‘Ulysses’ – the name can strike trepidation in a reader’s heart - excitement, apprehension and just plain bafflement. The literary giant amongst novels, ‘Ulysses’ has become a lot more accessible over the years, with bitesize summaries and interpretations now widely available to help introduce the book to a new audience.
At its time of publication however in 1922, James Joyce’s masterpiece was met with both acclaim and quite frankly, wonderment. Unleashed to the public in the same year as TS Eliot’s ‘Wasteland’ poem (see previous bookmark), it was a big year for literature.
‘Ulysses’ is essentially a tale retold – it is Homer’s Odyssey lifted and reset in Dublin (of course) and takes the reader on a day in the life of its characters, delving deep into Dublin and the reality of life in the city.
Joyce perfected his ‘stream of consciousness’ writing style within the tome, which includes 18 lengthy chapters, each of which depicts an hour of the day at hand. All aspects of life – monotony, comedy, parody and much much more, is presented on paper, leaving the reader quite exhausted at the end of it all, such is the sheer range of literary technique included.
Interestingly and significantly, each chapter of ‘Ulysses’ is associated with a specific colour, art or science and bodily organ.
With the book as detailed and realistic as it is, one could almost forget Joyce was not resident in Dublin at the time of writing it. Indeed, he plagued friends and family for information throughout the writing of ‘Ulysses’, to ensure details were spot on.
He actually began the novel in Zurich, finishing the epic work in Paris.