Tomorrow, during the now ever-expanding festivities recalling the day in 1904 on which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set, will see a host of events of all kinds for all tastes, from sit-down breakfasts at the Joyce Centre to esoteric playlets performed by one actor.
This year, though, Dublin City Council has ensured that what are now called “the Villages of Dublin”, those outlying suburbs which were in the past so often overlooked when cultural sprees were being planned, will have events of their own.
Bloomsday is a focus for publishers to bring out Joyce-related books. The little book from the O’Brien Press is intended as a taster for those hesitant to bite into Joyce directly. It has been edited by rising litterateur Jamie O’Connor. But readers should be careful: not all the words attributed here to Joyce were actually written by Joyce. Ulysses is, above all, a novel rich in allusions and quotes from other writers.
However, the real value of the book lies in the introduction by Bob Joyce, one of the family by blood. His insights and comments are of a special kind and a even confirmed Joycean will find them of great interest.
Anthony Jordan’s book is not based, as books about Joyce ought to be these days, on original research. It is more an extended commentary on Joyce’s place in the Ireland of his time, Mr Jordan having written many other brief books about many of the personalities of the day, such as Griffith, MacBride, Yeats and others.
His effort to make out Joyce as a Republican is a little off the mark. Joyce was a socialist and attended meetings of Connolly’s party in its Abbey Street rooms. He was later an admirer of Arthur Griffith as many Irish people were. But he gave up revolutionary politics when he himself was very nearly the victim, twice over, of anarchist bombs planted under the Roman bank where he worked and the Vatican where he visited in 1906.
It should not be overlooked that many of his friends and acquaintances were executed or murdered in the Troubles. He was truly terrified when his own family, travelling on the Galway train, were fired upon by Irregulars. He never returned to Ireland because he rightly feared for his own life in a country where philosophical differences were all too often settled by a bullet.
Nor could he live in a country where the Governor-General was the very Tim Healy who had betrayed his true political hero Charles Stewart Parnell.