eugène's letters to Maria, from the period 1938-1951, during which the couple spent the majority of their time apart, are found here. Eugène writes candidly from New York, London, Occupied France, and Frankfurt. Other family members are represented by series of letters. Eugène's brothers Armand and Jacques are included, as are Jacques' wife and daughter Helen and Helène. Eugène's sister Maria Dillenschneider (wife of Celestin Dillenschneider) corresponded with Maria throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s. Maria's own family, scattered throughout the United States, wrote to Maria for several decades. Found here are letters to her sisters Laetitia Irwin and Cornelia Pemberton, and those to her brother Donald McDonald (along with his wife Josie). Both of Maria's daughters, Betsy and Tina, are represented by more recent letters. Also included are examples of letters from members of their respective families.

This series also includes letters from James Joyce and his family. Those from James Joyce himself date from the final years of his life, when Maria Jolas was closely involved with his welfare. Correspondence with Nora and George Joyce continued after James' death in 1942, often concerning their financial difficulties and the status of James Joyce's estate. The greatest bulk of letters survive from artist and writer friends Maria and Eugène Jolas knew from their work on the literary scene for over four decades, such as Sylvia Beach, Samuel Beckett, Kay Boyle (who included a typescript of her story "Approchez-vous Mesdames" in an early letter), Alexander and Louisa Calder, René Char, Padraic Colum, Carola Giedion-Welcker, Yvan and Claire Goll, Peggy Guggenheim, Paul and Lucie Léon, Jean-Jacques Mayoux, Nathalie Sarraute, John Slocum, Frances Steloff, James Stern, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, and Jean Wahl, among others.

Family friends of Maria and Eugène Jolas, the Duthuit family, Georges, Marguerite, and Claude, are represented here. Marguerite's family, the Matisses, Amélie, Henri, and Pierre, also corresponded with Maria Jolas, often concerning the welfare of young Claude Duthuit, who was under the care of the Jolas family in the early years of World War II. Another French family with whom Maria had a long relationship are the Massons, represented here by letters from André and Rose. Correspondence between Maria and Joyce scholars, with whom she had interactions ranging from very pleasant to quite difficult, constitute a large part of the correspondence from the 1960s through the 1980s. Among these researchers who wrote asking for Maria's assistance are Bernard Benstock, Helène Cixous, Richard Ellmann, Richard Kain, Richard Kearney, Fritz Senn, and Thomas Staley. Maria's work as a translator accounts for most of the correspondence with publishing companies, much of which concerns technical matters involving her work on texts. Examples of these are André Sauret, George Braziller, Inc., John Calder Publishers, Inc., and Orion Press.

The Third Party correspondence contains a relatively small number of items sent between persons whose own correspondence is represented, for the most part, in the General correspondence. Among those writing and receiving letters are: George Duthuit, from Marguerite Duthuit and Amélie Matisse; Richard Ellmann, from Carola Giedion-Welcker; Betsy Jolas, from George Duthuit; Tina Jolas, from Maria Dillenschneider and Georges and Claude Duthuit; Nora Joyce, from Edmund Brauchbar and Sylvia Sax; F. Lionel Monro, from Nora Joyce; and the United States Embassy, from James Joyce.

The next series in the Maria Jolas subgroup is Series VIII, Writings . As her husband had done, Maria began working on an autobiography in her later years. Her work, also unpublished at the time of her death, was more concise than Eugène's. The drafts of her untitled autobiography are divided between early drafts and later drafts. Within each of these, chapters are arranged by time period. In specific, early drafts contain sections relating to Childhood, Schooling, Sailing to Germany, Studying in Germany, and Life at Colombey. Later drafts contain sections relating to Berlin to Paris, Paris, 1919-1927, and Enddream.

A number of articles written by Maria Jolas comprise the next section of Writings. Many of these concerning James Joyce were published in scholarly journals. Several articles concerning French culture and theater were written for annual issues of the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The subject of her other writings includes childhood education and France during wartime.

