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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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My great “Ulysses” adventure began in 1932. Ulysses at this time was contraband in the United States, absolutely forbidden. The only way you could buy it was in an under-the- counter edition published by Miss Sylvia Beach in Paris under the colophon of Shakespeare and Company. That was the name of her book store on the Left Bank--a very famous little book store where all the American tourists found their way. They would buy copies of Ulysses bound in paper--a light blue, Columbia blue cover. Everybody bought one. You couldn't come home from Europe without a copy of Ulysses, which Sylvia Beach sold for $10 a copy. I think Shakespeare and Company really lived on Ulysses. Joyce had never gotten a penny of American royalties. Little Review had done some of it in successive magazine issues, but its editors had even less money than Joyce. And then a man named Samuel Roth pirated some of it and went to jail--not only for Ulysses; he was publishing alleged “pornography” of a less literary nature.

I had heard Morris Ernst, the great lawyer, say one night that the banning of “Ulysses” was a disgrace and that a fight to legalize it was one he'd like to wage. So I went to Ernst and said, “If I can get Joyce signed up to do an American edition of Ulysses, will you fight the case for me in court?” I added, “We haven't got the money to pay your fancy prices” (he was a very high-powered lawyer) “but I'd like to make you a proposition. We'll pay all the legal expenses, and if you win the case, you'll get a royalty on Ulysses for the rest of your life.”

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