Saturday 21 October 2017

Martina Devlin: Why the Buck stops here for all lovers of Joyce

Irish Independent columnist Martina Devlin with the James Joyce death mask at the Joyce Tower, in Sandycove, Dublin
Irish Independent columnist Martina Devlin with the James Joyce death mask at the Joyce Tower, in Sandycove, Dublin
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

Some of the questions from visitors flocking to the re-opened Joyce Tower are easy to answer. Ones with dates and numbers in them, for example: James Joyce left Ireland in 1904, the walls of the Martello tower housing a museum to him are 8ft thick, 'Ulysses' was published in 1922, he died aged 59.

Others prove trickier. "How many people who come here haven't read 'Ulysses'?" asked a man in a snappy blazer which the dapper Joyce would have appreciated. He supplied his own answer in the next breath: "About 99pc I should think."

But visitors will have read some sections of the novel, or may be familiar with the story's broad outline, or at least know it was regarded as a dirty book for decades (although never formally banned in Ireland). And perhaps if they haven't read it, they might be inspired to pick up a copy after a visit to the Martello tower -- where Joyce lived for less than a week, but recreated in his imagination for that memorable scene in the opening chapter of his opus.

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