The remainder of this series consists of smaller subseries. Included here are Notebooks concerning episodes during Maria's life, specifically the École bilingue de Neuilly, the final days at St. Gérand-le Puy during the fall of France, and her war diary. The Open Letters subseries contains letters written by Maria to groups of friends or for general publication in widely read magazines and newspapers. Poems consists of two short pieces written late in Maria's life. The Program, "Récits et chants du folklore américain" was written for presentation to French children. Maria's Radio Addresses documents her efforts during the early years of World War II to speak on behalf of France and the French people. Such speeches as "The Fight for Freedom Committee" and "The French Home" were broadcast by stations in the New York City area. Of the four Speeches filed here, three were prepared in the early 1940s, while one was presented during the Joyce centenary celebration in 1982.

Writings of Others includes a printed work by Yvan Goll, "Chansons de France," a draft, with corrections, of Dougald McMillan's history, Transition: The History of a Literary Era, 1927-1938, an extract of a letter by Charles Jolas as well as typescripts of works by Richard Kearney and J. S. O'Leary, and Pierre Vidal-Naquet.

Series IX, Translations , contains translations done by Maria Jolas from the 1940s through the 1970s. Correspondence which was included with texts and notebooks as they were received have been kept with the texts they concern. (See also: Series VII, Correspondence - Publishers) The largest number of complete texts, both in French and in English translation, are for works by Nathalie Sarraute. Sarraute's first novel Portrait d'un inconnu is included in several translation drafts. Most of Sarraute's works from the 1960s and 1970s translated by Maria Jolas are included here, from the novels Le Planetarium and Disent les imbéciles, to the plays Le Silence and Le Mensonge, to the critical article broadcast on French radio "Flaubert le Précurseur."

Maria Jolas' work with other French writers in reflected in materials concerning her work on Robert Jaulin's examination of African culture, La Mort Sara, René Char's Chants de la Balandrane, Gaston Bachelard's Poétique de l'espace, and Georges Bataille's "The Economic Role of the Gift: Potlatch." Maria Jolas did a number of translations of books about artists and art movements during the late 1950s and 1960s, as well. Represented here are The Lithographs of Chagall by Julien Cain, Constantin Brancusi by Carola Giedion-Welcker, and several works by André Masson. Her work in German to English translation is represented by the collection of poems by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Among Maria's several translations of works by Pierre Vidal-Naquet is his A Paper Eichmann, complete with background clippings about the controversy surrounding the confrontation that led to Vidal-Naquet's book.

Included in this series is a book that contains work from several writers. What was referred to in her files as the "Multilingual Poets Project" was an anthology Maria Jolas prepared to present the poems of her husband and several other poets who regularly composed verse in more than one language. Represented here are typescripts of poems by Yvan Goll, Edouard Roditi, Eugène Jolas, and Jean Wahl. Filed at the end of this series are materials relating to Maria Jolas' winning of the Scott Moncrieff Prize in 1971.

In Series X, Subject Files , the vast majority of material concerns James Joyce. Maria Jolas spent a great deal of energy following Joyce's death collecting writings about him and documenting societies, symposia, films, and meetings dedicated to him. The articles included here are, in general, offprints and photocopies of typescripts presented to Maria with autographs from the authors. Among the Joyce scholars represented here are Bernard and Shari Benstock, Helène Cixous, Richard Ellmann, Richard M. Kain, Joseph Prescott, and Fritz Senn. Special Joyce issues of magazines are files here, including a run of The Analyst from Northwestern University from 1955-1962.

A wide breadth of materials concerning organization with which Maria Jolas was involved are included with the James Joyce Subject Files. The Memorial Fund, specifically, was organized by Jolas in New York after Joyce's death to support his widow and children. More scholarly groups such as the James Joyce Society, the James Joyce Foundation, and the James Joyce Centre sent their publications and minutes to Jolas for many years. The Symposia, sponsored by the James Joyce Foundation at the University of Tulsa, began in Dublin in 1967. Maria was active in many of these meeting during the 1970s, and even served as coordinator for the 1975 symposium in Paris. Her planning materials for that meeting are included here along with souvenirs and documents from many of the other symposia. The documentation covering various exhibits on Joyce includes materials tracing the development of the famous display which Maria Jolas organized at La Hune gallery in Paris in 1949. Surviving from this exhibit are lists of Joyce's effects gathered after his death, and catalogs of materials offered for sale. This exhibit traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1950 before many of the items were acquired by the State University of New York at Buffalo. Jolas also kept ephemera on theatrical productions of Joyce texts, musical settings of his work, monuments dedicated to Joyce, and collections of Joyce material in the United States. Transcripts from several different radio broadcasts profiling Joyce are files here, as well. Her clippings from a wide variety of printed sources have been arranged by subject, except when they were received as integral parts of other subject files.

