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100 Years of Ulysses

by | Feb 2, 2022 | Articles and Reports

The Irish classic turns 100 on the 2nd of February  as Ireland enters the final year of its decade of centenaries and to celebrate the occasion RTÉ One the Irish television channel will broadcast 100 Years of Ulysses, a new documentary devised by historian Frank Callanan and directed by Ruán Magan, which sets out to unlock one of most impregnatable and explosive books of modern times.

Featuring interviews with writers and scholars including Eimear McBride, Paul Muldoon, John McCourt and Margaret O Callaghan, illuminative archive film and photographs, newly commissioned art works by Jess Tobin, Brian Lalor and Holly Pereira and a beautiful original score by Natasa Paulberg, 100 Years of Ulysses promises to brings viewers on an enlightening journey into the heart of one of the most inspiring and influential novels and reveals how it remains as relevant today as it ever was.

One hundred years ago, on February 2nd 1922, James Joyce’s Ulysses was published by Sylvia Beach in a small bookshop in Paris. The book, which consumed 7 years of Joyce’s life, years in which his family’s circumstances were very difficult, would have a profound and unprecedented impact on the literature and culture of the century to follow.

No twentieth century novel has rivalled Ulysses in its reach.

Ulysses, loosely modelled on Homer’s epic account of Odysseus’ return home after the Trojan War, takes place on a single day in Dublin — June 16, 1904 — and Mulhall sees his portrayal of that time as a depiction of “a society on the cusp of change”.

But Joyce wrote the novel in exile in Trieste, in the then Austro-Hungarian empire, as well as in Zurich and Paris, as the first world war raged and in its immediate aftermath.

Ireland, at the time, was living through its own upheaval, from the Dublin lockout of 1913-14, a huge and pivotal industrial dispute, to the Easter Rising of 1916, in which an armed nationalist rebellion rose up against British rule and proclaimed an Irish Republic, to the 1919-21 war of independence, the partition of Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.

Though Ulysses was banned initially in America and Britain, where it shocked and stunned in equal measure Joyce’s epic soon came to be celebrated as a masterpiece of modernism and a revolution in literary expression. It has inspired creators as diverse as Eileen Grey, Sergei Eisenstein, Man Ray and Bob Dylan.

In Ireland, Joyce was accused of treachery, for having gone to war with the Irish Catholic Church and repudiating his own people. He was also accused of ignoring his nation’s long struggle for independence from Britain which culminated in 1922 – only weeks before Ulysses was published – with the foundation of the Irish Free State.

The Irish Postage company An Post have released two new stamps to celebrate the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s acclaimed novel Ulysses. The Ulysses 100 stamps were designed by Amsterdam-based Irish designers, the Stone Twins.

Posting on Instagram, the designers said they were honoured to have designed the stamps.

The design overlays the colours and structure defined in Joyce’s ‘Gilbert Schema’ which he published to help readers navigate the intricacies of the novel.

Ulysses, now celebrating its centenary, has grown in importance over the past 100 years, during which it has repeatedly been declared one of — if not the — greatest novels of the 20th century.

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