A Day in the Life
Following James Joyce's heroic everyman, the original Modernist Flâneur...
“Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.” ~ James Joyce, Ulysses
We took a fourth floor walk-up right on the River Liffey, in Dublin’s historic Temple Bar. One bedroom, a sitting area and a closet kitchenette, the space was perfect for our party of three; Dear Daughter, Wifey and Me (a tricolon diminuens in the familial chain of command).
Besides the bedroom window, a writing table looked down over the ageless waters – long ago named An Ruirthech, meaning “fast (or strong) runner,” but which is sometimes translated, after that poetical Irish fashion, as “the stampeding one.” From my perch in the smoothed wooden chair, watching the river rush beneath the Ha’penny Bridge, I wondered what life was like, one hundred years ago, when Dublin’s favorite son, (on his 40th birthday, no less) saw his epic Ulysses unleashed into a newly Modern world.
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s epic, a retelling of Homer’s classic tale, in which the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, condenses a decade of heroic, Odyssean adventure into the quotidian, everyman experiences of a single day wandering (dare we say “flâneuring”) Dublin, on June 16, 1904. A funeral, a visit to the chemist, a queer repast at the moral pub; it was through such commonplace moments, a day in the life of Bloom, that Joyce sought to convey something far deeper, omnipresent, even eternal.
“In the particular,” Joyce famously wrote, “is contained the universal.”
The day itself, known among Joyceheads as Bloomsday, is celebrated every year in Irish pubs, theaters, libraries, book stores and reading rooms around the world, in cities great and small, countries near and not so.
We had journeyed, long-suffering ladies and I, from the other side of the world, flown from faraway Buenos Aires, to commemorate this special, centennial event in its original setting. We wanted to walk the cobblestone streets, to imbibe the slate gray atmosphere, to hear the musical lilt in the bars and restaurants, to know the heart of the place. We decided to begin our pilgrimage where we will end today’s pithy entry, at Davy Byrne’s…
Of course, there’s only one thing for the abiding Joycehead to consume in Davy Byrne’s fine establishment… one thing he, in fact, must consume. Call it the “ineluctable modality of the gustable.”
That is, after the peripatetic Leopold Bloom himself, a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass (ok, we shared a bottle…) of burgundy.
Join us again next Wednesday, when we’ll continue our Bloomsday reveries...
Buenos Aires ~ Oct. 5, 2022
P.S. As with all things Joycean, the date on which Ulysses is set is significant; it was on June 16, 1904, that Joyce himself “stepped out” with Nora Barnacle, future wife and love of his life, for a stroll around the city. Doff of the straw boater to ol’ Joyce then, a truly modernist flâneur.