Thursday 19 April 2018

'My father's Jewish cousin Reuben Dodd appeared in Ulysses' - Norah Casey on her connection to Joyce

Norah Casey. Photo: Tony Gavin
Norah Casey. Photo: Tony Gavin

Norah Casey

As we celebrate Bloomsday, broadcaster and publisher, Norah Casey, opens up on her connection with James Joyce.

"In our family, we always had something against Jimmy Joyce, as my father would call him. My father's Jewish cousin Reuben Dodd appeared in Ulysses, as quite a few real-life characters did. The story around Dublin was that he allegedly got a woman into trouble and his father was sending him off to the Isle of Man, but he escaped and jumped into the Liffey and this fella saved him. The man brought Reuben back to his father, who gave him two shillings.

"We don't know if the story was true or not, but it appeared in the book, and the hurtful thing was that it said that the two shillings was 'one and eight pence too much' - in other words, Joyce only valued Reuben's life at four pence.

"It seems astonishing that you could use real life people in the story, and Reuben tried to sue James Joyce’s publisher for defamation and couldn’t. Then the BBC ran Ulysses on the radio in the 1960s, and Reuben successfully sued poor old them through Ulick O'Connor, who was a barrister at the time.  

The first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses at Bonhams.
The first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses at Bonhams.

"I always got involved in Bloomsday events when I was living in London, but it always stuck in my throat because I never really got to tell anyone what Joyce did to a member of my family. It's nice to have a connection to a real life character in the book though, and it says a lot about my background, being part Jewish, part Indian and part Irish.

"Richard (Norah's late husband) was English but he loved Ulysses with a passion. I used to get halfway through and have the notes beside me, but I found it incredibly hard. Every now and again, I'd get it but then it would slip out of my mind. To me, literature shouldn’t be that hard to read, but maybe my slight irritation with Joyce and the Reuben Dodd story affected the way I felt about it."

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