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Ulysses: The 1922 Text

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Ulysses, one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, has had a profound influence on modern fiction. In a series of episodes covering the course of a single day, 16 June 1904, the novel traces the movements of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through the streets of Dublin. Each episode has its own literary style, and the epic journey of Odysseus is only one of many correspondencies that add layers of meaning to the text. Ulysses has been the subject of controversy since copies of the first English edition were burned by the New York Post Office Authorities. Today critical interest centres on the authority of the text, and this edition, complete with an invaluable Introduction, notes, and appendices, republishes for the first time, without interference, the original 1922 text.

980 pages, Paperback

First published February 2, 1922

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About the author

James Joyce

1,703 books7,800 followers
A profound influence of literary innovations of Irish writer James Augustine Aloysius Joyce on modern fiction includes his works, Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939).

People note this novelist for his experimental use of language in these works. Technical innovations of Joyce in the art of the novel include an extensive use of interior monologue; he used a complex network of symbolic parallels, drawn from the mythology, history, and literature, and he created a unique language of invented words, puns, and allusions.

John Stanislaus Joyce, an impoverished gentleman and father of James Joyce, nine younger surviving siblings, and two other siblings who died of typhoid, failed in a distillery business and tried all kinds of other professions, including politics and tax collecting. The Roman Catholic Church dominated life of Mary Jane Murray, an accomplished pianist and his mother. In spite of poverty, the family struggled to maintain a solid middle-class façade.

Jesuits at Clongowes Wood college, Clane, and then Belvedere college in Dublin educated Joyce from the age of six years; he graduated in 1897. In 1898, he entered the University College, Dublin. Joyce published first an essay on When We Dead Awaken , play of Heinrich Ibsen, in the Fortnightly Review in 1900. At this time, he also began writing lyric poems.

After graduation in 1902, the twenty-year-old Joyce went to Paris, where he worked as a journalist, as a teacher, and in other occupations under difficult financial conditions. He spent a year in France, and when a telegram about his dying mother arrived, he returned. Not long after her death, Joyce traveled again. He left Dublin in 1904 with Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid, whom he married in 1931.

Joyce published Dubliners in 1914, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916, a play Exiles in 1918 and Ulysses in 1922. In 1907, Joyce published a collection of poems, Chamber Music .

At the outset of the Great War, Joyce moved with his family to Zürich. In Zürich, Joyce started to develop the early chapters of Ulysses, first published in France because of censorship troubles in the Great Britain and the United States, where the book became legally available only in 1933.

In March 1923, Joyce in Paris started Finnegans Wake, his second major work; glaucoma caused chronic eye troubles that he suffered at the same time. Transatlantic review of Ford Madox Ford in April 1924 carried the first segment of the novel, called part of Work in Progress. He published the final version in 1939.

Some critics considered the work a masterpiece, though many readers found it incomprehensible. After the fall of France in World War II, Joyce returned to Zürich, where he died, still disappointed with the reception of Finnegans Wake.

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5 stars
46,071 (37%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,801 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,469 followers
July 6, 2022
Each chapter is rated out of ten for difficulty, obscenity, general mindblowing brilliance and beauty of language.

Note : if you're after my short course bluffer's guide to ulysses, here it is :


But now... the real thing.


1. Telemachus.

Difficulty : 0
Obscenity: 0
General mindblowing brilliance : 8
Beauty of language : 7

Stephen the morose ex-student isn't enjoying life. Lots of brittle dialogue, mainly from motormouth blasphemer Buck Mulligan. Breakfast. An old crone delivers milk (this was before 24 hour Tescos). A modicum of swimming. Sea described as snotgreen.

2. Nestor.

Difficulty : 0
General mindblowing brilliance : 8
Obscenity : 0
Beauty of language : 7

Stephen is teaching history. He has a crap job as a part time teacher because he doesn't know what to do with his life. i can sympathise with that, I still don't. His pupils are mostly eager and polite so God knows how he'd get on in today's hellhole classrooms. Anyway he gets paid and his boss the pompous old git Deasey gives him a letter about foot and mouth disease to give to somebody else which Stephen couldn't give a flying fish about. He mooches off.

3. Proteus

Difficulty : 9
General mindblowing brilliance : 10
Obscenity: 2 (there's some nosepicking and urination)
Beauty of language : 10

Now we get emo Steve trudging along the beach on his way to get a few pints down him, and now the Stream of the Consciousness starts up and gushes and torrents all over the place. And it's all stunningly beautiful. If I was a genius this is exactly how I'd think too. This may be my favourite chapter. May Stephen mooch about forever. Mooch on!

4. Calypso.

Difficulty : 5 (now we are getting used to the S of C and Bloom's S is so much easier than Stephen's S - although also a great deal less lovely)
General mindblowing brilliance : 5
Obscenity : 8
Beauty of language : 3

We jump back to breakfast time and enter the house and mind of Leopold Bloom who's rustling up some breakfast for himself and his dear lady wife. As we are moseying along in Bloom's brain, accompanying him on his trip to the butchers, suddenly out of nowhere we get the c word - and it really isn't anything but a train of thought. Joyce could have included another stray thought. But no. Joyce was completely committed to the truthfulness of his technique and also convinced of his own genius too. Still, it comes as a shock. Later we trip down Bloom's garden to his outside toilet where he has a pleasant bowel movement: "that slight constipation of yesterday quite gone. Hope it's not too big bring on piles again. No, just right." I mean, Jimmy, is this really necessary? But of course, in Ulysses, it is. The obscenity they found in Ulysses was mostly the disgustingness of minute descriptions of ordinary activities. In movies people never ever used to go to the toilet. Now they do it all the time - what was the first toilet scene in a movie? You could write a list of 20 great toilet scenes. (Contributions welcome.)

It must be said that Bloom's mind is cram-ful of bits and bobs about his own life which are never explained, you just have to pick them up and piece them together if you can be arsed. But for instance Bloom is trying very hard not to think that Molly will be meeting Blazes Boylan in the afternoon and will probably be going to bed with him. It's one of those he-knows-but-does-she-know-he-knows situations. So, all in all, a very uncomfortable chapter.
Oh, since you asked, I just went to my own toilet for the very same Bloomesque purposes - but not being Joyce, I'm not going to tell you anything further. But it was okay! Thanks for asking!

5. The Lotus Eaters.

Difficulty : 4
Obscenity: 4 (see below)
General mindblowing brilliance : 2
Beauty of language : 2

There's a couple of tedious chapters of Ulysses, it must be confessed (aside from the chapter that's deliberately boring!) and this is one. Bloom is off on his rambling day, meets a couple of coves, visits a chemist and then a public bath (this was before the days of houses having bathrooms! Imagine that!). We get a lot of this kind of stuff - (Bloom is at the chemists):

Living all the day among herbs, ointments, disinfectants. All his alabaster lilypots. Mortar and pestle. Aq. Dist. Fol. Laur. Te Virid. Smell almost cure you like the dentist's doorbell. Doctor whack. He ought to physic himself a bit. Electuary or emulsion. The first fellow that picked an herb to cure himself had a bit of pluck. Simples. Want to be careful. Enough stuff here to chloroform you. Test: turns blue litmus paper red. Chloroform. Overdose of laudanum. Sleeping draughts. Lovephiltres. Paragoric poppysyrup bad for cough. Clogs the pores or the phlegm. Poisons the only cures. Remedy where you least expect it. Clever of nature.

