Dublin's a stage for Joyce Bloomsday centenary

DUBLIN - The irony is worthy of James Joyce himself. Throughout this spring and summer, the writer who called Dublin “the city of failure, of rancour and of unhappiness” will be celebrated here with the most ambitious literary festival in Ireland’s history.p. The centenary of Bloomsday-June 16, 1904, the date when the action occurs in Joyce’s nearly thousand-page novel “Ulysses”—provides the occasion for what’s called “ReJoyce Dublin 2004.” That one book about one day in one city is behind five months of events might strike someone as a wee bit curious. But this is Ireland, a country never known to turn its back on a party, and this is Dublin, a city that worships its writers as nowhere else.p. Principal activities for “ReJoycing” will take place on Bloomsday itself and on days close to it.p. The brewer Guinness, for instance, is sponsoring a Bloomsday Breakfast to greet that Wednesday morn, with lectures, exhibitions, films, broadcast productions, street festivals, concerts and ample time for pub-crawling to follow.p. The preceding Sunday 10,000 souls will be treated to a free breakfast along O’Connell Street in the heart of Dublin. The breakfast menu includes Bloom’s beloved fried kidneys.p. On the next day, June 14, the National Library of Ireland (located on Kildare Street) opens an extensive exhibit about “Ulysses” and how it came into being. Two years ago, the library acquired a trove of Joyce’s notebooks and early drafts of his most famous novel. These items, to be shown for the first time, and copy No. 1 of the first edition of “Ulysses,” published in Paris in 1922, will be on display for perusal of Joyce aficionados until July 31, 2005.p. Besides come-one, come-all public occasions, some 130 academic papers will be presented to nearly 500 scholars attending the International James Joyce Symposium during the week surrounding Bloomsday. As with “Ulysses” itself, “ReJoyce” combines highbrow and lowerbrow concerns.p. Since 1904, when Bloom—or his creator Joyce—could easily stroll throughout Dublin and its succession of interconnected villages, the city has dramatically grown and sprawled, with travel by foot less customary—and the gridlock from car traffic a fact of recent urban life tourists must realize and factor into planning.p. But in getting around here any day of the year, it increasingly seems impossible to avoid Joyce. Three separate museums—the James Joyce Centre (35 N. Great George’s St.), the James Joyce Museum and Tower (at Sandycove) and the recently opened James Joyce House (15 Usher’s Island)—are devoted to his life and work, while the Dublin Writers Museum (18 Parnell Square) helps place him in the context of other Irish authors.p. Fourteen brass pavement plaques—complete with quotations and page numbers—allow visitors to find where significant scenes in “Ulysses” are supposed to have occurred.p. In addition, a large statue of Joyce, dedicated during Bloomsday activities in 1990, looks out on O’Connell Street from its perch on North Earl Street, and a striking bust of the author in St. Stephen’s Green is strategically positioned to keep a watchful eye on Newman House of University College Dublin, where he studied. A new bridge across the River Liffey sports Joyce’s name, and at 52 Clanbrassil St. in the old Jewish quarter a city-sanctioned sign recognizes the fictional birthplace of Leopold Bloom with these words: “Citizen, Husband, Father, Wanderer, Reincarnation of Ulysses.”p. Joyce, who died in Switzerland in 1941 three decades after his last visit to Ireland, took delight in creating complexity. About “Ulysses” he once quipped: “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of ensuring immortality.”p. The author is a professor at the University of Notre Dame who has taught at University College Dublin and is currently teaching in London.

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