Following James Joyce's Footsteps

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM

One of the things I love most about books is how they can transport you to places all over the planet (and even in other worlds). Cities not only exist in the real world — they exist in literature as well. As a novel's characters walk through pages, our imaginations walk right along with them, following words as though they were streets.

James Joyce once said, "I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book." And so he did. He took me to Dublin long before I came to live here through books such as Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and, of course, his most celebrated novel, Ulysses.

One hundred and seven years ago today, Leopold Bloom, Joyce's most famous protagonist, started his journey through the city of Dublin. The story of this modern antihero started and ended on June 16, 1904 (much shorter than the one of Homer's Ulysses narrated in the Odyssey) and is celebrated every year in the streets of Dublin.

Every June 16th, those who live in or visit Dublin have the chance to witness the city literally blooming, as festivals, lectures, dramatizations and walking tours are held in celebration of Bloomsday. This is a great time to visit the city, and you can start planning your journey by taking a look at the Travel Section in the Google eBookstore, where you can find plenty of books about Dublin or Ireland. For more tips and insights, check out our past blog post on Dublin.

The city may not look exactly the same as it did more than a century ago, but you can still visit some of the Ulysses's main landmarks, such as the Martello Tower, where the novel starts, the National Library and St. Mary's Church, the O'Connell Bridge (that you can see on the cover of the reproduction of the 1922 first edition of Ulysses), and the famous statue of Leopold's wife Molly Malone.

Tackling a book as long and complex as Ulysses can be overwhelming. Luckily there is plenty of help to get you started, such as The New Bloomsday Book, The Joyce's Ulysses, James Joyce's Ulysses: A Reference Guide, or The Subaltern Ulysses, among many others.

See you in Dublin!


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