What to do with the discovery of unpublished and unfinished works by long dead writers is a tricky thing. Was there are reason they weren’t published or finished? Were they not all that good? Or did they not find the right publisher willing to take a risk?
Truman Capote’s unfinished novel Answered Prayers was not published until after his death, as was “Yachts and Things.” Jack Kerouac’s long-lost first novel, The Sea is My Brother “suddenly surfaced” and was published in 2011 long after Kerouac wrote the manuscript in 1942.
And now comes word of another unpublished work being posthumously published for the first time. Irish author and poet James Joyce-- best known for Ulysses, Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Finnegans Wake died in 1941 but not before he penned a children’s book for grandson Stephen called “The Cats of Copenhagen.”
Of course, Joyce isn’t the first author to pen a children’s book for a family member. A.A. Milne famously wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh series for his son—even creating a namesake character in the series after his boy—Christopher Robin Milne.
But “Copenhagen” was left forgotten and unpublished for decades—remaining a story solely for grandson Stephen until the Irish publisher Ithys Press got hold of the tale.
And to add controversy to intrigue, as The Guardian tells us, the Zürich James Joyce Foundation, which owns the original letter containing The Cats of Copenhagen, claims Ithys had no right to release the story. Others say that the work is now in the public domain—after 75 years.
Legal standing aside; the intent behind whether this is private family story or simply an unpublished manuscript is unknown, and moot, given the public publishing of the book.
All is left is for us to enjoy the now-published children’s tale by one of the great authors and poets of a time gone by.