I might have to agree with critics of Ulysses here - I don't need every scrap of word association and mental flotsam that swishes through Bloom's bumbling brain. But Joyce thinks I do!

6. Hades.

Difficulty : 3
Obscenity: 2*
General mindblowing brilliance : 2
Beauty of language : 3

Another chapter I'm not a fan of because we're stuck mostly inside the brain of Bloom who's full of Readers Digest tips and quips and boring "I wonder if" and Molly this and Milly that. The Homeric parallels : yes, well, he goes to a funeral and thinks about death and rotting and such, so that's Hades. Helen's friend Eleanor is living with us at the moment and she CLAIMED to have read Ulysses as part of a course on epics but when pressed admitted that she had SKIMMED it and didn't like it much to which I said "Skimmed? SKIMMED? You can't skim the greatest modernist work of literature in English! Faugh! Crivens! Help ma Bob! I think I'm coming down with the apoplexy so I am!" Even the tedious chapters, of which this is one, have to be read word by word, line by line.

* the only trace of rudeness I could find in hades was this - Bloom is thinking about precisely when his son (deceased) was conceived: "Must have been that morning in Raymond terrace she was at the window watching the two dogs at it by the wall... Give us a touch, Poldy. God, I'm dying for it. How life begins." To readers of 2010 it all seems somewhat coarse, yes, but to readers of the 1920s these stray remarks were incendiary. However I would like to complain about this otherwise handsome Modern Library hardback edition I'm reading. This is one of the two available hardbacks of Ulysses and it comes wreathed with introductions, blurbs and reprints of judicial decisions all of which are entirely to do with the alleged obscenity of the book. Hence I thought I would reread it partly with that in mind. But really, who cares any more about that? Get rid of all this stuff. Let's have an introduction all about the crackle and the pity and the joy and fire of this bizarre book.


7. Aeolus.

Difficulty : 5
Obscenity: 0
General mindblowing brilliance : 2
Beauty of language : 3

Oh dear - do I actually like this damned masterpiece at all? Another tiresome chapter full of huffy snippy geezers sniping and out-quoting and oneupmanshipping each other. Next! Quick!

Review continues here

November 14, 2022
5 stars because it's a work of genius, so everyone says.

4 stars because it has so many deep literary and classical references that to say one understood the book, is like saying one is very well educated.

3 stars because the words, strung together in a stream-of-consciousness mellifluous, onomatopoeic way, read just beautifully.

2 stars because it was boring as hell. I just couldn't care less about the characters, I just wanted them to get on with whatever they were doing and have Joyce interfere in their lives with his references, his poetry, and his mellifluous whathavewehere considerably less.

1 star because I had to give it up. It got wet when I dropped it in the bath and the pages stuck together when I dried it out. Since it wasn't exactly cheap to start with and there wasn't another copy in the island bookshop (mine), I had no choice but to give it up.
Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Or it would have been if I hadn't had the audio book.

Reviewed 28 May, 2011
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
June 10, 2022
I did it. I finished it. And it was everything everyone said it would be: difficult, infuriating, brilliant, insane, genius, painful, etc. You get the idea, I'm sure. I can't even rate it. How do you rate a book that left you wide-eyed with awe at the author's brilliance, yet simultaneously made you want to bring him back to life just so you could kill him?
Profile Image for Jimmy.
1 review48 followers
April 12, 2008
I Can't do it, It fell in my toilet and didn't dry well, and I'm accepting it as an act of god. I decided against burning it, and just threw it out.
Yes, I am a horrible person.
Profile Image for Ike.
79 reviews14 followers
July 19, 2008
Life is too short to read Ulysses.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,541 followers
March 15, 2022
I have read Ulysses at least three or four times (and once with Gilbert Stuart's authorised translation) and always found unsounded depths that I had not suspected. Every chapter introduces new narrative techniques, new perspectives and characters, and new voices. This is a book that definitely requires some homework to fully appreciate. I would recommend the aforementioned Gilbert Stuart commentary and biography, the Frank Budgen criticism, and especially the classic Richard Ellman biography. There is precious little here not to love regardless of your literary tastes, but like most good things, this book asks you to work for it. As Leopold Bloom goes through this day in Dublin, all kinds of things are happening all around him and it is a virtual reality experience in four dimensions - ending with for me one of the most beautiful chapters ever written, the stream of the conscious dialog of Bloom's wife posing as Ulysses' Penelope. It is of such texture and voluptuousness that it is impossible to capture without first-hand experience of having read it. If you put forward one personal challenge for a great summer read, make it Ulysses!

I was recently in Dublin and spent a good 30 cold minutes with a strong wind on the turret where Buck Mulligan has his shave in Chapter 1 - amazing! I cannot even begin to express how this book moves me. When I get the classic GR question when friending "what is your favorite book and why?", I always answer "Ulysses, because I learn more about myself everytime I read it!"

Most difficult books I have ever read (but which also gave me the most pleasure:
Ulysses by James Joyce
Un amour de Swann by Marcel Proust
Infinite Jest by DFW
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Underworld by Don DeLillo
Profile Image for Fernando.
680 reviews1,094 followers
June 12, 2022
"He puesto tantos enigmas y puzzles que van a mantener ocupados a los catedráticos durante siglos debatiendo sobre lo que yo quería decir, y esta es la única manera de asegurarme la inmortalidad." James Joyce

