Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Telemachus

Let us honour the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday (16 June 1904). Ulysses is perhaps the greatest novel of all time; it certainly has my vote, swooping as it does from the personal to the metropolitan to the religious. And that final chapter is pure virtuosity.

In the spirit of celebration, I thought I'd quote from an essay I wrote on injuries and disabilities in Ulysses 4 years ago:
This is thus Joyce's account of Dublin. In 'mean scrupulousness' (the spirit with which he set out to write Dubliners, and which carries over to the descriptions of the streets in Ulysses), he populates the city with a cast comprising with numerous injuries and disabilities, visible or otherwise. But to filter out, or to be so distant that one does not even notice the state of the city is to ignore the true character of the Hibernian metropolis, for it is a city of families in trouble (the Dedalus and Dignam families) and of residents with psychological troubles, of which the injured and disabled are merely the most extreme expressions. Instead, empathy and the ability to incorporate these characters into an unblinkered view of Dublin is valorised, both in the novel’s characters and in the reader.

Which gets to the heart of one of the things I love most about Ulysses: its loving embrace of Dublin and its personalities, warts and all, unvarnished. Someday, I hope to read a similar celebration of Singapore (incidentally, can't seem to find a Bloomsday celebration here in Singapore - any Joyce fans want to tip me off to one, or start one with me?). Everyone here likes to say "oh, Singapore's so small", but Ireland hardly outnumbers us in population, and birthed not just Joyce, but also Yeats, Beckett, Heaney. It is my fervent hope that someday this green isle of Singapore too will produce titans of literature.

But I digress. Today, in memoriam, in honour, in praise, I shall raise a glass of Guinness. To Leo. To Molly. To Joyce. I said yes I will Yes.

Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1914-1921




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