16 June 2008


Today, June 16th, is Bloomsday, the day in 1904 on which all the action of James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses takes place. It is celebrated every year by Joyceans all over the world.

In Dublin, where the novel is set, Bloomsday (named after the novel's main character Leopold Bloom) celebrations are of course especially elaborate and go on now for a whole week, with most of the attention on the day itself. It is traditional to dress up - preferably in Edwardian period costumes - and go out for the day, visiting the locations of the book and taking part in readings, walks and convivial activities of all sorts which in some way connect with Ulysses, its author and its world.

In recent years the elaborate Dublin celebrations have been especially inspired and organised by one man who is meanwhile famous for it. Dublin academic and Senator David Norris (right), himself a Joycean scholar, began to promote the idea of a Bloomsday celebration many years ago, when the date was only a footnote in the calendars of academics, literary enthusiasts and Joyce fans and not at all on the minds of tourist boards and ordinary people. Thanks to David Norris this has changed, and if you are in Dublin today, you will not be able to escape the spirit of this special celebration.

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (left), who was born in Dublin in 1882 and died in Paris in 1941, was an Irish expatriate writer who is widely considered to be one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. He is best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922) and its highly controversial successor Finnegan's Wake (1939), as well as for the short story collection Dubliners (1914) and the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), which is seen as semi-autobiographical.

Although he spent most of his adult life outside Ireland, Joyce's psychological and fictional universe is firmly rooted in his native Dublin, the city which provides the settings and much of the subject matter for all his fiction. In particular, his tempestuous early relationship with the Irish Roman Catholic Church is reflected through a similar inner conflict in his recurrent alter ego Stephen Dedalus. As the result of his minute attentiveness to a personal locale and his self-imposed exile and influence throughout Europe, notably in Paris and Triest, Joyce became paradoxically one of the most cosmopolitan yet one of the most regionally-focused of all the English language writers of his time.

As it happens,
Bloomsday is also the birthday of a very dear friend of mine. So I like to take this opportunity to send special "Happy Birthday" wishes to Donna Graziella O'Neill de Tyrone and hope she has a very pleasant and joyful day.

The Emerald Islander

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