Today is Bloomsday, Dublin’s annual festival dedicated to literary genius James Joyce. It’s a day that celebrates all things Joyce and a certain Leopold Bloom, the lead character of Ulysses, who travels all over the city as the events of the novel unfold.
First published in 1922, the book tells the story of the protagonist’s ordinary day, precisely June 16.
Joyce chose that exact date because on the same day in 1904 he had first met his muse and future wife, Nora Barnacle.
Ulysses is considered by many to be the finest prose work of the twentieth century and now is a great time to pick up a copy and wander through the streets of Dublin with a literary master.
There are 18 dazzling ‘episodes’ in the novel, which elevates the common man to a hero, and to dive into the world of Ulysses is to dive into Dublin itself.
From crossing the Liffey over O’Connell Bridge, strolling down Grafton Street and swimming at the illustrious ‘Forty Foot’, to walks to the National Library and Davy Byrne’s pub in Duke Street, where Bloom famously orders a Gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of red burgundy, you can read and enjoy the descriptions of countless landmarks and feel the beauty of Dublin unfolding before you.
Since 1954, Joyce fans have come to Dublin every June 16 to trace the story of their hero. With Leopold Bloom they stroll from Glasnevin Cemetery to the public baths, they go to the pub for a pint of beer and make a trip to the offices of the newspaper.
Some re-enact scenes from the book, others start their pilgrimage where the story begins, at the Martello Tower in Sandycove, one of a number of defensive buildings built around the Irish coast to withstand a Napoleonic invasion. The tower now houses the James Joyce Museum, including a collection of rare editions, letters, photographs and assorted Joyce memorabilia.
And normally, Dublin would be dressed for the occasion, with the men wearing bowler hats and cycle-clips, and the ladies in brocade shawls and fine bonnets.
This year’s Bloomsday Festival is going to be digital and hugely different, but it will not lose any of its fun, inspiration and excitement.
The James Joyce Centre’s festival program will offer an inspiring online trail of discovery across Joyce’s Dublin and the places immortalised in Ulysses.
Readings and Songs will take place today on Youtube Live on the James Joyce Centre channel and will include readings, lectures, children’s activity books, maps, Joyce on film, recipes, fashion tips, poetry, theatre, music and more.