James Joyce and Ulysses were born on this day (40 years apart)

Ireland - Dublin - St Stephen's Green - James Joyce

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, known as James Joyce was born on 2 February 1882, and he was Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet. He was one of the most prominent authors of the modernist movement and one of the most respected novelists of the entire 20th century.

The topic of this article is, of course, his novel Ulysses, but his other works definitely deserve to be mentioned. Short-story collection Dubliners, published in 1914, the year the Great War started, and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939), the latter being one of the most cryptic and complicated novels ever written.

There are critics arguing that even Joyce himself couldn’t fully understand Finnegans Wake. The claim that seems to be very close to the truth. (Another famous writer, Vladimir Nabokov actually described Finnegans Wake with the word “horrible”, an opinion backed by Jorge Luis Borges.)

Ulysses, his by far most famous novel was first published on 2 February 1922, Joyce’s 40th birthday. It was and still is considered as one of the most significant novels of entire modernist movement in literature and the worthy addition to the world’s literature.

Because of the novel’s complicated composition, it is not something that could be called an easy reading, neither it can be summarised easily. Suffice to say, it’s a modernist nod to the classic story of Odysseus, famous hero of the ancient Greece.

George Orwell once said: “I managed to get my copy of Ulysses through safely this time. I rather wish I had never read it. It gives me an inferiority complex. When I read a book like that and then come back to my own work, I feel like a eunuch who has taken a course in voice production.” Ouch!

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By the way, if you haven’t seen John Huston’s 1987 film “The Dead”, a filmed adaptation of one of Joyce’s best short stories from “The Dubliners”, make sure you do it ASAP. Impossible though it seems, it’s one of the best film adaptations ever (and available on Youtube in its entirety).

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