About Bloomsday

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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For many book lovers around the world, today is a big day. That’s because June 16 is Bloomsday, a day to celebrate the life and work of a true literary great – James Joyce.

For anyone confused about the fanfare surrounding Bloomsday, or why it’s important, here’s a brief explanation:

It was on this date (in 1904), that a very young James Joyce enjoyed his first romantic encounter with Galway girl Nora Barnacle. This meant much to Joyce because Nora would later become his muse, wife and mother to their two children. In addition, June 16 is also the day on which Joyce’s great ‘book of the day’ Ulysses is set.

For anyone equally clueless about readers’ near-universal reverence of Ulysses, here is a very, very brief overview:

It describes a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom – one of literature’s great everyman characters – and to a lesser degree, Stephen Dedalus as they stroll through the streets of Dublin. It is about the characters encountered and situations experienced. As readers, we are also given access to the thoughts Bloom and Dedalus, and so an inner landscape opens up as a reflection of and response to the actual living environment.

As vital, confounding, empathetic and relevant now as at the time of its publication in 1922 (though it appeared in serialised form earlier), Ulysses has something for all readers precisely because it is about all kinds of people – carousers, rabble-rousers, scholars, cuckolds, raconteurs, thinkers and drinkers. As this morning’s Irish Times wrote of it: ‘It’s about imperfect, incomplete human beings with whom we call all identify. They endure the dissatisfactions of life with a kind of subdued dignity and humour.’

Frank Bolger

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