After the 'War to end all wars' and the Russian Revolution, Europe was in ferment and nowhere was brew headier than in Paris.
The Dadaists having broken the conceptual mould of traditional european thought creative horizons expanded rapidly into many different dimensions: cubism, constructivism, surrealism, atonalism, and any other ism an artist felt disposed to concoct. There followed a period of explosive experimentation never seen before - nor since.
The revolutionary ideas of Picasso, Braque, Léger, Duchamp and Picabia were translated to photography by Man Ray and to film by Léger himself, Clair, Gance and others. The revolutionary music of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, & Milhaud became ballets by Massine, Nijinska & Lifar under Diaghilev's dynamic patronage.
While Jean Cocteau appointed himself publicist for the performance arts, guiding the public thru the maze of new ideas, Ezra Pound assumed role of the evangelist of new literature. For a variety of reasons Pound doesn't appear in The Watcher in the Rain but it was his volatile and cantankerous energy which propelled James Joyce to centre stage in the epicentre of the creative universe.
Joyce's first Paris contacts came from Pound's insistent introductions to Breton, Tzara & Artaud, but especially to Shakespeare & Company, the book shop from which Sylvia Beach was to publish Ulysses.
Joyce's literary career was a tenuous affair in the early 20s, but subsidies paid by Beach and Joyce's English patron Harriet Weaver made him a modestly rich man by the time that Lucia's affliction became conspicuous.
Such was the glittering renown of Paris that its fame -and a favourable exchange rate- led to a wholesale migration of American talent and money during the easy years. Among those who peopled that expatriate world were the Fitzgeralds, Hemingways and a young composer/pianist named George Antheil, whose apartment above Shakespeare & Co made a pivotal contact-point for le tout Paris. His meteoric success and subsequent eclipse were both largely a result of Pound's ceaseless conspiracies.
Joyce & Antheil discussed an opera which would have been the earliest attempt at electronic composition had it matured. The two of them once hoodwinked Adrienne Monnier, Sylvia Beach's stately partner, into accompanying them to a Montparnasse maison tolérée where they persuaded les girls that she was a nun they were about to abduct to South America as a white slave! Antheil claimed to have been responsible for the publication of Hemingway's first short story.
But the simple hedonism of F Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age took a heavier toll as the decade became darker with nazi menace. There were many who succumbed to alcoholism: Fitzgerald of course, Hart Crane, and Joyce's own son Giorgio among them.
Nor was it only social illness that stalked the carefree boulevards. Clinical schizophrenia remains very little understood, but it played an enormous part in the world that surrounds James Joyce, claiming his daughter Lucia and daughter-in-law Helen, Artaud, Zelda Fitzgerald, and even Ezra Pound himself.
As Jung was remarked, 'in Joyce's writing there is insanity of an exceptional character for which we have no criteria.' Differentiating it from schizophrenia he concluded that it might represent a concept of health beyond normal understanding.
The relationship between the cultural world Joyce created and schizophrenic consciousness is fascinating because of his superstitious celebration of the irrational and allusive. Despite growing acclaim he seems never to have developed a concept of existence beyond allowing himself to be borne along on whatever tide was to hand. Fearful of any analytical process Joyce tried a dozen cures for Lucia, many of them outright quackery, before at last consenting to have her examined by the psychiatrist whom he had always privately excoriated.