“Ulysses” European tour seeks a modern touch for Joyce’s epic novel

A festival dedicated to James Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses’ will tour 18 European cities, with artists and writers linking the work to contemporary issues such as immigration.

Published in 1922, Ulysses is one of the 20th-century romanesque clefs and its centenary has already been celebrated widely in Joyce’s native Ireland.

But Liam Browne, co-artistic curator of Ulysses European Odyssey, said the tour should go beyond the kind of literary fandom you see at home.

“What interested us was Joyce as a European personality and not as an Irish personality,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the tour event in Marseille on the southern French coast.

“He imagined he was in Dublin to write his novels, but actually it was in these European cities that his daily life took place,” Browne said.

The coarse language and sexual content in “Ulysses” meant there was no chance of it being published in conservative 1920s Ireland or anywhere else in the English-speaking world.

It became the target of an obscenity trial in the United States and was banned in Britain for more than a decade.

Finally, it was published in Paris by the American Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookshop “Shakespeare and Company”, which is still a meeting place for aspiring writers today.

The novel tells the story of a single day in the life of Dubliner Leopold Bloom as Joyce links the day’s events to Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. Scientists are still trying to track down the subtle connections.

– difficult to read –

The book has a reputation for being difficult to understand, and the New York Times predicted in its 1922 review that “not ten out of a hundred men or women can read ‘Ulysses’ through”.

Fans around the world still celebrate “Bloomsday” on June 16 every year in honor of Joyce.

One of the aims of the European tour, which will bring together actors, directors, writers, musicians, photographers and even food experts, is to connect the novel to today’s burning issues.

“We wanted a multi-art response and we wanted the art to address societal and social issues,” Browne said. “Nationalism, Exile, Sexuality, and Women’s Place in Society.”

Joyce, who grew up in Dublin, later lived in Paris, Trieste in Italy and Zurich in Switzerland, where he died.

“We felt that the book would not have been what it was without Joyce’s exile in Europe,” said co-artistic curator Sean Doran. “We’re fascinated by this concept of home,” he said.

Marseille, he said, is “perfect for researching this topic, people come here from all parts of the Mediterranean”.

A Marseille-based Anglo-Irish artist duo, Myles Quin and Gethan Dick, chose immigration and exile for their weekend performance, which features newcomers from Afghanistan, Sudan, Algeria, Guinea and Syria in their portrayal of the trauma of trying Cross the Mediterranean in search of a better life.

“It seemed impossible to talk about them without making them actors in the performance,” said Sophie Cattani, co-founder of local art collective ildi! eldy”.

Other stops on the EU-sponsored tour are Athens, Budapest, Berlin and Istanbul.

Dublin will be his penultimate stop in 2024. The tour concludes in Londonderry, also known as Derry, Northern Ireland, with artists from the other venues joining in the finale of the festival.