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President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, shaking hand with a fictional James Joyce, Source: President's Office of Ireland

‘Ulysses’ turns 100 and Dublin celebrates Bloomsday like never before

‘Ulysses’ turns 100 and Dublin celebrates Bloomsday like never before

With the centenary of James Joyce’s seminal novel, Dubliners, from President Michael D Higgins to the staff at Davy Byrne’s pub, are taking part in the festival

This year, James Joyce’s book Ulysses turns 100 years since it was published and Dublin promises to honour two of its most famous citizens – James Joyce and the fictional character Leopold Bloom. In fact, this week, much of the city is and will be embroiled in a festival called Bloomsday – an event inspired by the book.

Ulysses is a challenging read, even if the story takes place in only one day – 16 June 1904. According to some records, Joyce enthusiasts have been gathering and celebrating this quirky occasion since at least 1924. However, as time marches ever forward and Ulysses reaches its centenary, the book and the occasion have gathered many worldwide acolytes, turning the timid event into a global celebration of Irish literature.

In fact, this week, Dublin will be soaked with festival spirit, spanning many locations the main character Leopold Bloom visits in the book.

From the president’s garden to the streets of the capital

Yesterday, Ireland’s president, Michael D Higgins announced that he and his wife, Sabina, will host a garden party of 400 people commemorating the book and its author. According to the local national broadcaster, the RTÉ, will be the first large gathering in the presidential home since the start of the pandemic.

Moreover, for the past two years, the proper celebration of Bloomsday in the entire city had been cancelled. Despite the loss of time, however, Darina Gallagher, Head of the James Joyce Centre, explained that celebrations were held online, which opened up the Dublin-based Joyce community to the wider world.

The festival itself started off with a slow trickle of events from the end of May, including theatre productions and exhibitions. These slowly have ramped up in intensity and excitement until the programme reaches the culmination this week – Bloomsday.

Some of the highlights include a theatre adaptation of Dubliners, a previous book by Joyce, an exhibition by Robert Berry, a Philadelphia painter and the creator of 'Ulysses seen’, a comic book rendition of the novel, as well as dozens of book-scene re-enactments on the historic locations, like the Martello Tower in Sandycove.

Interestingly, Ms Gallagher stated in an interview that because the book takes place in real places around the city, it has played a significant role in preserving the iconic architecture and layout of Dublin through the last 100 years.

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