Un tour-de-force literario. No tengo otra manera de describir el proceso de lectura que me deparó el "Ulises". Ha sido la prueba más dura, compleja y reveladora a la que me sometí con un libro (hasta que choqué con su “Finnegans Wake”), pero a la vez, una magnífica experiencia que nunca olvidaré.
Me siento orgulloso de haber leído todo el libro disfrutando de la literatura sin tratar de entenderlo, sino de "vivirlo". Borges no lo pudo terminar (sin que con esto me crea que supero en algo a semejante maestro, pongo en consideración que "Ulises" no es fácil de abordar).
Amado, querido y respetado por muchos escritores (Orwell, Nabokov, Elliot, Banville, Faulkner, Pound) y denostado, odiado, destrozado por otros (Woolf, Borges, D.H. Lawrence), es un libro pesado, denso, inabarcable, ampuloso, que da miedo y que pareciera estar hecho para leerlo con la mente extraordinariamente abierta.
Cuando lo leí por primera vez mi camino por sus páginas ha sido arduo. Very difficult.
Este libro se tornó por momentos asfixiante, desesperante, hilarante, hartante, errante y todo aquello que termine en –ante. Es imposible querer tener la historia bien ordenada en la cabeza a medida que se la lee, porque es un libro que se presenta en forma caótica y desordenada y eso es lo que hace que el lector desista de avanzar luego de las primera cincuenta o cien páginas, dependiendo de qué resistencia aplique para persistir en la lectura antes de tirar la toalla.
Es así de simple: "Ulises" es un libro que se encara y se lo lee poniéndole (no hay que negarlo) mucha garra y corazón.
Por mi parte, traté de informarme de qué manera estaba estructurado, es decir, de que se compone de tres partes (Telemaquía, Odisea y Nostos) que a su vez contienen dieciocho capítulos y que todos ellos tienen relación con La Odisea de Homero, libro que le agradezco a Zeus de todo corazón haber leído para poder orientarme a los largo de las casi setecientas páginas que componen este ladrillo literario.
Era fundamental saber que Leopoldo Bloom y Ulises realizan sus viajes odiseicos de manera similar con la diferencia que todo lo que sucede en "Ulises" pasa en sólo un día en la vida de Leopoldo Bloom (Ulises), Stephen Dedalus (Telémaco) y Molly Bloom (Penélope). Todo el libro sucede el 16 de junio de 1904.
No estoy de acuerdo con los que pregonan que para leer "Ulises" debemos conocernos Dublin como la palma de nuestra mano pero sí es de una gran ayuda el hecho de haber leído La Odisea. Confieso que tuve que anotarme algunas cosas puesto que de otra manera hubiera sido imposible para mí entender una sola frase y esto no significa que haga trampa o me imponga un auto-spoiler para evitarme inconvenientes de comprensión literaria, pero es necesario para afrontar la densa literatura que encierra el libro.
Como comentara previamente y para aquellos que no lo hayan leído y me temo que son muchos (muchos) cada capítulo hace referencia o alegoría a algo de la Odisea, como pueden ser personajes, personajes mitológicos o situaciones que vive Ulises en su epopeya homérica y para ello, Joyce despliega su enorme potencial de manera titánica.
Por ejemplo el capítulo 6 se denomina "Hades" porque ese descenso al mundo de los muertos concuerda con el de Leopoldo Bloom al cementerio para despedir a su viejo amigo Dignam. El episodio 11 corresponde a las Sirenas y está totalmente emparentado con la música y el embelesamiento por parte de Bloom con dos meseras mientras un barítono canta entre las mesas.
Cuando Bloom regresa a casa después de veinticuatro agotadoras horas, leemos lo que sucede en un capítulo llamado "Ítaca", al igual que Ulises en La Odisea. De esta manera uno va “entendiendo” para qué lado va la historia. Sin algo de esa información leve pero importante, la lectura se torna errática, enloquecedora o simplemente se pierde el interés.
El capítulo 15, atribuido a Circe transcurre completamente dentro de un burdel en el que Bloom y Dedalus se ven rodeados de los personajes más extraños de los bajos dublineses y está escrito por Joyce como un guión completo de teatro, con instrucciones de escenario incluidas.
Este capítulo ha sido uno de los más desesperantes para mí cuando leí el libro por primera vez. La segunda lectura fue de una diversión hilarante, carcajadas incluidas. Es más, creo que la impecable y lúcida traducción de Marcelo Zabaloy despeja una gran cantidad de términos mal captados por el traductor anterior, José Salas Subirat, de quien leí "Ulises" previamente allanando conflictos de lectura para hacerla mucho más entendible y hasta disfrutable.
En la primera lectura hubo un momento en el que casi sucumbí, puesto que se tornaba completamente incomprensible para mí, ya que es un bombardeo constante de frases, palabras y diálogos inconexos, sin sentido ni construcción sintáctica o semántica. Un enloquecedor torbellino que golpea al lector como una ametralladora que dispara palabras sin cesar. Un auténtico infierno.
Lo que pasa es que estamos hablando de un libro que posee en su idioma original más de 267.000 palabras y cerca de 30.000 vocablos, muchos de ellos de propia invención del autor. El libro posee texto en inglés, español, hebreo (Bloom es judío), latín, francés, italiano, hindú, nonsense joyceano y palabras completamente inentendibles producto de la creación literaria de Joyce que llevará a un extremo enloquecedor en “Finnegans Wake”.
En “Ulises” podemos encontrarnos con capítulos de narrativa tradicional como es el caso del capítulo 2 ("Néstor"), pero de a poco, todo comenzará a tornarse en textualidad apabullante, sobredimensionada y desbordante. A lo largo de esta historia desfilarán ante nuestros ojos, parodias de la novela romántica al estilo de los folletines del sigo XIX ("Nausícaa", capítulo 13), abundantes pasajes de poesía, canciones populares y tradicionales irlandesas, un capítulo completo escrito en pequeños fragmentos de estilo periodístico ("Eolo", capítulo 7), hay incontables ejemplos de simbología mitológica, bíblica y alegórica. En el capítulo 9, "Escila y Caribdis", Stephen Dedalus explica su propia teoría acerca de Shakespeare y Hamlet: "Por medio del álgebra demuestra que el nieto de Hamlet es el abuelo de Shakespeare, y que él mismo es el espectro de su propio padre".
La sumisión, idolatría y homenaje de Joyce a Shakespeare es total y el bardo será nombrado y alabado en distintas partes del libro ("Después de Dios, Shakespeare es el que más ha creado.", afirma por allí Stephen Dédalus), aunque también descubriremos referencias y cálidas palabras sobre Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle y Daniel Defoe entre otros.
El anteúltimo capítulo, Ítaca, era su preferido del libro (y el de Bernard Shaw), cuando Bloom llega finalmente a su casa está escrito en forma enciclopédica con preguntas y definiciones de alto contenido científico, poblado de párrafos inagotables, repletos de datos estadísticos y que a mi entender se relaciona con la singularización o desautomatización textual, un concepto literario que los formalistas rusos (Schklovsky) definían como el "Arte como artificio": "La finalidad del arte es dar una sensación del objeto como visión y no como reconocimiento, los procedimientos del arte son el de singularización de los objetos, y el que consiste en oscurecer la forma, en aumentar la dificultad y la duración de la percepción. El acto de percepción es en arte un fin en sí y debe ser prolongado. El arte es un medio de experimentar el devenir del objeto: lo que ya está “realizado” no interesa para el arte". Eso es lo que creo que Joyce utiliza en este capítulo.
El no dice que "Llenó con agua la pava". Dice "Pasó la cacerola a la hornalla de la izquierda, y levantándose llevó la pava de hierro a la pileta con el fin de hacer fluir la corriente de agua abriendo la canilla para dejarla salir". De eso se trata "aumentar la dificultad y la duración de la percepción".
Por último en el capítulo 18 y final, "Penélope", no encontraremos con la gran innovación de James Joyce en la literatura: el "Stream of conciousness", también denominado "monólogo interior" (aunque también lo realiza Stephen Dedalus en el capítulo 3), y que para enunciarlo correctamente transcribo su definición como "corriente de la conciencia" que consiste en expresar los pensamientos del personaje sin una secuencia lógica, como ocurre en el pensamiento real. La culminación de esta técnica narrativa es el epílogo de la novela, el famoso monólogo de Molly Bloom, en el que el relato, sin signos de puntuación, emula el fluir, libre y desinhibido, del pensamiento".
Personalmente creo que más allá de esta invención literaria, ninguna persona en su sano juicio puede estar divagando como lo hace Molly durante ocho eternas oraciones que ocupan las últimas cuarenta páginas (¡40!) del libro sin freno ni la utilización de una sola coma.
Finalmente "Ulises" es un mapa completo de la ciudad de Dublin. Toda la esencia de Irlanda está en esa ciudad y Joyce la lleva al detalle como si fuera una mezcla de guía turístico y cartógrafo profesional. Alguna vez supo decir que si Dublin desapareciera de manera catastrófica, esta ciudad podría ser reconstruida a partir de su libro y no se equivocó en absoluto.
Me siento verdaderamente contento y orgulloso de esta fructífera relectura de este libro enorme, monstruoso, genial, único, inclasificable y eterno que es el "Ulises" de James Joyce y más aún por haberlo leído completo y sin saltearme una sola palabra en 12 días.
Carlos Gamerro, escritor argentino y experto en la obra joyceana y que escribió uno fundamental llamado "Ulises: claves de lectura" dice que nada vuelve a ser lo mismo a partir de leer el "Ulises" y es verdad. Que uno puede no haber leído un libro de un autor pero puede apoyarse en otros, pero que esto no sucede con el Ulises, ya que es un libro que no se parece a ningún otro.
El modo de ver la literatura y el mundo cambian a partir de que uno lee esta obra de arte, puesto que no se la puede denominar de otra manera. Y James Joyce lo hizo posible.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,005 followers
January 25, 2014
Sometimes reading a Great Work of Literature is like drinking fine French wine, say an aged Burgundy or Mersault. Everyone tells you how amazing it is, and on an intellectual level you can appreciate the brilliance, the subtlety, the refinement. But really it is too refined. It is unapproachable, it is aloof, it doesn't go with that
ketchupy burger you're having for dinner. You're not enjoying it.

