| James Joyce
Dublin, June 16 (Reuters): Ireland’s capital turned back the clock almost 100 years today as enthusiasts of author James Joyce donned Edwardian garb and downed kidney breakfasts to celebrate Bloomsday.
Throughout a city that is a lot smarter and more prosperous than in Joyce’s time, fans and would-be readers of his hefty novel Ulysses took time to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the day in 1904 when the main character, Jewish ad salesman Leopold Bloom, braved the perils of early 20th-century Dublin.
“It’s a way of bringing Joyce into the lives of ordinary Dubliners,” said Joe Dunne of the Joyce Centre.
On the street outside the centre in north Dublin, stilt walkers circumnavigated the crowds and costumed actors read from the book while hundreds feasted on breakfasts including fried kidneys — the main dish Bloom cooks for himself and almost burns in the opening chapters.
Some in the crowd stuck to coffee and tea but others downed pints of what Joyce called “foaming ebon ale”, courtesy of Guinness, makers of Ireland’s traditional bitter black stout.
“I think it’s marvellous. I come here every year around this time — for me Ulysses is Dublin and vice versa,” said David Clarke from Melbourne, Australia. “I know it’s a bit touristy but it’s a good enough way to just celebrate what I think is possibly the greatest book ever written.”
John MacNamara from Ohio was less romantic: “We’re just here on holiday and I heard about this and thought ‘that’s a good excuse to drink a pint of Guinness early in the morning’.”
The novel, inspired by Homer’s epic of the adventures of Odysseus, takes place within a 24-hour period, on a day chosen by Joyce because it was the one on which he had his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle.
The day has become an occasion for revelry and street theatre in Dublin, where thousands of people tour the pubs Bloom visited on his wanderings.
Dublin also will honour Joyce on the day with the inauguration of the newest span across the River Liffey, which runs through city centre, to be called the James Joyce Bridge.
At the Davy Byrne pub, one of several mentioned in the book, barman Frank Doyle said the staff were prepared to serve up to 400 gorgonzola cheese sandwiches, the lunch Bloom has in the book, along with a glass of burgundy.
Although the commercial heart of the city where Davy Byrne’s is located is transformed from Joyce’s time, with smart luxury department stores and fashion boutiques lining a pedestrian mall, Doyle said Joyce would feel at home in the pub.
“It’s got the very same counter, and the same murals on the walls,” he said.
What it hasn’t got, in upmarket Dublin, one of Europe’s most expensive capitals is the same prices.
Bloom — a price conscious man if ever there was one — paid seven old pennies, (less than one-twentieth of a euro) for his sandwich and claret.
Today it would cost him 10.90 euros, Doyle said, but added: “We’re keeping the same price as the last few years.