Perhaps no other writer has so encapsulated the life, lore and mores of his native city as James Joyce so successfully achieved in his remarkable novels, most notably Ulysses (1922). So precise are the author’s descriptions of the locales visited by the book’s protagonists on the date of the book’s setting, June 16, that it is possible to follow literally in their footsteps. This annual pilgrimage undertaken by Joycean aficionados across the city has become known as Bloomsday. Though you can undertake to cover the Bloomsday route independently (a Ulysses map is available from the Dublin Tourism Centre), guided walks are organized by the James Joyce Centre. There are plenty of other associated events, including recreations by actors of some of the book’s central passages and concerts devoted to music referenced in the novel.
Strangely, for someone who documented his native city’s life with such pride, Joyce came to loathe Dublin, once describing the place in a letter as a “city of failure, of rancour and of unhappiness”, and concluding “I long to be out of it.” Though his early works, such as the short-story collection Dubliners and the semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, draw heavily upon his upbringing, Catholic education and Dublin experiences, by the time of the latter’s publication in 1916, Joyce had long abandoned Ireland. Not long after meeting a Connemara-born chambermaid, Nora Barnacle, having first dated her on June 16, 1904, the pair eloped to Europe. Other than two brief visits to Ireland, Joyce spent the rest of his life in exile living in cities across Europe – in Pola (now Pula) in Istria, Trieste, Zurich and, notably, Paris, where Ulysses was published in 1922 and he finally wed Nora in 1931. Joyce’s only subsequent published work was the convoluted Finnegans Wake (1939). When he died in 1941, Ulysses was still unavailable in Ireland (though it never officially fell foul of Ireland’s censorship laws, booksellers were loath to stock copies), and was not published in the country until the 1960s.