But then you read the label more closely and realize that although it tastes just like a fine burgundy your wine was made in the Abarca Hills of Chile. It is from Casa Marin and was in fact not made by a snooty Frenchman with a degree in oenology but by a down-to-earth woman farmer, and although it is sophisticated and complex there is a more accessible note, a friendliness... And perhaps more importantly, it is several percent higher in alcohol than that French wine you
thought you had, and by the time you're halfway through the bottle it really seems pretty likeable after all, you and the wine are getting along just fine and you are having an enthusiastic discussion of
literature with people who were strangers an hour ago, and one of them tells a dirty joke that Joyce would have sniggered at, and you laugh so hard you spill your wine on him, and maybe he's a little annoyed
but your host brings a towel and another bottle and the party is
great. And maybe you are a wine ignoramus and the fancy bottle was kind of wasted on you, but you enjoyed it, so -- so what?
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,425 reviews3,383 followers
October 27, 2021
When asked to explain Ulysses James Joyce humbly replied: “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of ensuring one’s immortality.”
But I meekly dare to believe Ulysses wasn’t created simply to intimidate and torture philologists for there is a clever thought or two in the book after all.
The preparation of breakfast (burnt offering): intestinal congestion and premeditative defecation (holy of holies): the bath (rite of John): the funeral (rite of Samuel): the advertisement of Alexander Keyes (Urim and Thummin): the unsubstantial lunch (rite of Melchizedek): the visit to museum and national library (holy place)…

Any quotidian life is a succession of rituals and subconscious worshipping of the deities unknown…
Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.

To live a day in life is as long a journey as the odyssey and as long a tale as the bible.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
855 reviews5,865 followers
June 17, 2022
Often considered one of the ‘greatest novel of the 20th century’, James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, is both a feat and feast of sheer literary brilliance. Reimagining Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey as the travels and trials of an everyday man through the crowded streets and pubs of Dublin, Joyce weaves strikingly versatile prose styles and varying perspectives to encompass the whole of life within the hours of a single standard day, June 16th, 1904. This day, dubbed Bloomsday, is celebrated with increasing popularity in modern times, which is a testament to the lasting greatness of the novel (and to the desire to drink and be merry of all people). Instead of taking a daily life and elevating it to mythical proportions, Joyce has taken mythology and reversed it, shrinking it into an average day, which in turn gives each character and action a heroic sense about them. In this way, even besting a drunken nationalist spewing anti-sematic sentiments at a bar can be seen as a legendary conquest. Ulysses is an epic in its own right, setting the bar for literature up to the stratosphere as we immerse ourselves in Joyce’s dear dirty Dublin.

While one must have their wits about them to navigate this laborious labyrinth of literature, the task is highly rewarding. It is very understandable that so many people do not finish this novel, or just plain dislike it; this book can be downright frustrating. Combining the heavy use of cryptic and dated allusions, obfuscating narration, an enviable vocabulary and pages of dense prose to decipher, Joyce intentionally set out to create a literary odyssey of words to conquer saying ‘I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of ensuring one’s immortality.’ Readers should be warned this is a tough novel. Often times this novel inspired such frustration that it was tempting to slam the cover for good, and it wasn’t until the second half that I was finally able to recognize that this novel had written its way into my heart. Upon reflecting back after completion, only then did I realize that this truly is one of the greatest books ever written and I have come to love it. Perhaps this is akin to the feeling those who run marathons or climb mountains feel; the adventure is a long, arduous struggle where one must keep focus and positive to battle through, yet the pride and elation of completion more than makes up for the struggles. I do not wish to make this book seem like it is only for masochists though, as there are more than enough rewards to reap along the way. This is some of the finest displays of writing I have ever encountered, and offers a broad range of style. Many people fail to mention that this book is downright funny as well. There are countless little jokes, such as characters running from a bar so they can fart loudly unheard, endless sexual jokes and quips, and many funny characterizations. It should be noted as well that there is no shame in seeking aide for this book. Originally I didn’t want to, but there are so many esoteric allusions and puzzles that an annotation guide and a few essays really helped my understanding. This is a novel to teach to yourself, not just read – there are people who spent years at universities digging through this book and it is still widely debated. Even the great Ulysses (or Odysseus depending on who your asking) had to seek aide in his epic journey.

The variety of style in this book is highly impressive. Each of the 18 chapters, aside from being thematically built around a corresponding episode of The Odyssey, has its own unique set of techniques and lexicon, often parodying the styles of newspapers or current women’s magazines, traditional Irish mythological styles, a chapter dissolving the world into scientific properties, the famous stream-of-consciousness, 200 pages of jocular hallucinations in play format, and a dizzying array of prose from flowery language to the language of flowers. Joyce had such a love of style that there is even an entire chapter devoted to alternating writing styles as he parodies many famous authors throughout history (calling all fans of David Mitchell or If on a winter's night a traveler) in a swirling scene of drunken debates. The language is often quite playful, lyrical and full of puns. He even uses sentence structure to convey motion, such as Gerty’s limp: ‘Tight boots? No. She’s lame! O!’. If just for the use of language alone, this is one of the most spectacular books ever written and practically killed my dictionary. Also, it is interesting that C.G. Jung diagnosed Joyce as having schizophrenia based on reading this book due to the rapidly changing styles and the use of playful rhyming and jangling speech. Joyce's daughter did in fact have schizophrenia.

One of Ulysses most discussed features is Joyce's technique of placing the reader within the minds of the characters. It is not a typical first person narration, however, as the characters are seemingly unaffected and unaware they have a reader riding along in their thoughts. Information comes across in broken and random spurts, and Joyce does not bother with clarifying these thoughts to the reader. Much like William Faulkner, Joyce leaves the reader unaided to piece together his massive puzzle. Often the subject of a thought can switch between several people without any indication, as with Boylan and Bloom in Molly’s soliloquy, and many chapters take pages to realize who the person speaking is. While initially following Stephen and then Bloom second by second through their routine, the novel soon fractures into smaller chunks of concurrent narration, to further fit all of life within the day and to offer a broader, more varied perspective on the events that transpire. The idea of the ‘parallax’, which is essentially a scientific term that different perspectives will have a uniquely different view of the same object, is often on Bloom’s mind, and is a major theme running through this novel. Through the multiple points of view, the reader is flooded with alternative, and often conflicting, images of the characters. The readers must then decide themselves what is the whole picture.

