James Joyce, Ulysses and Bloomsday: what you NEED to know

James Joyce Tower and Museum

Hands up how many people have read James Joyce’s entire 265,000-word masterpiece, Ulysses? Okay, so you haven't yet, but you can still immerse yourself in Joyce’s Dublin for Bloomsday.

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Apologies Mr Joyce, but here goes: In Ulysses, Joyce wrote about Leopold Bloom and his travels through Dublin on 16 June 1904 – aka Bloom’s day. Joyce is said to have chosen this date, as it marks the first time he went out with his wife-to-be Nora Barnacle.

Crossing a globe one fine Dublin day

Ulysses is, admittedly, a voluminous tome – even for hardy literary fans. Regardless, this book about a single day has managed to traverse the world in its infamy.

James Joyce statue
James Joyce statue

Lisa Simpson referenced Bloomsday while her yellow-hued family visited Ireland; rock band U2 paid homage to Joyce with its song, Breathe, in 2009; and even film director Mel Brooks named a character Leo Bloom in The Producers, while a calendar next to him shows the date as...16 June.

A taste of Bloomsday

How do you feel about tucking into thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, stuffed roast heart and liver fried with crust? Bloom’s dining choices were definitely not for the faint-hearted. Most 21st-century celebrants prefer a good old-fashioned full Irish breakfast, but the choice is yours.

'Bizzare Breakfast' on Bloomsday
'Bizzare Breakfast' on Bloomsday

Pop into what Joyce described as that “moral pub” Davy Byrne’s for an afternoon gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy (just like Bloom), or head to Glasthule/Sandycove in your period costumes for “Leopold’s Lunch” in Fitzgerald’s pub.

Davy Byrne's pub
Davy Byrne's pub

A very brave man, indeed

Since its publication in 1922, professors, academics and scholars have been discussing, analysing and dissecting every syllable of every word in Ulysses. The result? Many consider the book a bit of a challenge. Except, that is, Robert Gogan: his remastered edition of Ulysses introduces modern user-friendly formatting by applying additional punctuation, without changing a single word or syllable of the original text. Take a bow, Mr Gogan!

Listen up

If you don’t think you can manage the whole 265,000 words of the novel, don’t panic. Brendan Kilty, owner of the James Joyce House on Usher’s Quay, has an alternative way of appreciating the book: listening to it. Download an audiobook version, put on your headphones and let the beauty of the language flow over you as you walk the streets of Dublin where the novel is set.

Maybe it’s time you familiarise yourself?

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