Where is Ulysses really set?
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Joyce spent as much of his life abroad as he did in Dublin´s fair city and I was very interested in the comments made by Maria when she spoke about Joyce seeking out his fellow countrymen to remind him of Ireland and Dublin and she described how Joyce lived in different European cities but wanted to nail Dublin in such a way that it could be any city in any part of the world. This honest look at people and places was not appreciated at first as it was seen as obscene and was banned and burnt at first.
Her comments made me wonder about the city centre we were in. Crazy Mary´s Liberia is located in El Barrio de las Letras in Madrid. This was the home of Miguel de Cervantes and the streets are lined with gold, well gold writing from different writers from Spain´s golden age. I´m not sure how I should translate Barrio de las Letras, as it is the writer´s quarter even though I translate it as the Neighbourhood of the Letters.
I can´t even imagine how Joyce was ever able to get Ulysses translated back in 1922. Those poor translators trying to make sense of his writings, typos and quotes in different languages that might not work as well in their own language as it does in the English language version. I've been asked recently how Joyce's lines are translated in Spanish.
It reminds me of Terminator 2 when Arnold Schwachnegger´s Spanish line, "Hasta la vista baby" became "Sayanara Baby" in the Spanish version of the film.
Back to Joyce and I believe there is a line Ulysses where he talks about the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes and says that Ireland has never had a national book like Don Quijote.
100 years later and I am sure Ulysses has become our own national book that he looked for.
I stepped out of Crazy Mary´s beautiful bookshop in the writer´s quarter and went to visit Miguel de Cervantes´golden letters in the neighbourhood of letters and to start a video at the opening lines of his epic Don Quijote, "En un lugar de la Mancha."
From there I made it past another quote in golden letters and past the lively venues playing music and serving food as I made my way back to Crazy Mary´s beautiful bookshop where Padraig O´Connors was singing and playing the guitar.
As I stepped in, I arrived to the appropriate lines, "And I stepped in" but I didn't recognise the song.
It turns out that Padraig and I had met at a funeral a few years ago and have some mutual friends back in the old country and I really wonder now about Maria´s comments about Joyce creating a universal story that could be any city in any part of the world.
Unlike Joyce, I don´t need to seek out my fellow countrymen but whenever I find myself at home in Madrid with people sharing stories of Ireland and their connection to Ireland, I am reminded of the Joycean quote, "Think you are escaping and run into yourself, Longest way round is the shortest way home."
Is Joyce's Dublin universal? Is that why it is appreciated around the world?
UNESCO City of Literature