The various speakers are another testament to the versatility of the pen employed by Joyce. Each speaker has a drastically different tone and vocabulary, as well as structure (most notably Molly). There are times when the reader may wonder if Joyce’s opinions on the Jewish people and women may be rather negative, but then he will surprise you with a completely opposing statement. Women, and sexuality in general, are a major topic in this novel, and it is no surprise many have dismissed Joyce as a misogynist as many of the women in this novel are viewed strictly in regards to their sexuality. There are many female roles who are only used to further this idea, often by having many characters be prostitues. Through Bloom we see an unapologetic image of women as a sexual objects, and a male opinion on how women view sexuality. However, with Molly, Joyce offers a highly contrasted opinion on how women view their own sexuality, how women view men’s sexuality, and even how women view how men view women’s sexuality. Molly even fantasizes about having a penis and what it would be like to mount a woman. So while some ideas may be offensive to a reader, they must view it with an open mind and in the context of the novel and characters. Also, Joyce was aware of the overzealous censorship of novels in England and America and often wrote passages that blew past the lines intentionally to irk these censors. No wonder the novel was banned in American until 1934 when the Supreme Court over-turned the ruling in a landmark obscenity trial.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet plays just as much of a role in this novel as the Odyssey. This further emphasizes the parallax, and Joyce’s goal to keep the life of his characters grounded in reality by not aligning any of the characters in a clear cut way. Hamlet is often discussed amongst the intelligentsia of Dublin, and a critical scene involves Stephen’s interpretation of the play revealing many themes of the novel at hand. From the ideas of Stephen’s role as Telemachus searching for a surrogate father in Bloom’s Ulysses as well as the ongoing thoughts over adultery all reveal themselves early on through Stephen’s lecture on Hamlet. However, this scene also demonstrates that Stephen is a Hamlet figure as well as Bloom being a figure of the deceased King, and that Molly may also fit the role of the betraying Queen as well as Penelope. There are many other roles in this novel that have more than one character that could fill them, such as how both Buck Mulligan and Blazes Boylan are both ‘usurpers’. It is interesting to note here that many of the characters, Mulligan in particular, are based from people Joyce interacted with in real life. ‘The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.’, is said at a timely manner when Stephen explores how the characters of Hamlet all correspond to Shakespeare’s own family, much like how these characters correspond to those around Bloom and to those that were surrounding Joyce. Stephen is also highly representative of Joyce himself. He was the hero of Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and in this novel we see him continue his quest of artistry. He even sides with an unborn child in a debate over whether a mother or child’s life is more important during birth, signifying his ideas that art, something we create, is of the utmost importance. A touch of metafiction as well as a compounding use of themes is one of the many ways this book stole my heart.

Joyce avoids distinct lines anywhere he can with this novel. Characters such as Bloom are walking contradictions and a paradox to those around him. He is Jewish, but also baptized. He is a father figure, but also displays many motherly traits and desires causing the more masculine characters to harbor a bit of disdain for him for being rather ‘womanly’. He is very caring and generous, but then at times very cheap and critical of others for their generosity. Such is the enigma of Leopold Bloom, one of the most likeable everyman characters in all of literature (it was very difficult not to picture him as George Clooney from O Brother, Where Art Thou?, another wonderful retelling of The Odyssey). He is not without his faults though, as he is a shameless womanizer and has the ‘undressing eyes’ aimed at all the fair ladies of Dublin (and what is with Joyce and men masturbating in public, ie The Encounter from Dubliners? I’m on to you Joyce…). Bloom spends much of this novel on the go, trying to move forward from the sadness of his past and the weight of thoughts of his wife’s possible transgressions. ‘Think you’re escaping and run into yourself,’ Bloom mentions. His ‘coming together’ with Stephen is also grounded in reality, as there is no clear-cut bond between them. ‘Frailty thy name is marriage’ Bloom thinks, playing off of the famous line from Hamlet. The marriage of Bloom and Stephen, Bloom and Molly, and many other ‘marriages’ of characters are fraught with incompatible moments, as people just do not always get along or agree. While the union of Bloom and Stephen is alluded to through the entire novel, they often are at odds with one another or offend the other while trying to be friendly. However, this meeting is highly significant in both their lives, and as many of these ‘marriages’ are flawed, they are shown as having shaped each individual. As C.G. Jung once wrote, ‘The meeting of two personalities is like the contact between two chemical substances. If there is any reaction, both are transformed.

Ulysses is not an easy novel by any means, but it is well worth the effort. The prose may be daunting at first, but patients, and a bit of guidance can really go a long way and this novel will eventually bloom for any reader so they can drink the sweet language of Joyce’s pen. There are so many wonderful techniques buzzing about and puzzles to unlock. Plus, this novel is outright hilarious. For one of the more comprehensive reviews you can find, you should also read Ian's stunning review.
Joyce has certainly left his mark on the face of literature with this novel, which is more than deserving of the title bestowed on it by the Modern Library of the greatest novel of the 20th century. Yes it is the greatest and yes you should read it and yes each word will blossom in your mind and Yes will I give this book a 5/5 and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Also, word on the street is that reading this book in public will make you “appear” smart.

And even the great Jorge Luis Borges was moved by this novel:

James Joyce (as translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni)

In a man’s single day are all the days
of time from that unimaginable
first day, when a terrible God marked out
the days and agonies, to that other,
when the ubiquitous flow of earthly
time goes back to its source, Eternity,
and flickers out in the present, the past,
and the future—what now belongs to me.
Between dawn and dark lies the history
of the world. From the vault of night I see
at my feet the wanderings of the Jew,
Carthage put to the sword, Heaven and Hell.
Grant me, O Lord, the courage and the joy
to ascend to the summit of this day.
Profile Image for Kenny.
494 reviews862 followers
September 22, 2022
“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”
Ulysses ~~ James Joyce


I have never had so many starts, false starts, and restarts with a novel in my entire life. But it was worth every effort made to read this amazing book.

My Goodreads friend, zxvasdf, once said to me, "You'll always be far from finishing, even when you finish it. I don't think anyone can really appreciate Joyce's work in its entirety if they're not Joyce themselves; there'll always be mysteries abound." He's 100% right. Upon closing the cover, my first inclination was to go back to the beginning and read the first section all over again. Then I thought, no I should dive directly into A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Ultimately, I decided I need to step away from James Joyce and digest Ulysses for a few months.


Joyce's Ulysses has been called the most important novel in all of modern literature, and, it is. Joyce burst the traditional form of the novel wide open. Yes, Ulysses is a radical departure from the traditional novels of the past. Joyce brilliantly married modern literature to classical literature in the pages of Ulysses.

Am I gushing? Of course I am, but Ulysses is a novel that deserves being gushed over.

Friends on Goodreads have mentioned to me that they hope I will explain Ulysses to them with my review. Sorry, I wish I could, but I am unable to do so. Honestly, I don't know if anyone can. I doubt that few people understand and comprehend Ulysses, and that's exactly what James Joyce wanted. He set about to confuse and disorient scholars for 100's of years. But oh what a wonderful state of confusion it is to inhabit ...


