March 2012 Guest Editor Alan Bradley on Louise Penny...
As a young child and early reader, I used to pilfer my older sister’s copy of Ulysses. I didn’t understand the book but I loved the words. More than sixty years later, there are parts of Joyce (notably Finnegans Wake) that I still don’t understand, but I still love the words. I keep both books on my night table.
Ulysses by James Joyce
Written over a seven-year period, from 1914 to 1921, this book has survived bowdlerization, legal action and controversy. The novel deals with the events of one day in Dublin, 16th June 1904, now known as Bloomsday . The principal characters are Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly. Ulysses has been labelled dirty, blasphemous and unreadable.In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book - although he found it not quite obscene enough to disallow its importation into the United States - and Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's cloacal obsession . None of these descriptions, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in its own way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book.
About the Author
James Joyce was born on 2 February 1882, the eldest of ten surviving children. He was educated by Jesuits at Clogowes Wood College and at Belvedere College (just up the road from the Centre) before going on to University College, then located on St Stephen’s Green, where he studied modern languages.
After he graduated from university, Joyce went to Paris, ostensibly to study medicine, and was recalled to Dublin in April 1903 because of the illness and subsequent death of his mother. He stayed in Ireland until 1904, and in June that year he met Nora Barncale, the Galway woman who was to become his partner and later his wife.
Joyce’s last and perhaps most challenging work, Finnegans Wake was published on 4 May 1939. It was immediately listed as “the book of the week” in the UK and the USA. Joyce died at the age of fifty-nine, on 13 January 1941, at 2 a.m., in Schwesterhaus vom Roten Kreuz in Zurich where he and his family had been given asylum . He is buried in Fluntern cemetary, Zurich.
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