16th June. Bloomsday. Dublin

Ultima modifica 3 Maggio 2017


You know, you have to hand it to the Irish when it comes to finding some excuse to party and then selling it in such a cheeky manner that people come flocking to be part of the celebrations.

Now it’s time for Bloomsday.

Celebrated on 16th June  every year in Dublin and spreading fast to cities all over the world, (about sixty including Trieste and Genoa), Bloomsday commemorates the Irish author James Joyce and the day is called after Leopold Bloom, the main character in his famous work Ulysses.

An annual weeklong celebration culminates  on the big day, the 16th and of course there are numerous events scheduled, some inspiring, original, intellectual, some gastronomic and some downright silly!

Joyce modelled the character of  Molly, Leopold’s wife, on his own wife, Nora Barnacle; and the 16th June  coincides with his and Nora’s first date.

On Bloomsday Joyce fans dress in Edwardian costume to conjure up the atmosphere of the period in which Ulysses was set – 1904. The narrative follows the trials and tribulations of one entire day in Dublin in the life of Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Jewish man living in Dublin, and the aficionados follow a somewhat similar trail.

Starting at the James Joyce Centre, fans usually have a breakfast of sausages, beans, black and white pudding and toast at some stage along the way just as it’s described in the book. A visit to Davy Byrne’s Pub  on Duke Street for a glass of burgundy and a Gorgonzola sandwich is another must in the celebrations.

There’s something for everyone. Breakfast tours, walking tours, pub tours, bus tours theatre, live music, debates and competitions, debates, painting exhibitions, the Irish Jewish connection, readings of Ulysses, James Joyce lookalike contests, and, overall, a good excuse for downing a few glasses of Guinness. The Ormond Hotel is the Venue for an afternoon pint, where Bloom was tempted by the barmaids in the chapter entitled Sirens.

Joyce and Nora married and spent their lives together in exile, settling for periods in Trieste, Rome, Zurich, Paris—anywhere except Dublin, a city that he said “made him sick” . However, Ulysses is not only set in Dublin, but it dissects  the city, it goes into its guts. Streets, shops, pubs, churches, bridges, toilets—something of Dublin pops up on nearly every page. To all intents, the city is the stage where his characters perform.

Ulysses in Homer’s Greek epic poem Odyssey spends 10 years getting back home to Ithaca after the Greeks win the Trojan War. On route, Ulysses and his men encounter monsters and temptations. When he finally reaches Ithaca, he plots his vengeance on the suitors who have been wooing his faithful wife Penelope and squandering his family fortune.

In Joyce’s Ulysses on the contrary, Time is condensed into one day and Space into a part of one small city.  Leopold, the arch-type man of the street, is the antithesis of his Classical counterpart. He spends his day trying to get back to Molly who in the meantime is not the essence of fidelity and the monsters he encounters are those of the streets of a modern city.

How ironic and how charmingly Irish! One of the most famous and most difficult books in the English language written by an Irishman who lived his life in exile! A book that was criticized, belittled and was not available in Ireland  until 1967 and one that people generally find very hard to read,  has become one of Ireland’s most talked about masterpieces. Not to mention being one of the country’s biggest money spinners!

It’s a book that people love to mention but that few will ever read in full. It’s one of the few books that can make perfectly normal adults, who are not professional actors, dress up in period costume and wander around towns and cities to become part of a celebration they know very little about.

Frances Fahy

 

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