Subject Files concerning the following persons and subjects contain miscellaneous personal items: Amerindians history, Noam Chomsky, Jacques Jolas, Lucie Léon, André Masson, Nathalie Sarraute, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, and Jean Wahl.

Series XI, Personal Papers , contains various effects found among Maria Jolas' papers. Similar to Eugène Jolas' personal papers, this series contain some legal documents (including a marriage certificate and wills) and financial documents. Three special groups of materials merit individual note. Filed here are materials documenting the running of the École bilingue de Neuilly. Extant are an account book, letters to parents, insurance policies and legal documents, many dating from the final days of the school's existence. Items relating to Maria Jolas' involvement with a service organization for French citizens in New York during World War II, the cantine La Marseillaise, include photographs and programs. Also included here are records relating to a landlord-tenant dispute referred to by Maria Jolas as "L'Affaire Hébert."

A number of interviews with Maria Jolas are found in among the personal papers here. Most of these were conducted during her later years by, among others, David Hayman, Hugh Kenner, Ellis Dillon, and Nathalie Sarraute. In addition, a large scrapbook containing photographs and notes about many of Maria Jolas' wartime activities is housed here.

The third subgroup consists of two series documenting the life of transition magazine and press. Items found here date almost entirely after World War II, because the original transition archives were lost after the Jolases had to leave France in 1940.

Series XII, General Office Files , contains legal and financial papers and material intended for general consideration in transition publications. Among the later are submissions from Anthony Borrow, Paul Eluard, Eugène Jolas, Norman MacLeod, and Gil Orlovitz. General correspondence includes letters from Marcel Duchamp, Georges Duthuit, Faber & Faber, Carola Giedion-Welcker, James Laughlin, Clémence Ramnoux and James Johnson Sweeney.

Series XIII, Imprints , is divided into specific titles published or planned by transition press. The James Joyce Yearbook includes typescripts drafts of all the articles which appeared in the volume (save for Paul Léon's "In Memory of Joyce"), along with a few submissions intended for later Yearbooks. Among the correspondence directed to this specific project are letters from Hermann Broch, Kees van Hoek, John Slocum, and Roland von Weber. Manuscripts included in the Transition Anthology are exclusively typescript resettings of works published in the original transition review, along with a few items received for consideration in the late 1940s. Material filed with the Vertical Yearbook includes letters from Kay Boyle, Amy Bonner, Padraic Colum, Ralph Gustaffson, and Marsden Hartley.

The fourth subgroup, James Joyce Papers, contains items entrusted by Joyce to Maria Jolas at the time of his departure from France in 1940. Series XIV, Correspondence , consists of letters addressed to James Joyce from a variety of friends and associates dating from 1920-1940. Included are holograph letters and typewritten transcriptions by Maria Jolas of letters from Samuel Beckett, Louis Gillet, Valéry Larbaud, and Ezra Pound. Series XV, Writings , contains two holograph items, a poem written for Maria Jolas, "Comeallyou," and a note accompanying a translation into German by Joyce of a poem by James Stephens, "Stephen's Green." The versions of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" are sample pages of various translations which were displayed with other materials at La Hune bookshop in 1949. Among these are: a typescript carbon of the French translation done by Joyce, Philippe Soupault, Eugène Jolas, Ivan Goll, Samuel Beckett, and Alfred Péron in 1932, an uncredited Italian translation, a fragment from the original transition, and a scenario adaptation by Stuart Gilbert. Also extant here is a list of typographical corrections to Finnegans Wake made by Paul Léon in 1940 for a second edition of the book.

Series XVI, Photographs , contains photographs of members of the Joyce family. James Joyce is pictured in photographic prints with Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier circa 1920, with his family and Eugène Jolas on an outing in Feldkirch in 1932 (some of them annotated by Lucia Joyce), with "Prof. and Mme S. Giedion" in the 1930s, with Philippe Soupault circa 1930, and in a late candid shot from September 1939. Included here are snapshots of Lucia Joyce, Nora Joyce, and what appears to be a young Stephen Joyce.