I have to touch for a moment upon PENELOPE before I end this non-review. I believe this final chapter, Molly Bloom's Soliloquy to be the single greatest piece of writing I have ever encountered. I've never read anything like this. Molly's soliloquy ties all of Ulysses together. While reading this brilliant piece of writing, 76 pages in the edition I read with no punctuation, I had several aha moments. I gained deep insight into both Leopold and Stephen's characters. Not everyone will agree with my conclusions, and perhaps Joyce has played a cosmic joke on me well.

Molly's Soliloquy is a piece of writing that I will revisit as a stand alone piece of writing many times. Just as I read Charles Dickens annually, I will now read Molly's Soliloquy every Bloomsday. It is an amazing piece of writing; one that will enthrall me for years to come. In the end, it is actually Molly's voice that is the most powerful in the pages of Ulysses. Ending Ulysses with Molly's Soliloquy is truly orgasmic.


In the end, Ulysses is about all of humanity. It is about a city and her people, about eating and drinking and fucking. It is about our memories, our joys and sorrows. Ulysses is about life. All our lives.

What is there left to say? Ulysses is the most challenging of novels. Should you read it? By all means, yes. It is a glorious literary adventure. And if you don't make it thru the first time, go back and try again. You will not be disappointed.

Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
559 reviews7,423 followers
August 14, 2019
How do you read Ulysses? Well you begin on page one and you read all the words until it's finished.

Or, you can just be Irish.

I think that's the secret.

I've just finished Ulysses for the second time and I cannot recall any other book that's just as fun as Ulysses is. People will often call the novel difficult and challenging but that's a reading I just cannot abide by. I don't find Ulysses to be a particularly difficult novel to read. I actually struggle a lot more with other modernist writers, specifically Woolf and Lawrence. The two times I've read Ulysses I've done it quicker than it took me to get through Lady Chatterley's Lover.

So I began questioning myself as to why this is. And I think the answers lays within who I actually am. I'm Irish.

Joyce once said that if Dublin were to one day suddenly disappear from the Earth it could be entirely reconstructed from his book. And it is true that Joyce takes great pleasure in describing almost every step that Bloom takes. But then I think how, if you don't have a fairly solid familiarity with the streets of Dublin, not many of Bloom's journeys make sense.
So, say that Bloom walks along Grafton Street from the Trinity side and goes left along Duke St., onto Dawson St., goes up to Molesworth St. and finds himself outside the Dail on Kildare St. To Joyce, and myself, that journey makes perfect sense in our heads and we can easily follow it because we both have walked that exact route many times. However, to someone who doesn't know Dublin, literally none of that made any sense. All of Ulysses is like this.

Another example would be one of the many moments in the novel that made me audibly laugh. It's during the Circe episode which is this massive hallucination sequence that's written in play form. At one point the sound of a waterfall is heard and Joyce records its noise like this:

The waterfall: Poulaphouca Poulaphouca Poulaphouca Poulaphouca.

Get it? What? You mean you don't have a knowledge of the waterfalls of Ireland? Once again, all of Ulysses is like this.

So why do I get all the references? Why do I find this novel so funny? Why didn't I want it to end and will likely read it again and again for my whole life? Am I so intellectually above all of you that only I, the great Barry, could understand all of Ulysses? No. It's cos I'm Irish.

If you flick through an annotated edition of Ulysses you'll notice all the footnotes are simply just explaining the references. They're full of little explainers of who Michael Davitt was or Arthur Griffith or Charles Stewart Parnell. What a crubeen is and what's double X. What the Phoenix Park murders were and who the croppy boy is. Notes of which I need none, because I know all this, because I'm Irish.

Ulysses is an Irish novel written by an Irish man for Irish people. Joyce steeped the whole thing in such Irishness that many of the dialects, the turns of phrase, the references, and the places make little sense to non-Irish people. The non-Irish in turn have to purchase massive annotated editions and reference guides in order to slowly trudge their way through the pages that Irish people wouldn't even have to pause on. It's from these non-Irish that we always hear that Ulysses is the most difficult novel.

So if you aren't Irish and you tried to conquer Ulysses and you couldn't, don't feel bad, the book wasn't written for you. However, for us Irish, for whom Ulysses is our plaything, we'll keep holding it to our hearts forever.
August 6, 2022
Good books should participate in a "conversation" with each other, and with us when we read them. I made the mistake of inviting Joyce - via Ulysses - to join my literary conversation. He's not much of a conversationalist. He mostly just sat in a corner mumbling incoherently to himself. Every once in a while he'd quote - or try to ridicule - something he'd read somewhere, but that's not really conversation is it? More like namedropping.

Buried within Joyce's verbosity is something similar to a plot related to a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, husband of Molly, father of Milly - away at photography school - and Rudy - namesake of Poldy's father - who's death at eleven days of age strained the marriage beyond recovery but left the sexual obsessions of Poldy and Molly intact leading to scenes such as Leopold masturbating on the beach while flirting at a distance with Gerty MacDowell or Molly masturbating as she daydreams about past, current, and future lovers including Stephen Dedalus who is seen by both Leopold and Molly as a substitute for poor Rudy - albeit in very different ways. How about that? I can write at least as well as James Joyce.

Reading Ulysses is something akin to reading a very long list of spelling words...many of them without spaces between them. I've come to the conclusion that stream of consciousness writing comes in two forms. In one form, authors such as Thomas Pynchon and Virginia Woolf employ real - albeit often strange - sentences to portray the thought processes of their characters. The second form - epitomized by James Joyce and William Faulkner - involves the mere stringing together of unrelated words perhaps with the intention of revealing the depth of the psychosis of their characters. I much prefer the former method.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
July 27, 2017
I have left this book unrated because I simply cannot rate it. I cannot review it either or try to criticise it. Instead, I’ve decided to share my experience with something I cannot define.

But first, here’s what James Joyce had to say about it:

'I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.’

The accuracy of this statement balances out the sheer arrogance of Joyce’s assertion.

I tried to put my own design on the book. Well, at least, I tried to focus on one particular recurring theme as I read in order to try and bring the thing together in my own mind. I failed. I focused on Death, or at least, discussions of Death and the representations of it. But after a while the ideas started to contradict each other and fade out of the narrative only to randomly pop up again and vanish.

Here’s three quotes I pulled out from the beginning though:

“Old England is dying…….”

“And what is death she asked…..”

“In a dream she had come to him after death…..”

Death, and its shadow, seemed to haunt the early part of the writing. What is this end we are pushing towards? Is it an end? Can we even call it painful? The idea it conveys is that time, at least time according to human perception, pushes singularly towards this phenomenon: the ultimate truth of life. Ulysses is deeply symbolic. This haunting can be read as a decay of the state, the breakdown of society (its traditions and values) as it enters a new modern era. The old structures of civilisation are dying, the world is changing, art is changing, thought is changing and perhaps this is what Ulysses represents in some sense. Perhaps this new creature of literature is the very essence of this new dawn, of the modernist art movement, or perhaps I have simply been swayed by one of the many nuanced impressions within the work, the subtle hints and suggestions that can be ready in so many different ways.

