On the lead up to this centenary anniversary of Ulysses in 2022, Dublin shows why it is a city where great works are formed, books are treasured, the finest writers gather and literary fans yearn to be.
The pull of one of the world’s great literary cities is magnetic at any time – but it will be particularly irresistible in 2022 when the centenary anniversary of the publication of Ulysses comes around.
James Joyce’s modernist masterpiece, as well as works such Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Finnegan’s Wake, mark him out as one of the greatest writers of all time.
Next year, the Irish capital will be the place to be as Joyce’s home city puts on a world-class programme of events to mark the 100-year anniversary of one of the most seminal works in English literature.
In 2022, milestone celebrations will run in the first half of the year, spanning the original publication date of Ulysses on 2 February 1922, which was also Joyce’s 40th birthday.
Among Dublin’s literary attractions marking the centenary will be the Museum of Literature Ireland, branded MoLI in homage to Molly Bloom, Joyce’s heroine in Ulysses, and recently re-opened to the public.
MoLI will feature an exhibition on Joyce’s relationship with his wife, Nora Barnacle, and his family, as well as a series of events around Dublin.
To get literary fans all over the world excited about the Ulysses Centenary, a new film has just been launched, called Opening Ulysses, created by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and MoLI in collaboration with 40 Irish Embassies and Consulates worldwide.
The film is being shared on the lead up to Bloomsday – a celebration of Ulysses which takes place each year on 16 June – and invites global audiences to engage with Ulysses through a playful reimagining of its opening line: Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
The film is part of a wider campaign to win new fans for Ulysses and includes a Global Joycean Book Giveaway. Over the Bloomsday period, more than 5,000 copies of Ulysses, Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man will be distributed in 100+ cities on six continents, in 18 languages ranging from Chinese, Japanese and Latvian to Hebrew, Greek and Bahasa. Hundreds of local organisations including national and public libraries, secondary schools, universities, development NGOs, bookshops, literary cafés, cultural centres, broadcast media and transport hubs will distribute copies of the books.
Also looking ahead to the Ulysses Centenary is MoLI, who are encouraging readers to join thousands of others in finally picking up Ulysses this year as part of a free online public book club. ‘Ulysses – for the rest of us!’ will run for two months from 16 June 2021, and is hosted by American podcaster Conner Habib.
For celebrating Joyce in 2021, Dublin’s annual Bloomsday Festival is going ahead undaunted from 11 – 16 June. While there will be a few intimate live elements for those lucky enough to be in the city, the Joycean fun will mainly be online.
Live ‘in person’ events will include an exhibition of Joyce’s Dublin homes, Ulysses street tours, readings and street theatre. Online, the festival’s flagship event, Readings and Songs, will be available at 7.00pm on the James Joyce Centre YouTube channel on 16 June, and will see comedian and performer Katherine Lynch guide viewers through the real places of Ulysses.
The festival also features a Bloomsday Breakfast, a Ulysses Punk Cabaret, Bloomsday Film Festival screenings, Joyce art exhibitions and drawing workshops. You can even download Bloomsday maps and children’s activity books, test yourself with the Bloomsday Quiz and learn how to dress and eat your way through Ulysses.
On 16 June, the National Museum of Ireland is planning some special events also which will be available worldwide. At 1pm, there will be a virtual journey of the Seamus Heaney, Listen Now Again exhibition that relate to Joyce and from 8pm GMT, an online reading of Ulysses.
Literature lovers should also look out for a unique virtual experience to be broadcast from the Martello Tower associated both with Ulysses and Joyce himself in the beautiful Dublin suburb of Dalkey.
The annual Dalkey Book Festival celebrates and fosters literary talent in Ireland as well as hosting some of the world’s leading writers and thinkers. This year it will run from 18 – 20 June, with an Irish line-up that includes playwright Conor McPherson and writer Anne Enright, as well as international names like Elif Shafak and Professor Brian Cox and even Hollywood actor, Matt Damon, who spent part of his 2020 lockdown in the idyllic County Dublin village.
Meanwhile, Dublin City Libraries is marking another important milestone – the tenth anniversary of achieving its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Part of its celebrations include the City of Books podcast series, which sees the host, author and journalist Martina Devlin, talks books to all sorts of people, including some fantastic contemporary Irish writers, who believe books matter and that you can never have too many of them.
Elsewhere around Dublin’s vast literary landscape, those who enjoy the Irish theatrical genre should check out a unique ‘pay what you like’ digital backstage tour of the city’s famous Abbey Theatre. Available up until the end of October, this is a great opportunity to go behind the scenes of Ireland’s National Theatre, a literary powerhouse and one of the leading repositories of the country’s rich cultural traditions.