Series XVII, Papers of Helen Joyce , contains documents and correspondence belonging to Helen Joyce, George Joyce's first wife. Along with various receipts and a medical report are letters from Kay Boyle, Alfred, Margot, Robert and Sigmund Kastor, Adrienne Monnier, and Ezra Pound, as well as two letters to Louis Gillet.

Series XVIII, Papers of Lucia Joyce , contains letters and writings by Lucia Joyce.


  • 1879-1986


Language of Materials

In equal parts English, French, and German, with significant writings in Atlantica, an artificial language created by Eugène Jolas.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Material in Box 70 is restricted until December 12, 2032.

Restricted Fragile Papers in box 69 may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Eugène and Maria Jolas Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated in part and purchased in part from Betsy and Tina Jolas in 1989.


31.75 Linear Feet (70 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Eugène and Maria Jolas Papers consist of manuscripts, letters, photographs, and printed materials relating to the work and lives of the two authors, to their publication, Transition magazine, and to their friend, James Joyce.
The first subgroup, the papers of Eugène Jolas, contains his correspondence with such persons as Kay Boyle, Raoul Hausmann, Raymond Queneau, and Jean Wahl, writings (articles, columns, drafts of an autobiography, and hundreds of poems in Enlgish, German, French, and Jolas' own invented language, Atlantica), and translations by of the works of writers such as Andre Breton and Gerard de Nerval.
This first subgroup also contains materials Jolas prepared for, and used during, his service in the Deutsche Allgemeine Nachrichten Agentur (DANA, but known in English as DENA), Personal Papers andPhotographs.
The second subgroup contains the archives of Maria Jolas. Among her her correspondence are letters from Samuel Beckett, Padraic Colum, the Duthuit family, Paul and Lucie Leon, the Matisse family, Nathalie Sarraute, and Pierre Vidal-Naquet.
The second subgroup also contains Maria Jolas' writings (including drafts of her autobiography), translations is made up of English translations of works by writers such as Rene Char, Robert Jaulin and Nathalie Sarraute and a number of poets who contributed to her "Multilingual Poets Project. The majority of her Subject Files concern the scholarlytreatment of James Joyce. Also included is a series of Personal Papers.
The third subgroup consists of a small group of materials documenting the life of "transition" magazine, which the Jolas' published from 1927-1938. The original magazine archives were destroyed during World War II. The material here documents the publication of several special projects and a short-lived revival of the magazine in the late 1940s.
The fourth subgroup gathers together materials from James Joyce left with the Jolas family shortly before he died, including letters to Joyce from Samuel Beckett and Ezra Pound, a draft of "Comeallyou," a typescript carbon of a French translation of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" done by Joyce,Philippe Soupault, Eugène Jolas, Yvan Goll, Samuel Beckett and Alfred Peron in 1932, a list of typographical corrections to Finnegans Wake made by Paul Leon in 1940 for a second edition of the book, and several photographs of the Joyce family.

Eugène Jolas (1894-1952)

John George Eugène Jolas was born October 26, 1894, in Union Hill, New Jersey. His parents, Eugène Pierre and Christine (née Ambach) had immigrated to the United States from the Rhine borderland area between France and Germany several years earlier. The family would return to Europe, specifically Forbach in Lorraine, in 1897. Eugène spent his formative years in this part of Europe which had become part of Germany in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War.

After basic schooling, Eugène decided to return alone to America in 1909. He attended classes in English at De Witt Clinton Evening High School while working a succession of menial delivery jobs. Eventually, he made contacts in the world of journalism and began writing for the Volksblatt und Freiheitsfreund, and the Pittsburgh Sun in Pennsylvania. In 1917, he joined the U. S. Army Medical Corps and was stationed in Camp Lee, Virginia. During his tenure in the military, he continued his journalistic pursuits, editing small newspapers for enlisted men and veterans.

