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What Language Do You Read Joyce In?

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

I was delighted to see one of the members of the Festival Bloomsday Montreal Ulysses reading group sharing a picture of their bookshelves full of copies of Ulysses and of Joycean literature but it made me wonder, what language do they read Joyce in when many people in Montreal are bilingual in English and French.

I contacted Jamie Salomon to ask what languages they speak because I am used to listening to readings in two different languages at our monthly meetings of the Bloomsday Society in Madrid.

Sometimes I think that I understand Ulysses better in Spanish than I do in English but as difficult as some references are to understand, I love love love that people around the world can enjoy Joyce as much and sometimes more so, than the Irish themselves, and it is strange to hear people talking about places in Dublin that they they know about through the map that Joyce created for them.

You don´t have to be a Dubliner to understand James Joyce´s thought process but considering the complicated language that he uses, I am often surprised how people speaking different languages have lapped up his literature and I once heard a woman reading a passage of Ulysses in Greek at a Bloomsday event in Desperate Literature in Madrid.

Everyone loved it and we all laughed and lapped up "Mrkgnao" as people recognised the passage and familiar feline sounds she made.

Tonight I will attend An Evening with Joyce in Crazy Mary´s Liberia in the centre of Madrid where I presume parts will be read in Spanish and parts of it will be read in English. It is a treat I am sure for bilingual people as well as monolingual Irishmen like myself.

Ahead of our own monthly meeting in Madrid in the beautiful 200-year-old Ateneo theatre, I am tempted to e-mail Jamie again and ask to join their Zoom readings as well but due to the popularity of the Bloomsday Montreal Ulysses group, their readings are mostly in English with very little French spoken because the group as members as far away as New York and they will probably stick to English until they attract some Parisian patrons tp practice with.

It´s all double dutch to me but not only is it amazing to think of all the people reading Joyce in libraries and cafes around the globe, but I am also always amazed by the sheer variety of languages spoken by Joyce.

If you are near Montreal or just wish to join their online readings then check out their website and feel free to drop them a line in English or in French

Supported by

UNESCO City of Literature

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