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Joyce fever Blooms

TOMORROW is Bloomsday and it's the biggest day in the Joycean calendar. Joyce enthusiasts will gather in various parts of the city associated with Joyce, dressed in Edwardian garb and feast on mutton kidneys, thick giblet soup and nutty gizzards.

Well, perhaps not, but they'll almost certainly be stopping by for a glass of Burgundy wine in Davy Byrne's on Duke Street.

Many of these events are organised by the James Joyce Centre at 35 North Great George's Street, so it's not surprising that their website is a little sluggish.

However, tomorrow morning the centre will be full of people enjoying a full-Irish Bloomsday breakfast accompanied by musical numbers.

The connection that the address has with Joyce is somewhat tenuous but it was enough for the building to get a preservation order in 1982.


Maginni, from Ulysses, was based on a Dublin character known as The Professor. He lived at No 32 and rented a room in No 35 from the Graham family to use it as his dance academy. Hence the scenes of Irish dancers in the roundels on the walls of the Maginni Room – these were painted over the existing Georgian panels, which depicted landscapes.

You start your visit to the centre on the third floor of this magnificent light-filled, Georgian building with its creaking, polished wooden floors, chandeliers and grand staircase.

Three short films – Legacy: James Joyce our Contemporary; An Enduring Relationship: Joyce and the National Library of Ireland; and Controversy: Ulysses in the Public Eye – put Joyce in context to get you in the mood. There's also a copy of Joyce's death mask on display here and Ulysses gets its own family tree on a touch screen, showing its fascinating history from its first publication in Paris in 1922 by Shakespeare and Company.

In a quiet corner, there is a table and some chairs from Paul Leon's apartment in Paris. Joyce was good friends with Leon and this is the table where Joyce and his friends met to discuss the French translation of Anna Livia Plurabelle (now Book 1, chapter 8 of Finnegans Wake).

Apparently, Joyce liked to sit and smoke in one of the armchairs. Poignantly, after the Joyces fled Paris in 1940, Leon was arrested by the Gestapo and died in a concentration camp in Silesia.

Excellent touch screens enable you to explore episodes (very accessibly) in Ulysses such as The Lotus Eaters, Hades and The Wandering Rocks. This is a great way to clarify things if you're reading the book.

Joyce wrote Ulysses in rented accommodation in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris, and there's a mock-up of a cluttered bedroom (what would have been his writing space) complete with a collection of straw boaters and a pair of round spectacles beside the bed. As you go down to the second level, there are a series of black and white photos of Joyce taken in Zurich in 1938 and a very clever mixed media display of Dublin in 1904, made of text taken from the pages of Ulysses.

At the front is the Kenmare Room, which is mainly used for lectures and the starting point for guided tours.

Portraits of Joyce, Nora Barnacle and members of the Joyce family adorn the walls and three huge windows look out over the quiet street.

It's hard to believe that you're just around the corner from noisy Parnell Street. In the corner, an upright Petrof piano is just crying out for a parlour song. It's worth mentioning here Joyce's love of music. And after winning a bronze medal at the Feis Ceoil in 1904, he even seems to have toyed with the idea of a career as a singer.

On the ground floor, with its cream stone floor, there's an excellent timeline on the wall covering the period from Joyce's birth in 1882, in Rathgar, to his death from a perforated duodenal ulcer in Zurich, in 1941.


Into the left is a large, beautifully proportioned sitting room (the Maginni Room) with highly decorated walls and dark red couches; a large television shows the 1967 film of Ulysses by Joseph Strick, starring Milo O'Shea, TP McKenna and Sheila O'Sullivan. The film was Oscar-nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1968.

Go down a slope towards the back and enter a stone-flagged yard where the walls are covered in coloured murals and quotes from Ulysses.

Given Joyce's love of music, it seems only right that my visit is accompanied by the distant sounds of somebody playing an oboe.

The black weathered door to No 7 Eccles Street is on display here. No 7 was the home of the Bloom family in Ulysses but in reality was the home of Joyce's friend John Francis Byrne. In 1967, when the buildings on Eccles Street were being knocked down, the door was brought – due to the efforts of Flann O'Brien and Patrick Kavanagh – to the Bailey on Duke Street, where it remained for the next 30 years.

More than any other writer, Joyce is synonymous with Dublin. You could say, he's our greatest Dubliner. So maybe you should raise a glass of Burgundy wine to him tomorrow.

Adult admission is €5.