Shortly after being honorably discharged, Eugène went back and forth between North America and Europe for several years in pursuit of a career in journalism. While in America, he reported for the Savannah Morning News, Waterbury Republican, and New York Daily News. His visits to Paris in 1923 and 1924 influenced his decision to take a position with the Chicago Tribune Paris Edition. His work here as the city reporter and as a literary columnist (writing "Rambles Through Literary Paris") provided his first interaction with many artists and writers living in Paris. During this period, Jolas passed a number of landmarks in his life. In 1924, his first book of poetry, Ink, was published by Rythmus Press in New York. This was followed by a second volume, Cinema, issued in 1926 by Adelphi Press, New York. On January 12, 1926, he returned to New York City where he married Maria MacDonald, whom he had met in Paris. His first daughter, Betsy MacDonald, was born August 5, 1926. In the early months of their marriage, Jolas and his wife lived in New Orleans, where he reported for the Item Tribune.

In 1927, after his return with his family to Paris, Eugène Jolas embarked on a more ambitious literary task, the publication of transition. This now famous literary review was begun by Jolas with the assistance of his first co-editor, Elliot Paul. Transition, published initially over a period of eleven years became known as a major literary laboratory for modern writing. [See historical sketch of transition below for more detailed information]. Editing transition became Eugène Jolas' metier for over a decade. During the same period, however, he continued his own writing and published several works through different publishers. In 1927, in collaboration with his wife, Jolas published Le nègre qui chante, an anthology of spirituals and work-songs, which the two had become acquainted with while living in the American South. 1929 saw the publication of Secession in Astropolis as well as the birth of the Jolas' second daughter, Marie Christine Georgia Jolas (known as Tina). In nearly every year which followed, Jolas issued a new book of poetry. Among these were Hypnolog des Scheitelauges (1931), Epivocables of 3 (1932), The Language of Night (1932), Mots Déluge (1933), Angels and Demons (1937), Vertical (1938), I Have Seen Monsters and Angels (1938), Planets and Angels (1940), and Words from the Deluge (1941).

During this same period, Eugène Jolas became more involved with the literary scene in Europe and came to develop strong relationships with a number of writers and artists. During his earliest years in Paris, he had made the acquaintance of James Joyce and was eventually able to secure Joyce's "Work in Progress" for the first issues of transition. Their association grew so that Jolas acted as an unofficial editor of much of Joyce's new writings as well as a confidant and friend. Among Jolas' other literary and artistic acquaintances in France were Harry and Caresse Crosby, Kay Boyle, André Breton, Padraic Colum, André Masson, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Georges Pelorson, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, and Philippe Soupault. The 1930s were a fruitful time for Jolas in other ways, as well. In 1935, he took a sabbatical from his editorial duties to work in New York City for the Havas News Agency, principally translating news from America for transmission to French speaking countries. He also continued his work as a professional translator. He had begun translating submissions for transition, but eventually was asked to do outside work, such as the English language version of Alfred Doeblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz. He would eventually work on writings by André Breton, Gérard de Nerval, and Carl Sternheim. In 1937, after returning to Paris, he resumed work on transition, which was publishing longer issues, though more infrequently. His energies were directed into publishing anthologies of many of the works that had appeared in transition. Transition Stories was issued in 1939, followed by an anthology, Vertical: A Yearbook for a Romantic-Mystic-Revolution in 1941 featuring work by Paul Claudel, Charles Péguy, and Léon-Paul Fargue. In 1938, Jolas was one of the founders of a new literary monthly, Volontés. Also on the board of editors were Pierre Guéguen, Frédéric Joliot, Georges Pelorson, and Raymond Queneau. Volontés disappeared at the outset of the Second World War. The poetry Jolas produced during this time exhibited his growing interest in religious themes, principally Catholic images from his youth. These themes would expand through the 1940s and 1950s to play an important role in Jolas' art and philosophy.

