Why visit Dublin for Bloomsday? Perhaps it’s the nudge to take another nibble at a must-read literary book. Perhaps it’s the chance to throw on a straw hat and tuck into grilled kidneys. Or perhaps it’s just the chance to join in with a city when it’s in a pleasant mood.
In a city full of literary history, pastimes, and festivals, Dublin outshines itself with Bloomsday. Held every 16th June since 1954, Dubliners celebrate questionably the greatest work from arguably one of their most talented authors by retracing many of the steps and the scenes from the book. Bloomsday brings literature to life by transforming Dublin into the day immortalised in James Joyce’s Ulysses: 16th June 1904.
Ulysses follows the adventures of Leopold Bloom and companions around Dublin over the course of a single day. He encounters a colourful cast of characters, from Irish Nationalists and drinkers through to his wife, Molly. The day, both in the book and real life, begins with breakfast, in particular this nourishing piece from the start of chapter four.
“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”
And so, Dubliners begin their day with fried innards and eggs while men and women in period dress sing songs and recite key verses across the town. The James Joyce Centre takes part with gusto, as does Belvedere College, Joyce’s alma mater. It invites celebrities like Stephen Fry to debate the role of literature today. In central Dublin, the book heads to the Glasnevin Cemetery, now an award-winning exhibition and museum. By the end of the day, people have taken in the Guinness-lit stone of central Dublin, the waves around the Martello Tower where James Joyce himself once lived and the heather-tinged cliffs in Howth, the seaside town where Molly said yes.
It’s a celebration of both a book and a city in one and, unlike a Guinness themed event in Dublin, this at least leaves you feeling cultured and even a little bit smug.
On a walking tour of Dublin where I found myself with a plate of inner organs in the James Joyce Centre, I talked to our tour guide Marty about whether or not he feels Bloomsday is worth it.
“Oh, yes, it’s incredibly important. Bloomsday is about trying to take the book away from the realm of academia and to make it accessible to everyone,” he tells me. “Because that’s what it’s really about, away from the chapter by chapter references to Greek mythology, it’s this great time that’s about everything – and yet nothing at all.”
Read more about Bloomsday at the official What you NEED to know about Bloomsday in Dublin extravaganza.
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