Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Wednesday, 16 June 2004 17:15 UK

Fans descend on Joyce's Dublin

By Ian Lacey
BBC News Online in Dublin

Paul Thorne
Dubliner Paul Thorne came dressed as the character Leopold Bloom
James Joyce scholars and fans descended on Dublin to mark the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, the day Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses is set.

They were blessed with a baking summer's day to wander Dublin in full, and often heat-absorbing black, Edwardian dress.

For many enthusiasts the day is mostly about getting dressed up and going on their own odyssey around the Irish capital, retracing the footsteps of the book's main characters Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus and enjoying a pint or two of Dublin's most popular stout.

But there are also many organised events, such as musical performances, street theatre, cycle rides, tours, museum exhibitions.

Bloomsday pilgrims certainly throw themselves into it. If Joyce created fantastic characters to populate his book, the day attracted its fair share of colourful people from all corners of the globe.

Events began with breakfast outside the James Joyce Centre - although there was no Bloom-like meal of kidneys. "Nobody would eat them now," catering manager Barry Storey said. "We even have a vegetarian option for the heathens among us."

International fans

Dubliner Paul Thorne came dressed, complete with cigar, as Bloom. He said he had never made it all the way through the book as he always stopped at the brothel scenes. "I go straight for the filth, stuff the philosophy!"

From further afield, but no less colourfully dressed, PhD literature student Teri McCoy had journeyed from New Jersey in the US.

"I'm writing a thesis on Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Flann O'Brien, it would have been a real shame to miss this," she said.

Marianne and Wolfgang Neumeister
Marianne and Wolfgang Neumeister took a dip in the sea

French student Jean Remi is in Dublin on a high school visit. "I have read an extract from the book, but to be honest I prefer Bram Stoker [the Irish author of Dracula]".

Dr Ian Kennedy White from the University of Bradford, here to deliver a paper on Finnegans Wake at the academic Bloomsday Symposium, revealed how he first got through the book.

"I was in a house in the south of France and I only had one book, Ulysses. So it was just me and Mr Joyce for three weeks. That's how I cracked it."

He did not mention how many weeks he locked himself up with Finnegans Wake, Joyce's even more head-scratching follow-up.

Chilly sea

According to David Butler, education officer at the James Joyce Centre, Ulysses is the "longest love letter ever written".

A romantic view obviously taken by Masaomi and Noe Kobayashi, who travelled from Toyota, Japan, to spend their honeymoon in Bloomsday Dublin.

After a fortifying breakfast many headed out to the Martello tower south of the city that acts as the setting for the opening of Ulysses.

Dublin scene
The city was thronged with period characters

The braver Joyce fans even mimicked Buck Mulligan's dip in the sea.

Wolfgang and Marianne Neumeister, from Stuttgart in Germany, prepared to strip off their full Edwardian regalia and take the plunge. "Yes, we are definitely going swimming, it looks good," Marianne said.

But judging by the shouts of the local children - many of them in language as colourful as Joyce's at times - the Irish Sea was a little chilly despite the glorious weather.

The truly international turnout at the 100th anniversary of the novel's events seems to have proved that, as Joyce suggested, Bloom really is "everyman".


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