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James Joyce’s Ulysses turns 100

This year marks the centennial of James Joyce’s Ulysses, one of the masterpieces of world literature


On 2 February 1922, the novel Ulysses was published for the first time in Paris. The author, who turned 40 that very same day, was a little-known Irish writer called James Joyce. The publisher was a small Parisian bookshop called ‘Shakespeare and Company’. Only a thousand copies were printed.

Ulysses recounts the events of a single day (16 July 1904) in the lives of two men, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Joyce makes use of the simple, everyday actions of these two characters going around Dublin to investigate several topics, such as philosophy, politics, religion, love, sex and friendship.

Ulysses is a revolutionary novel: it was written in multiple styles, and it often uses a ‘stream of consciousness’, a technique which tries to put into writing the way thoughts are perceived in the mind. Furthermore, the book is full of learned hidden references; Joyce said that he wanted “to keep the professors busy for centuries”.

Indeed, he has kept them busy for a 100 years already. Ulysses is a monumental work, innovative, dense, experimental, profound, and often very funny. Many critics consider it the greatest English language novel of the 20th century. It is celebrated every year in Dublin on the day of the events in the book (16 July) known as Bloomsday. The celebrations include cultural events, readings, and pub crawls that retrace Bloom’s steps around the city. This year, for the 100th anniversary, the celebrations started on 2 February, the date of the book’s first publication, and will end on Bloomsday.

(Carlo Dellonte)
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)