In 1939, Jolas officially suspended production of transition when he moved back again to New York to work as a free-lance literary writer. The increasing tensions in Europe convinced him to have his family join him in America after the fall of France in the summer of 1940. In the early years of World War II, Eugène worked for the Office of War Information in New York. Chief among his duties were processing news in French for transmission to North Africa and providing hometown news for American soldiers stationed in Hawaii. His success as a news writer led to his transfer to London in March, 1944, where he continued to translate war news into French for the Allied forces. His tenure here was brief, as he went to France in July of that year to help reestablish journalistic communications in recently liberated towns and villages. He was finally able to reenter his Lorraine homeland in January 1945. His mission was to set-up non-propagandistic newspapers in captured German towns and eradicate traces of Nazi idiom and ideology from the German journalistic vocabulary. His success in Aachen, with the Aachener Nachrichten, and in Heidelberg, with Die Heidelberger Mitteilungen, led to his being appointed editor-in-chief of the Deutsches Allgemeine Nachrichten-Agentur, DANA (later changed to DENA). The mission of this newly formed agency was to continue the work in reestablishing newspapers in occupied Germany. Jolas expanded the scope of DANA to introduce a literary review, Die Wandlung, on which he worked with Karl Jaspers.

Eugène Jolas continued working with DANA, separated from his wife and daughters who had now moved to Paris, until February 1947. He resigned his post and rejoined his family, compiling the Transition Anthology and assisting Georges Duthuit, who was working to revive transition under a new formula. He also completed a major part of his autobiography, Man From Babel, which he had been working on since 1939. In 1948, he returned to a career in journalism as news editor for the Neue Zeitung in Munich. As well, he took on the duties in the School of Journalists established by the occupational government's Information Services Divisions, eventually writing a textbook, Der Moderne Reporter. Between 1949 and 1950, Jolas contributed a weekly column, "Across Frontiers" to the New York Herald Tribune Paris Edition.

Jolas resigned his posts in Munich to return to Paris in April 1950. He continued freelance writing, but became very ill over the following two years. He died in Paris on May 26, 1952.

A chronology of events in Eugène Jolas' life, as well as a bibliography of his works compiled by Maria Jolas, can be found in the original finding aid to this archives in box 1.

Maria Jolas (1893-1987)

Maria McDonald Jolas was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 12, 1893. Her parents had moved to Kentucky from Virginia, where their English and Scottish forebears had settled in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Her father, Donald McDonald, was head of the Louisville Gas and Electric Company. Maria McDonald was educated at Semple Collegiate School, a private school in Louisville, where she majored in French, Latin, and Literature. On graduating, she was offered a scholarship at the University of Chicago which, to her lasting regret, her family turned down. Instead, she concentrated on her musical talents and for two years, 1910-1911, studied the piano at the Finch School in New York. In 1912, she went to Berlin to study singing and remained in Germany until the outbreak of the First World War. She spent the next four years in New York, where she took singing lessons with the soprano Giulia Valda, while working for Charles Scribner and Sons and the Western Union Telegraph Company. In 1919 she followed Valda to Paris, her home, to continue with her singing lessons. It was in Paris that she met Eugène Jolas, whom she married on January 12, 1926, at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. After six months in New Orleans, the Jolases returned to France, where they set up residence first in Paris, then in the village of Colombey-les-deux-Églises, in the Haute-Marne, in the house later acquired by General de Gaulle. Their daughter Betsy was born in 1926. In 1929, they had a second daughter, Marie-Christine. A third child, born in 1930, died shortly after her birth.

