Remembering Joyce’s ‘The Dead’

By Frank Bolger - Last update

Get Daily news and updates directly to your Email

January 6 is noteworthy for two reasons: for one thing it means that Christmas is almost officially over and all decorations can be quietly stored away for another year as normality resumes once again. The second reason is less well-known: it is the date on which James Joyce set his famous story ‘The Dead’.

And it is a famous story. Not just among academics and Joycean scholars, but among anyone with an interest in the ways in which prose, story and the imagination can compel and transport us. ‘The Dead’ has been described by the poet TS Eliot as ‘one of the greatest short stories ever written’. More recently, the novelist Ian McEwan (author of Atonement) expressed his belief that the concluding seven pages of Joyce’s story are among the most perfect ever written in the English language.

The story has also been made into a film, directed by John Huston (and starring his daughter Angelica Huston); been adapted for the stage; and appeared as a Broadway musical. It’s reverence isn’t restricted to the past either: there is now a mobile app dedicated to the story. Perhaps equally impressively, it was also parodied in an episode of Father Ted.

Yet no amount of adaptation or discussion can really do Joyce’s work the justice it richly deserves. The best way of appreciating its gifts is simply by reading it.



Frank Bolger

DNA: Discovering New Abilities
Your first Yoga class: What to expect