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“If 'Ulysses' is not fit to read, life is not fit to live”: the best English-language novel of the 20th century still lives in Dublin


On the verge of the centenary of the publication of the masterpiece of James Joyce, considered the best English novel of the 20th century, your city is still full of memories, tributes and essential corners that receive thousands of enthusiastic readers every year

James Joyce (Dublin, 1882 - Zurich, 1941) was so superstitious that he wanted his


to be published on the 2nd of 2, 1922. In fact, he was born on the 2nd of 2, 1882 and this entire novel takes place on June 16, 1904, the day he first dated Nora Barnacle (later to be his wife). The first copy of that first edition published by Silvia Beach in Shakespeare and Company, Paris, is exhibited at the MOLI in Dublin (Museum Of Literature Ireland) as one of its great relics and preserves the blue color on the cover intact, a blue almost identical to the one that gives shine to the flag of Greece, for that of winking at the main reference that the author handled: Homer's


, whose main character was Ulysses.

If Homer's great epic of man in the eighth century BC consisted of crossing the Mediterranean fighting against species and beasts of all kinds until returning home after the war, Joyce's epic of contemporary man in the twentieth century consists of overcoming a day in the city and also return home, after fighting against his own demons, lost in a narrative chaos measured, ordered and thought to the millimeter that its author took seven years to shape. A novel written in exile with the love for the hometown that distance usually grants,


was considered indecent by the majority of publishers who rejected it. To them and the critics (whom she still keeps entertained) who found the book obscene and unreadable, Joyce replied, “If


is not fit to read, life is not fit to live.”

James Joyce and his publisher Sylvia Beach, who ran the legendary Shakespeare and company bookstore in Paris and published 'Ulysses'.Bettmann (Bettmann Archive)


is an imperishable classic whose reader discovers new things as he grows and rereads.

Form and background merge.

All in All


Language is in history and vice versa.

The noises, the yawns, the digestion, the most inconsequential conversation, that impetuous dog... any detail is worthy of being sublimated, the most vulgar becomes venerable.

That is probably why Jorge Luis Borges, in his poem

Invocation to Joyce,

he left lines like these: “We invented the lack of punctuation / the omission of capital letters / the dove-shaped stanzas / of the librarians of Alexandria / Ash, the work of our hands / and a burning fire our faith / You, meanwhile, you forged / in the cities of exile / in that exile that was / your hated and chosen instrument / the weapon of your art / you erected your arduous labyrinths / infinitesimal and infinite / admirably petty / more populous than history”.

An 18-hour ride, an 18-year read

Leopold Bloom, the main character in


, goes out for a walk in Dublin like the thousands and thousands of admirers who make a pilgrimage to the city every June 16 with the intention of making a route identical to his during the well-known Bloomsday, which lasts the same that the novel, 18 hours (if you live, but 18 years, you know, if you read) and that begins at eight in the morning, when Stephen Dedalus has breakfast while his partner, the plump Buck Mulligan, shaves.

Among other things, Bloom will have fried pork kidneys for breakfast, leave his home at 7 Eccles Street (whose original portal stands intact in the courtyard of The James Joyce Centre), attend a funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery (where he is Joyce's father is buried), he will cross the O'Connell Bridge, he will see a boat carrying Guinness beer and a bullet of smoke, he will look at the clock on the building opposite, he will think of his wife (the singer Molly), who at this hour noon she will still be locked up with her lover (her

road manager

Hugh “Blazes” Boylan), you will see well-fed cops, feeling so clogged by the weight of history you will put a potato in your pocket hoping it will bring you good luck, not being able to get into the Burton, you will get into the Dave Byrnes , and he'll order a gorgonzola sandwich and a burgundy wine without being able to get Molly out of his mind, and he'll eat remembering how he proposed to her.

Davy Byrne's Pub in Dublin, the place where Leopold Bloom's character in Ulysses passed by.BARRY CRONIN (AFP via Getty Images)

Then, on the way to the National Library, he manages to avoid a clash with Molly's lover and buys her (yes, oops!) a bar of lemon soap at Sweney's Pharmacy, and goes to the newspaper where he works as an advertising agent. and at dinner time she will meet Stephen Dedalus and accompany him to a brothel before taking a lonely walk into eternity and going to bed at two in the morning.

