Ireland has a rich literary heritage and is fond of honouring it. On 16 June every year, it is author James Joyce who is remembered, as Joyce fans all over Ireland and the world celebrate Bloomsday in honour of his novel Ulysses.
Ulysses, published in 1922, consists of 18 episodes mirroring Homer’s Odyssey and takes place in 18 locations around Dublin over one day: 16 June, 1904. Its central character is Leopold Bloom, hence the name of the day.
On Bloomsday, fans like to dress up as characters from the book, or in Edwardian costumes. If they are in Dublin, they visit the places Bloom visits in the book, from the Martello Tower at Sandy Cove where Joyce really lived, to a post office, a pub, a maternity hospital and the National Library of Ireland. In each place, actors or authors read from the relevant part of the book. As you can hear in this trailer, Ulysses is a joyous celebration of language and the Irish "gift of the gab", and it lends itself well to readings and being acted out.
James Joyce (1882-1841) lived most of his adult live in exile in continental Europe, escaping from the what he considered the oppressive moral strictures of Catholic Ireland. Yet, almost all of his literary work is set in his home city of Dublin. His later work, including Ulysses, was censored in Ireland and couldn't be published there. Ulysses was published in Paris by the American owner of the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Sylvia Beach. It was Joyce's friends who started celebrating Bloomsday every year after the publication. The first Bloomsday celebrated in Dublin took place in 1954, and has now become a popular event, organised by the James Joyce Centre.
This year, of course, many of the events will be online, which means it's possible to get a flavour of the event before perhaps visiting in coming years. Of course, you can also dress up and read an extract to add to Bloomsday online!
If you're interested in approaching Joyce with your pupils, the Centre has an downloadable activity book for kids.
Joyce in Paris
Fittingly, since Ulysses was published in Paris, there are regular Bloomsday events. In 2021 the Irish Embassy and Irish Cultural Centre are leaving over 500 copies of Ulysses and Dubliners (in French) spread around the city for people to find. It's an opener to their Joyce season next year to celebrate the centenary of the publication #ParisJoyce2022.
There will be readings from Ulysses, appropriately, at Shakespeare and Co from 4 to 6 p.m. on 16 June.
Joyce in Monaco
The Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco will also be celebrating Bloomsday all afternoon on 16 June, with a street performance starting outside the library at 1.45 p.m. It will last about 40 minutes. More information.
Ruth Medjber/Failte Ireland