June 16th is Bloomsday, named after the one of the main characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Bloomsday is the day where people get together around the world to celebrate the book by reading sections or marathon readings of the entire book. 2022 is the 100-year anniversary of the book’s publishing which makes this year special. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Ireland’s global diplomatic network will mark the centenary of with extensive programs of events worldwide.
James Joyce’s Ulysses is considered to be a masterpiece and one of the hardest works in literature to read. Published in 1922, while in exile, Joyce’s description of Dublin on June 16, 1904, is vivid. Joyce said:
“If Dublin were to be destroyed, Ulysses could be used to rebuild it brick by brick”
The plot covers 24 hours and captures an ordinary day in the life of 3 characters.
- Stephen Dedalus – reprised from Portrait of an artist – Joyce’s alter ego. Depressed because his mother recently died.
- Leopold Bloom – half Jewish advertising salesman for newspaper. Wonders around Dublin to avoid coming home because of his wife infidelity
- Molly Bloom – Blooms wife about to embark on an affair Each chapter is written in a different style and is chalk filled with references from Irish folk music to Dante to Dublin slang.
Each chapter is named after a character or episode from Homer’s “Odyssey,” yet the references are difficult to recognize. For example, Homer’s Odysseus, after an epic 20-year-long journey, returns home to Ithaca and reunites with his faithful wife. In contrast, Joyce’s Bloom wanders around Dublin for a day and returns home to his unfaithful wife.
The reason for the books popularity and longevity is that Ulysses is lot of fun to read and a festive occasion, especially on its centennial, for a group to read amongst friends.
If you have an opportunity to join or attend a Bloomsday event, don’t miss it. The global event site is Ulysses100 (ulysses100.ie) which has many online options if you cannot attend a local event. There are several divisions throughout the country hosting events. In Chicago, division 59 will have music and readers from all walks of life reading different sections.
James Joyce said himself: 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 insuring one’s immortality.