Maria Jolas collaborated actively with her husband on transition, first as secretary, then more and more as translator: her contributions include work by Léon-Paul Fargue, Philippe Soupault, Raymond Roussel, André Breton, Robert Desnos, Roger Vitrac, Bernard Faÿ, and Jean Paulhan. In 1928, the Jolases together published Le nègre qui chante, an anthology of spirituals, and in 1936-1938, they translated Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. In 1932, in collaboration with the French linguist Hermine Priestman-Bréal (daughter of the French linguist Michel Bréal), Maria Jolas founded the École bilingue de Neuilly, which was an attempt at using the most advanced pedagogical methods for teaching in both English and French, while following the official French programs from nursery school through the Baccalauréat. Throughout the 1930s, Maria Jolas became especially close to James Joyce, with whom she shared a strong interest in music and singing. In the summer of 1932, while the Jolases were on holiday in Feldkirch, in the Austrian Alps, and Joyce was visiting his eye doctor in Zurich, they agreed, at his request, to look after his daughter Lucia, who by that time had showed serious signs of mental deterioration. As Lucia's state worsened in the following years, Maria Jolas was one of the people Joyce turned to for advice and help.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, while her husband returned to the United States, Maria Jolas evacuated her school to La Chapelle, a hamlet near Saint-Gérand-Le Puy, a small village in the Allier, where the school functioned at a reduced level for another year before it was forced to close down. The Joyces, whose grandson Stephen attended the École bilingue, spent Christmas 1939 in Saint-Gérand, and they remained there until their departure for Switzerland in December 1940. In September 1940, Maria Jolas left France to join her husband in New York with her two daughters. During the war years, she devoted her energy to the support of the Free French cause. In 1941 she joined the "France Forever" organization, and in 1943 founded the "Cantine La Marseillaise" at 789 Second Avenue, which she ran until 1946 for the benefit of soldiers, sailors, and aviators enlisted in the Free French forces. Meanwhile, she continued her work as a translator, and took over her husband's work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In March 1944, she joined the Office of War Information as head of the French language section. Returning to France in March 1946, Maria Jolas served for one year as director of the Information Service of the relief organization "Aide américaine à la France," visiting schools and orphanages, while actively pursuing her career as translator. In 1949, to benefit the Joyce family, she organized the first major Joyce exhibition at the Gallery La Hune in Paris. In the same year, she compiled the Joyce Yearbook which was published by Transition Press.

After the death of Eugène Jolas in May 1952, Maria Jolas became more involved in translation work: in particular, she translated all the work of Nathalie Sarraute, who became a close friend, and a large number of books and articles on art history and art criticism. An opponent to the Vietnam War, she was an active member of the Paris American Committee to Stop War from 1966 until its forced closure in 1970. (The part of her papers dealing with her involvement in PACS was donated to the Wisconsin Historical Society.) In 1970, her translation of Sarraute's Between Life and Death was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Prize by the Society of Authors in London.

Until the end of her life, Maria Jolas remained an important presence in the international community of Joyce scholars, taking part, in particular, in the celebrations of the centenary of Joyce's birth in 1982. She divided her time between Paris and the house she had purchased in 1950 in Chérence, near La Roche-Guyon, in Normandy. Maria Jolas died in Paris in 1987, at the age of 94.

transition magazine

Founded in 1927 by Eugène Jolas and Elliot Paul, transition, an international literary review, became an immediate sensation for its promotion of modernist aesthetics in writing and art and its choice of memorable contributors. Eugène Jolas had made a number of acquaintances in the arts while writing a column for the Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune. His friendship with a wide range of writers and artists became a starting point for the magazine's distinctive cadre of talent. The first issue alone was represented by original works by Kay Boyle, Gertrude Stein, Hart Crane, André Gide, and Archibald MacLeish. Installments of James Joyce's "Work in Progress" (later published as Finnegans Wake) appeared in eleven of the first fourteen issues, setting the experimental tone for the review.

The magazine continued into the 1930s, despite the replacement in 1929, of co-editor Elliot Paul by Robert Sage. Issues began to appear with less frequency, due to the monumental task of arranging for contributions and translating works into English, which was done principally by Eugène and Maria Jolas. Numbers of transition began to be focused on themes. Issue 13 was the "America Number"; Issue 16/17 highlighted "The Revolution of the Word." Issues from the mid-1930s began to reflect Eugène Jolas' theses about the interaction of language and artistic creation. Transition printed manifestoes that seemed to signal a change in the editorial policy of the magazine, which had initially set out to be an inclusive forum for modernist expression. In particular, Jolas made public his break with Gertrude Stein in a manifesto entitled "Testimony Against Gertrude Stein," cosigned by Henri Matisse, Tristan Tzara and Georges Braque, which appeared in issue 23 (1934-1935).

The review, did however, continue to bring new voices to an appreciative audience. Writers such as James Agee, Dylan Thomas, Raymond Queneau, and Muriel Rukeyser were published in later issues. Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis appeared in installments in issues 25-27. Coordinating with literary works were representations of other artistic media. Jolas regularly printed artwork and photographs by Hans Arp, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Alberto Giacometti, Kurt Schwitters, and Joan Miró. The final issues in the late 1930s also featured musical scores by Henry Cowell, Aaron Copland, Edgar Varèse, George Antheil, and Chester MacKee, along with stills from motion pictures.

