[FOUNTAIN]Portrait of a young artistJames Joyce (1882-1941) is considered a genius who was ahead of his time in literature, just as Picasso was in painting and Schoenberg was in music. The day Mr. Joyce met his lifelong companion, Nora, was June 16, 1904. The reason Irish people celebrate that day every year is that Mr. Joyce carved the memory of his romance of that day in his masterpiece “Ulysses,” a fictional treatment of what happened June 16, 1904 in Dublin, Ireland. This is a feast day, and is now called Bloomsday, after the hero of the Joyce novel.
Mr. Joyce gave the best present he could to Nora, and the day they met is recorded in the history of world literature. This week, the people of Dublin, Mr. Joyce’s hometown, are enjoying another celebration in memory of the lovers’ meeting 99 years ago.
Ireland has a profound tradition in literature. The country has produced four Nobel Prize winners in literature: Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. The reason that the prize turned its back on Mr. Joyce is still debated. It was Mr. Joyce’s love of his homeland that was most appreciated by his countrymen, even though he didn’t receive a Nobel prize. Mr. Joyce spent most of his life in foreign countries, leaving his homeland while it still was a British colony. But all his stories are about the people of Dublin. He used to say, “When I die, Dublin will be engraved on my heart.” He boasted of his memory of Dublin saying, “I can draw pictures of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed from one of my works.” His vivid sentences show the streets of Dublin, the people who live there, the taverns and even the fights between drunks.
Still, when his fans visit Dublin, they follow the trail of Leopold Bloom, an imaginary person, in the real city of Dublin. The pilgrimage starts from the lighthouse at the beach, then takes a break in front of Mr. Joyce’s statue downtown. This year, a bridge dedicated to Mr. Joyce will be completed.
From Monday to Wednesday, one week before Bloomsday, the general meeting of World Association of Newspapers was held at Dublin. More than 1,000 publishers gathered there to discuss protecting freedom of speech.
If he were still here, Mr. Joyce might have asked those who gathered at the Joyce Center, the venue of the meeting: “I wrote ‘Ulysses.’ And you?”
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.