Tim Parks writes:
Gordon Bowker takes Joyce at his word that he had to leave Ireland because he was unable to become a great writer in a provincial atmosphere amid competing claims of nationalism and Catholicism. Yet the facts suggest Joyce was working well in Ireland; he was publishing and had a growing reputation. A more urgent problem was his having an uneducated and very young girlfriend whom he was embarrassed to present to family or intellectual friends as a future wife, but with whom he wanted to enjoy nuptial bliss at once. That was possible only by moving abroad, a move that definitely slowed down his career and would condition all his work from then on. Bowker enthuses over the myth of the independent artist seeking alone the “spiritual liberation of his country,” then lets us know that Joyce was consulting his aunt by post over his young wife’s depression (Nora was desperately lonely in countries where she could not speak the language) and visiting prostitutes in the meantime.