Born into a middle-class family in Dublin, Ireland, James Joyce (1882–1941) excelled as a student, graduating from University College, Dublin, in 1902. He moved to Paris to study medicine, but soon gave it up. He returned to Ireland at his family's request as his mother was dying of cancer. Despite her pleas, the impious Joyce and his brother Stanislaus refused to make confession or take communion, and when she passed into a coma they refused to kneel and pray for her. James Joyce then took jobs teaching, singing and reviewing books, while drinking heavily.
Joyce made his first attempt at a novel, Stephen Hero, in early 1904. That June he met Nora Barnacle, with whom he eloped to Europe, first staying in Zürich before settling for ten years in Trieste (then in Austria-Hungary), where he taught English. There Nora gave birth to their children, George in 1905 and Lucia in 1907, and Joyce wrote fiction, signing some of his early essays and stories "Stephen Daedalus". The short stories he wrote made up the collection Dubliners (1914). He reworked the core themes of the novel Stephen Hero he had begun in Ireland in 1904 and abandoned in 1907 into A Portrait, published in 1916, a year after he had moved back to Zürich in the midst of the First World War.