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Top 10 Facts about James Joyce

Want to learn some interesting facts about James Joyce? You’ve come to the right place!

Born in Dublin in 1882, Joyce was one of Ireland’s most influential and celebrated authors. Best known for Ulysses, published in 1922, he combined different literary techniques in one landmark novel that is considered one of the most difficult to read in the English language. The team here at the Dublin Pass have put together their own selection of favourite facts about James Joyce:

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1. Bloomsday celebrations take place every year on June 16. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the chief protagonist from Ulysses, and events take place on the same day as the events of the book itself. Think people in Edwardian dress and marathon reading sessions. 2. What’s so special about June 16? It’s the day that Joyce had his first date with wife-to-be Nora Barnacle. Poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath later chose June 16th as their wedding day in tribute to the novel. 3. Joyce’s works were forbidden in China under Mao, as he was considered decadent and bourgeois. However, Finnegans Wake became an unexpected bestseller in 2013 and Ulysses has also enjoyed Chinese success.

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4. Ulysses has inspired the songs “Breathe” by U2 and Kate Bush’s “Flower of the Mountain”. 5. British war censors, who read a serialised version of Ulysses before the main publication date, apparently thought that it was a spy code, as the text was so bewildering. 6. Physicist Murray Gell-Mann read the word ‘quark’ Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake and liked it so much, he proposed it as the name of the particle in the 1960s. (The word hadn’t previously existed in English, although quark cheese had of course been around in different parts of Europe for a while.) 7. James Joyce was a famous polyglot. As well as learning Norwegian as a teenager in order to read Henrik Ibsen’s work in its original language, he studied French at university and spoke Italian with his children. He also studied Irish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Finnish, Polish and possibly other languages too.

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8. The first edition of Ulysses had a print run of only 1,000 copies. In 2009, one of these copies sold at auction for £275,000. 9. Molly’s monologue in Ulysses consists of 4,391 words. However, it no longer holds the record of ‘longest sentence in the English language’ – Jonathan Coe’s novel, The Rotters’ Club, has one with 13,955 words! 10. Joyce died in Zurich in 1941. His final words are said to have been “Does nobody understand?”. You can find out more fascinating facts about Joyce at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin, with organised events, exhibitions and literary walking tours. Alternatively, why not check out his books at your local library? "There is no past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present." James Joyce

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