On ‘The Real People of Joyce’s Ulysses’ by Vivien Igoe

52283308Dominic Green at The New Criterion:

The relation of Ulysses to literary realism is one question, its relation to reality another. By the “realness” of Ulysses, we usually mean Joyce’s representation of the inner lives of Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus, from the micturant scent of grilled kidneys in the morning to the affirmations with which Molly ends Bloom’s day. No writer in English since Sterne had unpicked the layers of language and consciousness so carefully; perhaps only Henry James had woven them together with as sharp an eye for detail. Yet our focus on Joyce’s method reflects more than hisself-conscious technique and sophistication. It also reflects the distances between the novel’s conception and its composition, and between its composition and its reception.

Joyce wrote Ulysses between 1914 and 1921, in self-exile from Ireland. Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Co. published Ulysses in Paris on February 2, 1922, Joyce’s fortieth birthday. Notoriously, the subsequent journey of Ulysses to acceptance in the English-speaking world took longer than the original Ulysses’s return from Troy. Censorship controversies on both sides of the Atlantic turned Ulyssesinto one of those smutty books whose function is to register the tidemarks of artistic license. Meanwhile, the cultural distance between Dublin and the literary metropoles of Paris, London, and New York grew.

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