Given the number of times I’ve been over to Ireland and it’s capital, Dublin, in recent years, I really ought to read some of the work of James Joyce. I’ve tried to make a start on his masterpiece, Ulysses a couple of times, especially since our visit to the Martello Tower in Sandycove which was the setting for the first chapter of the epic. But I’ve never made it further than the first few pages. Nevertheless, recognising that Joyce was a major author, I’m interested in his life and his connection with his home city (which he left in 1904 when he was 22 years of age). So during my latest stay over in Dublin I decided to visit the James Joyce Centre at 35 North Great George’s Street.
The centre is housed in a typical Georgian terraced house on the “north side” of the city centre. The area was very fashionable in the 18th Century but it fell into decline in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today the house has been lovingly renovated by the James Joyce Society.
Joyce never lived in the house. But there’s a somewhat tenuous connection as at one time Professor Denis J. Maginni, a colourful character in Dublin who appears several times in Ulysses, ran a Dance Academy here.
The visit didn’t take very long as there wasn’t a great deal to see. The main exhibition is on the top floor where there’s an interpretation of a bedroom like Joyce would have lived and worked in during his “exile”,
some information boards and interactive computer displays, a copy of his death mask
and a film show of three short documentaries.
In the front room of the first floor, the piano nobile, there are a number of paintings of Joyce, his wife Nora Barnacle, and some of his family and ancestors.
In the yard at the back of the house the original door from No. 7 Eccles Street, Leopold Bloom’s address in Ulysses is displayed
and there are very interesting murals depicting the story from his epic.
A devotee of Georgian architecture I enjoyed looking around the house itself where the plasterwork on the walls and ceilings has either been restored or recreated.
It didn’t take very long to look round the exhibition and the house, but I think it was worth the 5 Euros entry fee. And the visit has rekindled my enthusiasm to read some of Joyce’s work. I think I’ll give Ulysses a miss for a while and try his more accessible short stories in Dubliners.