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Joyce's Dublin
by Irene Togher

James Joyce didn't like Dublin. He made no secret of the fact. But his writing is filled with the city. From his early work, Dubliners, to his last novel, Finnegan's Wake, Joyce shows a type of obsession with the city of his birth and childhood.

Although in voluntary exile abroad, Joyce could accurately paint a picture of Dublin in detail that would be difficult to achieve for someone walking its streets and taking notes every day.

The novel that shows this most clearly is, of course, his famous work, Ulysses. Joyce once said of this novel:
"I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book."

His achievement may come short of being able to rebuild Dublin brick by brick but it is possible to trace Leopold Bloom's walk around the city in the exact timing of the character - that is how accurate Joyce's calculations were. And this is exactly what many people do every year on the 16th of June.

Joyce once wrote in his diary:
"Today 16 of June 1924 twenty years after. Will anybody remember this date?"

His pessimism is understandable since, at the time, Ulysses was still under a ban for obscenity in the USA and Britain. Today however, Joyce would be well satisfied with the attention his masterpiece receives. It is probably one of the most critiqued novels in the world and while many consider it unreadable, few would argue that it is not a classic.

Bloomsday has become something of a national holiday in Ireland - especially Dublin - and is celebrated in many other countries around the world also, including Melbourne, Toyko, Capetown, Rome, Buenos Aires, Toronto and New York. Celebrated on the day that Ulysses takes place, the actual date was significant in Joyce's own life. It was the date that he first walked out with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would become his wife.

The novel centers on Leopold Bloom's day in Dublin City, the people he meets and the thoughts that go through his mind. He crosses paths with Stephen Dedalus, a young writer who is Joyce's alter ego. It is estimated that Bloom covers 18 miles of Dublin in his wanderings - on foot, by tram and horse-drawn carriage. So if you're hoping to tour all the sites mentioned in the novel, in the exact footsteps of Bloom, then count on being in Dublin for more than a day.

You'll also need to rely heavily on your imagination to picture the Dublin that Bloom walked through. Joyce's Dublin was an Edwardian backwater of the British Empire. It was a city of gaslight, horse-drawn carriages, out-door plumbing and unpaved streets. Poverty permeated the city and the once magnificent Georgian areas were declining into slums.

Dublin today is a vastly different place. It's a favorite weekend destination for a huge number of irish epople from other parts of the country as well as Europeans. And, as with most cosmopolitan cities it is busy, fast, and noisy. Nowadays, it would be impossible to stroll around as leisurely as Bloom did, crossing streets at will and stopping to talk to people without having to shout above the drone of traffic.

Underneath it all though, a suprising amount of Joyce's Dublin remains intact. Many of the churches, banks and public buildings mentioned in Ulysses are still there. They may have been renamed and reconstructed but they are still recognizable.

This combination of the fascinating detail of Ulysses, Joyce's magnificent ability as a writer and the presence of so many intact reference points has certainly helped to make Dublin's Bloomsday a favorite literary pilgrimage. Dating back to the first Bloomsday in 1954 (the fiftieth anniversary of Ulysses), the 16th of June continues to become more and more popular every year as a time to celebrate Joyce's achievements, not only in Ireland but worldwide.

So whether you're planning to cover the entire 18 miles in Bloom's footsteps or just hang around enjoying the readings, street mimes and Edwardian atmosphere, here are some places you need to put on your priority list to fully enjoy the Dublin Bloomsday experience.

The James Joyce Tower and Museum, Sandycove. Also called the Mortello Tower, this 19th Century fortification was originally built to guard the coast against Napoleon's forces. Joyce places the first chapter of Ulysses here and today it houses the Joyce Museum. Among the items on display are Joyce's guitar, waistcoat, traveling trunk and his poignant death mask.

James Joyce Center, 35 North Great George's Street. The hub of Bloomsday activities, the Joyce Center is dedicated to the promotion of the life and works of this great author. Here you can start a walking tour or visit the exhibition rooms or the Guinness reference library. You may even be lucky enough to be personally greeted by one of Joyce's relations.

No. 7 eccles street is the address joyce gave to the blooms and it is first referenced in chapter 4, when leopold is preparing breakfast for his wife, molly. the mater private hospital now occupies the actual address but the sacred door is displayed in the james joyce center.

Belvedere College, Great Denmark Street Joyce attended this school from the ages 11 to 16 and he places chapters 2 to 4 here. It is a 1786, Adam-style building and from the street one can glimpse the chapel in which Stephen Dedalus listens to the terrifying sermon about hell.

The Irish Writer's Museum Located at Parnell Square (in Ulysses, Rutland Square), the Writer's Museum is housed in a magnificent 18th century mansion. The collection features the lives and works of Dublin's literary celebrities over the past three hundred years. Swift and Sheridan, Shaw and Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett, to name just a few.

Glasnevin Cemetery In chapter 6, Bloom accompanies Simon, Stephen' father to Paddy Dignam's funeral. Today, on Bloomsday, it is not unusual to see dedicated Joyceans make the trip to Glasnevin Cemetery in hired horse-drawn carriages - some even rent a hearse for full authenticity. This cemetery is the final resting-place of a multitude of famous Irish people - Irish leaders like Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera and writer's like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Brendan Behan.

Ideally, if you plan on being in Dublin forBloomsday, you should make a week or at least a weekend of it and stay at a hotel near the James Joyce Centre which serves the traditional Bloomsday breakfast. There are several hotels close by, including Jurys Inn Parnell Street. But if you can't physically be in the city itself, why not do the next best thing - read a little Ulysses and raise a pint of Guinness to the genius that was James Joyce.

Happy Bloomsday to all!


Image: "Joyce the Pluralist" by Roger Cummiskey; from the Ireland Abroad free postcard collection.

 

Fri, Nov 3, 2017

The Round Towers

The Round Towers of Ireland are remarkable among the world's ancient monuments; one author has called them 'Elegant, free-standing pencils of stone.' Today, 65 survive in part or whole. Hand-crafted in native stone and cemented with a sand, lime, horsehair and oxblood mortar - a technique imported from Roman Britain - it's said by many historians that they were built by monastic communities to thwart Viking invaders. And yet, there's reason to believe that the towers were built long before Christianity came to Ireland. Whatever their origins, monasteries did indeed flourish where the round towers existed. And why not. These imposing edifices provided a watch tower, a keep and a refuge.
Image: By kind permission of Stephen Cassidy, The Cassidy Clan.


Click for More Culture Corner.




Ulysses
James Joyce

Joyce's most famous work takes place on June 16-17, 1904. Today, people all over the world celebrate the wanderings and musings of the central character, Leopold Bloom, on Bloomsday - June 16th - with readings and re- enactments.
Click for Ulysses



Photo Credit: Roy Rainford
Poster available at All Posters


 

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