100 YEARS IN FULL BLOOM

Andy Merrifield on Joyce’s Ulysses, for its centenary.

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100 years ago, in Paris, February 2nd, James Joyce celebrated his fortieth birthday by raising a glass (or two…) to Ulysses, his great epic novel, launched into the world in all its full, if later revised, glory, that same day–this very day. Hats off here not only to author and book but also to the intrepid Sylvia Beach, whose Shakespeare & Company bore the moral and financial brunt of its initial publication.

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Between 1914 and 1921, Joyce worked on his modern, single-day interpretation of the Homeric tale as he embarked on his own personal Odyssey around Europe—in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris. After the thrill of its release, though, his book met with widespread prudery. Customs officials in New York orchestrated an Auto de Fe of hundreds of copies. Authorities at London’s Croydon Airport similarly seized the book. A boat load got pulped at Folkstone harbour.

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“I can discover…

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