I focused so much on death that when it left the narrative I did not know what else to look for or why I was reading it or where the story was going. This book is not something that fits into a nice little box or one that can be summed up accurately: it simply is a thing that is. Forming a coherent opinion of something so incoherent is even harder. What can one judge? The sheer brilliance of the innovative writing is juxtaposed against the dull drawn out interactions and descriptions. Isn’t that sentence just one huge contradiction? Well, the entire book is one contradiction. I could spend a lifetime studying Ulysses and still not be able to decipher it.

I hate it.

I love it.

I want to burn it.

I want to celebrate it.

Certainly, I enjoyed reading parts of Ulysses, in fact, I engulfed parts of it. However, I detested just as many bits of it. I was so terribly bored with large parts of the novel, frustrated, agonised and, on one occasion, actually sent to sleep. You could imagine my dismay when I woke up the next morning with the thing on the floor and I’d lost my page number. I had no idea where I was exactly, somewhere between pages 300- 500 I guessed rather inaccurately, so I had to try and back track. Much harder than it sounds. I lost my place in a book that I was already lost in completely. Not lost as engrossed, but lost in the sense that I had no idea where the hell I was in this labyrinth of writing and that’s before I lost my page. Now there’s some irony.

The result was me reading around seventy pages a second time round with next to no memory I had actually read them until I came across a rather distinctive passage and was rather annoyed with myself. Ulysses is a book that washes over you; it’s the sort of book that you can spend reading for a few hours and then barely remember what you have read. It requires a reader who can pay attention to a book that has a wavering plot, likes to wonder all over the place, and then return randomly to characters that have disappeared for a long period of time. All in all, it was my nightmare and my dream.

It defeated me twice. I kept forgetting what had happened, and despite reading so many plot summaries, I probably could not describe this book beyond what the blurb on my copy says. I feel like I need to read it again. The thought fills with me dread. Perhaps one day when I am old, surrounded by thousands of books and an army of loyal cats, I will pick up this book again and remember my initial desondency and admiration. Or perhaps I will be wiser. Perhaps I will see to the heart of the matter and hate/love Joyce even more for this, for this thing. As a random aside, I feel sorry for whatever kooky old professor in Fahrenheit 451 drew the bad straw and had to remember this book. I digress, but imagine that. Poor bastard.

I had to start the book again three times, and I found myself agonising over sections of inane and irrelevant bollocks. But there’s also beauty inside, just like life. How sentimental of me. Ulysses is modernism. Modernist literature varied, though a sense of newness permeated all artistic representations. And this was, and still is, something new.

I dare you to go and read it for yourself.
19 reviews79 followers
January 31, 2008
as a bloke with an english degree, i guess i'm supposed to extol all thing joycian and gladly turn myself self over to the church of joye. after all, that's what english grads do, right? we revel in our snobbery and gloat about having read 'gravity's rainbow' and 'ulysses' start to finish.

well, i may be in the minority when i say i didn't care for this book at all. i get that it's a complex book with innumerable references to greek mythology, heavy allegories, dense poetry wacky structures, and to some serves as a sort of mental masturbation. however, i think it's also pretty unreadable. maybe i'm old-fashioned, but i think books should be accessible and readable. it's something john steinbeck understood all too well. he most definitely wrote for the masses and the 'every man,' and it shows in his work. i prefer books that use simple language to expound on profound truths, not necessarily a book that requires me to constanty refer to other sources to help me understand what i've just read. this, of course, is just my opinion and should be taken as nothing more.

i'm hesitant to say that anyone who gives this book 'five stars' does so because 'ulysses' carries such a cachet amongt the academic elite and intelligentsia, but i think most of them probably do. sure, that's unfair, but i'm really kind of wondering how anyone ever finished it. it's a bit of bore, linguistical acrobatics or not.

if you do decide to read it, definitely get a copy with judge john m. woolsey's treatise on lifting the ban on 'ulysses.' it's a remarkable piece of writing and display's the judges thoughtfulness, eloquence, and fair-mindedness. it's the standard by which all judicial opinions should be judged [no pun intended!].

maybe you'll read 'ulysses,' maybe you won't. if you do and you don't care for it, that's ok. being a great reader doesn't mean you two the critical line.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
December 21, 2017
The singer asked the crowd - "how many of your have read James Joyce?"

He had just sang Whiskey in the Jar and was queuing up to sing Finnegan's Wake, he was setting the stage for his next song. A few hands went up, mine among them. We were in The Merry Ploughman's Pub in South Dublin and the crowd was having a good time, singing and drinking Guiness from pint glasses.

"Now, how many understood what you read?" The crowd laughed and half as many hands stayed up and I realized my extended arm wavered some too.

I have looked at Ulysses over the years like it was a high and formidable mountain to climb. I have picked it up several times over the years, weighed it, set it beside the phone book and compared width. I have scanned the pages and noticed with alarm a painful lack of punctuation, and not the Cormac McCarthy kind of simplicity; but run on sentences, stream of consciousness. I have avoided the The Sound and the Fury for the same reason, finally giving up on that. Mailer’s Why Are We in Vietnam? was a morass of nonsense that I slogged through to the end, but it was a relatively short book.

And then there is the length. Formidable. I read through War and Peace, in awe of its epic stature, and I finished Atlas Shrugged out of sheer inertia and also out of a morbid curiosity to see it through. Ulysses was long and in stream of consciousness prose.

And so the years went by and I could not bring myself to begin the climb, did not feel up to sloshing through the swamp of adjectives and relentless narration.

When I did finally begin, I was pleasantly surprised.

The stream of consciousness technique was not overwhelming, was not the nonsensical morass of Mailer nor the cacophony of thought from Faulkner. Joyce’s language is rich and engaging, his storytelling modern and experimental but still approachable. There were moments that I was in love with the book, believing this was the greatest novel I had ever read, I was convinced of Joyce’s brilliance and inspired by his genius. It is funny, profane, irreverent, even shocking. The references to classic literature, especially the parallels with Homer makes it worthy of a greater review than I can come up with. Molly Bloom's lengthy soliloquy at the end is a gem of vulgarity and human observation. Other times I was simply reading to get through, keeping a runner’s pace through the long back miles and steep hills of a marathon.

Ultimately, this is a masterpiece, a great work in the English language or of any language, literature of the highest order. But it can be difficult, in its length and its narration, and Joyce asks a lot of his reader, his prose is steeped in his own erudition and he makes little attempt to step it down. But for the reader who makes it to the top, it is a great view from the summit.

Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,152 reviews1,690 followers
December 12, 2022

Milo O’Shea/Leopold Bloom e Geoffrey Golden in “Ulysses” di Joseph Strick, 1967, liberamente ispirato al romanzo di Joyce.

Teases us out of thought, diceva Keats.
Così è con Joyce, ci fa uscire di testa, ci porta al punto in cui l'intelletto non serve.
Sono altri gli organi sollecitati dalla scrittura, altri neuroni: abbandonarsi, non capire, capire a metà, fraintendere, ascoltare il brusio incessante del linguaggio, seguirne le capriole...

Il bel bianco e nero del film.

...Ho ancora il sapore del rognone che sfrigola nel burro sulla padella...

And I schschschschschsch. And did you chachachachacha? And why did you?