But beyond the classic Bloomsday route, there are other ways to tour Joyce's Dublin. "When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart," he wrote. To this day it is not known who owes more to whom: Joyce to Dublin or Dublin to Joyce. Without a doubt, this city is the great character of his literary career, present in his four great works:



Portrait of the adolescent artist




Finnegans Wake

(1939). To begin with, it is worth visiting the James Joyce Centre, an exciting place that on its three floors reproduces the atmosphere and furniture (almost entirely original) of Joyce and Nora's rooms in Pola, Trieste, Paris (where the author finished


) or Zurich (where he is buried).

Also for sale is

Romping through Ulysses

, an instruction manual for behaving like an exemplary


, giving instructions on dressing appropriately (hat, round glasses, Edwardian-style suit) and going step by step through Leopold Bloom's sentimental map.

Panoramic view of the National Library, that is, the national library, in Dublin. Design Pics / The Irish Image Co (Getty Images / Design Pics RF)

Any route under the indications of the guides of the James Joyce Center will show valuable details of the affinity between Joyce and Dublin, such as the Volta cinema (founded by Joyce himself in 1909 on Mary Street), the hotel where Nora worked when they met, the Joyce statue on North Earl Street sculpted in 1990 by Marjorie Fitgibbon, Stephen's Green (the park that Joyce snatched and wrote "that's my favorite green"), the Cabmans Shelter where Bloom and Dedalus have coffee, Belvedere College where Joyce went, the Gresham Hotel on Upper O'Connell Street (final location of the famous story

The Dead

), St. George's Church whose bells ring “heigho heigho” in


and in


, the Barney Kiernan's pub (where Bloom meets

The Citizen,

nickname of the real character Michael Cusack, nationalist pedagogue founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association) or the Ordmond hotel, the ideal place to refresh Joyce's taste for the composition


(by the opera Martha or the Richmond fair) with music by Friedrich von Flotow and libretto by Friedrich Wilhem Riese, and which Leopold listens to at the end of the day.

Another unique way to get acquainted with Joyce's Dublin (and the rest of the Irish writers, as Dublin was designated a UNESCO city of literature in 2010) is to attend the routes organized in The Duke pub, a classic in the center of Dublin, or visiting the bookstore (of course) Ulysses Rare Books, of which Joyce was a client, as were Bono, Anne Enright or John Boyne. The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl are dramatized literary routes that make good that teaching of Samuel Johnson who said "no one in Ireland goes to a place where you can not drink", because if Paris has its cafes, Dublin has its pubs. And if every episode of Ulysses has a style, every Dublin pub has its own atmosphere. In Joyce's time there were 4,000 pubs in Dublin. Today there are about 800 left.

One of the rooms in the James Joyce Museum in Dublin. ullstein bild (ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Colm Quilligan, author of

Dublin Literary Pub Crawl: A Guide to the City's Most Famous Pubs

, has it clear: “At the pub the loyalties and friendships are greater than at home. In Dublin, the owner of a pub writes letters of recommendation to his clients when they apply for a new job and, of course, can mediate with the police to save them in case they have inadvertently broken the law. Like churches, they are confessional centers.” The Duke is the starting point for all routes, which accept a maximum of 20 people and take place between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.: a pilgrimage through different pubs, where you drink and one follows the trail not only of Joyce, but also of Samuel Beckett or the great Edna O'Brien, whose characters in

The Girl with Green Eyes

(2014) also goes into the Dave Byrne's

art deco

interior for Pernod. The sensational O'Neill's, halfway between Trinity College and Temple Bar and Grafton Street, was a bastion of the poet Brendan Kennelly, for whom poetry was the last democracy. When his doctors warned him to stay away from pubs and stop drinking because he risked dying within a year, the poet replied that he had to think long and hard about it, because a man can drink a lot in a year.

Brendan Behan, Eavan Boland, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O'Brien, Paula Meehan, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats are continually evoked. Also Joyce, of course, and especially chapter 8 of


, The Laistrygonians, that moment when hunger claws at Bloom's insides. And speaking of the matter, when Proust and Joyce once met, whose rivalry was notorious, they had a high-flying conversation: Proust told him about what it cost him to fall asleep and Joyce about what it cost him to digest.

As Borges said at the end of his


, memory also has its talismans, its echoes of Virgil, “and so in the streets of the night endure / your splendid hells / so many cadences and metaphors of yours / the golds of your shadow / What does it matter? our cowardice if there is on earth / a single brave man / what does sadness matter if there was in time / someone who said he was happy / what does my lost generation matter / that vague mirror / if your books justify it / I am the others / I am all those / who have rescued your obstinate rigor / I am those you do not know and those you save.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2022-01-18

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