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Happy Bloomsday: 7 facts about James Joyce and Ulysses

(Includes one obligatory fact about the eighties cartoon Ulysses 31)

Les Doherty as Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyces famous novel Ulysses, during the launch of the Bloomsday Festival in Dublin.
Les Doherty as Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyces famous novel Ulysses, during the launch of the Bloomsday Festival in Dublin.
Image: Photocall Ireland

IT’S BLOOMSDAY TODAY, and James Joyce fans all over the world are celebrating his literary masterpieces.

Here’s a mini compendium of facts about the author and his life to mark the day that’s in it (and you’ll allow us just the one about the eighties animation Ulysses 31)…

1. Before Ulysses was published legally in America in 1934 the US Postal Service seized and burned hundreds of illegal copies in the 1920s. Ulysses was published in serial form in The Little Review journal, but was banned by a court in 1921 for being ‘obscene’.

2. The character Molly Bloom from Ulysses was based on Joyce’s wife Nora Barnacle. The day on which the novel is set – 16 June 1904 – is the day that the author met Barnacle. It is said however that she rarely read any of his work, which he was more than a little displeased about. The couple had two children, Georgio and Lucia.

3. James Joyce had terrible eyesight and it thought to have had around 25 surgeries thoughout his life. According to the James Joyce Centre the author shared the same eye specialist with Eamon de Valera – Dr Vogt in Zurich. Apparently Dr. Vogt charged de Valera a fortune, but never charged Joyce a penny

4. Last year singer Kate Bush finally got permission to use extracts from Ulysses for a song she had written more than 20 years previously. Bush wrote The Sensual World in 1989 but wasn’t granted permission until last April. In January of this year the copyright on Joyce’s works expired, meaning permission to perform or use extracts from the work is no longer needed from the writer’s notoriously protective estate

5. Ulysses Seen is an app and online comic adaptation of Joyce’s masterpiece. It’s an ongoing project and artist Robert Berry has already completed about 125 pages. He says it will probably take about ten years to complete. Berry will be in Dublin this weekend to mark Bloomsday and he’s published ten new pages on the National Library of Ireland’s Flickr stream.

6. As Manchán Magan pointed out earlier this week, when Joyce and his family lived in Paris the author was palling around with the likes of Hemingway, Beckett, Ezra Pound, TS Eliot and Yeats.

7. The cartoon series Ulysses 31 has absolutely nothing to do with Joyce’s seminal work. It was broadcast in Ireland by RTÉ in 1985 and 1986. It was based on Odysseus, a Greek hero of mythology, who was known as Ulysses in Latin. Cult band Devo were originally rumoured to have written the theme tune for the show, but singer Mark Mothersbaugh said in an interview last year that he wasn’t even familiar with the cartoon.


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Read: Kate Bush gets permission for song based on Joyce’s Ulysses>

James Joyce in Paris: 4 things you may not have known>

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Emer McLysaght

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