Publication of transition was suspended after issue 27 in 1938, and the following year, Jolas returned to the United States. In February 1947, after resigning from a succession of military positions involving reestablishing newspapers in occupied Germany, Eugène Jolas attempted to revive transition with Georges Duthuit as principal collaborator. Duthuit eventually became editor, with Jolas acting as an advisory editor. The new, expanded Transition Press not only produced a new series of transition between 1948-1950, but also issued, in 1949, the James Joyce Yearbook, edited by Maria Jolas, and a Transition Anthology of works which had appeared in the original review. The new review, which principally featured works of modern French writers such as Georges Bataille, Jean-Paul Sartre, Henri Pichette, Antonin Artaud, René Char, and André du Bouchet, lasted for six issues before production was ceased in 1950.


Alexeïeff, Alexander - artist, illustrator, friend of Jolas family

Astafiew, M. - go-between for Jolas and Joyce families in 1940-1941

Bernard, Kathleen - typist for Maria Jolas during 1970s

Chambers, Judy - niece of Maria Jolas

Chantalou, Simonne - instructor at École bilingue de Neuilly

Dillenschneider, Célestin - brother-in-law of Eugène Jolas

Dillenschneider, Maria - sister of Eugène Jolas

Du Bouchet, André - divorced husband of Tina Jolas

Duthuit, Claude - son of Georges and Marguerite Duthuit

Duthuit, Marguerite - wife of George Duthuit, daughter of Henri Matisse

Gheerbrandt, Bernard - owner of La Hune Gallery

Greacan, Patricia - organizer of Joyce exposition at ICA, London, 1950

Gutovska, Maria - member of Polish refugee association in contact with Maria Jolas, 1939-1940

Humphrey, Mar - close friend of Maria Jolas from Louisville

Irwin, Laetitia (and family) - sister (and relatives) of Maria Jolas

Jaryc, Augusta - sister-in-law of Camille Schuwer

Jolas, Armand - brother of Eugène Jolas

Jolas, Christine - mother of Eugène Jolas

Jolas, Emile - brother of Eugène Jolas

Jolas, Jacques - pianist, composer, brother of Eugène Jolas

Jolas, Helen - wife of Jacques Jolas

Jolas, Helène - daughter of Jacques and Helen Jolas

Jolas, Marie-Louise - unidentified cousin of Jolas family

Jolas, Pierre - unidentified cousin of Jolas family

Lainé, Stella - mother of Gabriel Illouz (husband of Betsy Jolas)

McDonald, Donald - brother of Maria Jolas

McDonald, Josie - wife of Donald McDonald

Noufflard, Berthe - painter

Pemberton, Cornelia - sister of Maria Jolas

Phillips, Ewan - organizer of Joyce exhibition at ICA, London

Ponizowski, Eugénie - member of Polish refugee association in contact with Maria Jolas 1939-1940

Rasquin, Marthe and Roger - acquaintances of Maria Jolas from the École bilingue de Neuilly

Sprigge, Sylvia - author, translator

Therèse - cook for the Jolas family prior to World War II

Tompkins, Lionel - translator, friend of Maria Jolas

Vail, Sharon - daughter of Kay Boyle and Laurence Vail

Processing Information

Filed before the first series are the original finding aids which came with the archives. These three separate guides were created by Maria Jolas with the aid of assistants in the 1960s in attempt to catalog the majority of the papers. Though incomplete, these original lists (one each for materials pertaining to Eugène Jolas, Maria Jolas, and James Joyce) are helpful in placing many documents in context. The chronological listings of correspondence (as they were originally organized) can provide another point of access to these materials. Materials comprising the transition subgroup had been divided among the three original groups; there was no original separate guide to these documents. NOTE: Due to the presence of four subgroups, there may be a certain amount of overlapping among the groups. For example, when looking for correspondence for a specific individual, it is important to consult the Correspondence series in each subgroup. Though cross-references have been made for letters housed in series other than Correspondence, the general correspondence files for each subgroup will not necessarily reference letters in other general correspondence series.

Material in boxes 65-66 was formerly restricted; the restriction expired in 2019.
Guide to the Eugène and Maria Jolas Papers
by Timothy G. Young
April 1993
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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