Milo O’Shea/Leopold Bloom.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
December 3, 2021
Ulysses, James Joyce

Ulysses is a modernist novel by Irish writer James Joyce. It was first serialized in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920 and then published in its entirety in Paris by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, Joyce's 40th birthday.

It is considered to be one of the most important works of modernist literature and has been called "a demonstration and summation of the entire movement".

According to Declan Kiberd, "Before Joyce, no writer of fiction had so foregrounded the process of thinking".

Ulysses chronicles the peripatetic appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904. Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey, and the novel establishes a series of parallels between the poem and the novel, with structural correspondences between the characters and experiences of Leopold Bloom and Odysseus, Molly Bloom and Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus and Telemachus, in addition to events and themes of the early 20th-century context of modernism, Dublin, and Ireland's relationship to Britain.

The novel is highly allusive and also imitates the styles of different periods of English literature.

Episode 12, Cyclops: This chapter is narrated by an unnamed denizen of Dublin. The narrator goes to Barney Kiernan's pub where he meets a character referred to only as "The Citizen".

There is a belief that this character is a satirization of Michael Cusack, a founder member of the Gaelic athletic association.

When Leopold Bloom enters the pub, he is berated by the Citizen, who is a fierce Fenian and anti-Semite. The episode ends with Bloom reminding the Citizen that his Saviour was a Jew.

As Bloom leaves the pub, the Citizen, in anger, throws a biscuit tin at where Bloom's head had been, but misses.

The chapter is marked by extended tangents made in voices other than that of the unnamed narrator: these include streams of legal jargon, Biblical passages, and elements of Irish mythology.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم ماه ژوئن سال2002میلادی

عنوان: اولیس؛ نویسنده: جیمز جویس؛ مترجم: منوچهر بدیعی؛ نشر نیلوفر؛ سال1381؛ در248ص؛ شابک9644481833؛ چاپ دوم سال1395؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایرلند - سده20م

این کتاب به عنوان مهمترین، و مؤثرترین داستان سده بیستم میلادی شناخته شده است، زمان رخداد داستان: روز شانزدهم ماه ژوئن سال1904میلادی، و مکان آن شهر «دوبلین»، پایتخت «ایرلند» است؛ رخدادها بیشترشان در مدت شانزده ساعت رخ میدهند؛ کتاب با مهارت و دقت، در همان قالب «ادیسه»، اثر معروف «هومر»، نگاشته شده است

نقل از بخش‌ دوازدهم‌ سیکلوپ‌: (آخرین‌ وداع‌ بی‌نهایت‌ تأثرآور بود، از مناره‌ های‌ دور و نزدیک‌ صدای ‌ناقوسِ‌ مرگ‌ لاینقطع‌ بلند بود، و همه‌ را به‌ تشییع‌ جنازه‌ می‌خواند، و در گوشه‌ و کنار محله‌ های‌ غم‌زده‌، ده‌ها طبل‌ پوشیده‌ در نمد، که‌ صدای‌ پوک‌ توپ‌ها آن‌ها را قطع‌ می‌کرد، ندایی‌ شوم‌ سر می‌داد؛ غرش‌ کر کنندۀ رعد، و روشنایی‌ کور کنندۀ برق‌، که‌ این‌ صحنۀ‌ مرگبار را روشن‌ می‌کرد، گواهی‌ می‌داد، که‌ توپ‌خانۀ ‌آسمان‌، از قبل‌ تمامِ‌ طنطنۀ‌ مافوق‌ طبیعیِ‌ خود را، به‌ این‌ منظرۀ‌ مخوف‌ عاریه‌ داده‌ است‌؛ از دریچه‌ های‌ سیل‌ بند آسمان‌ِ خشمگین‌، بارانی‌ سیل‌آسا بر سر برهنه‌ خلایقی‌ که‌ گرد آمده‌ بودند، فرو ریخت‌، و عدۀ‌ اینان‌ به‌ کم‌ترین‌ تخمین، ‌پنج‌صدهزار بود؛ دسته‌ ای‌ از پاسبان‌های‌ شهر «دبلین‌» بزرگ‌، به‌ فرماندهی‌ شخص‌ سرکلانتر، در میان‌ آن‌ جمع‌ عظیم،‌ به‌ حفظ‌ نظم‌ مشغول‌ بودند، و برای‌ آن‌که‌ آن‌ جمع‌ عظیم‌ سرگرم‌ شوند، دستۀ‌ موزیکانچی‌ سنج‌ و سازهای‌ بادی‌ خیابان ‌«یورک»، با آلات‌ پوشیده‌ در پوشش‌ سیاه‌ ماهرانه‌، همان‌ نغمۀ‌ بی‌همتایی‌ را می‌نواختند، که‌ قریحۀ‌ نالان‌ «اسپرانتزا» از گهواره‌ در دل‌ ما نشانده‌ است‌

قطارهای‌ تفریحی‌ سریع‌السیر فوق‌العاده‌ و دلیجان‌های‌ موتوری‌ با نیمکت‌های‌ روکش‌دار تهیه‌ دیده‌ بودند، تا پسرعموهای‌ روستایی‌ ما که‌ جمع‌ کثیری‌ از آنان‌ به‌ آن‌جا آمده‌ بودند، در آسایش‌ باشند؛ وقتی‌ خواننده‌گان‌ دوره‌ گرد محبوب‌ دبلین‌ ل‌ـ ن‌ـ هـ ـ ن‌ و م‌ـ ل‌ـ گ‌ـ ن‌ ترانۀ «شب‌ پیش‌ از آن ‌روز که‌ لاری ‌دراز شد» را با آن‌ طرز نشاط‌ انگیز مرسومِ‌ خود خواندند، تفرج‌ خاطر فراوانی ‌پدید آمد؛ آن‌ دو مزه‌ پرانِ‌ بی‌مثل‌، و مانند ما با تصنیف‌های‌ یک‌ورقیِ‌ خود داد و ستد پُرغوغایی‌ در میان‌ دوست‌داران‌ طنز و هجا برپا کردند، که‌ اگر کسی‌ در گوشۀ‌ دل‌ عنایتی‌ به‌ طنز عاری‌ از لوده‌ گی‌ «ایرلندی‌» داشته‌ باشد، به‌ آن‌ چند پول‌ سیاهی‌ که‌ به‌ زحمت‌ به‌ کف‌ می‌آورند، غبطه‌ نخواهد خورد

بچه‌ هایی‌ که‌ در «یتیم‌خانۀ‌ دختران‌ و پسران‌» بودند، لب‌ِ پنجره‌ ها جمع‌ شده‌ بودند، و به‌ این‌ صحنه‌ نگاه‌ می‌کردند، و از این‌که‌ چنان‌ برنامۀ‌ غیرمنتظری‌ به‌ سرگرمی‌های ‌آن‌روز افزوده‌ شده‌ بود، شادی‌ها کردند، و باید از «خواهران‌ نازنین‌ بینوایان‌» تقدیر و تمجید کنیم‌، که‌ به‌ فکر افتادند تا برای‌ یتیمان‌ پدر و مادر از کف‌ داده، ‌برنامۀ‌ تفریحی‌ِ به‌ راستی‌ آموزنده‌ ای‌ فراهم‌ آورند؛ جمع‌ مدعوین‌ نایب‌ السلطنه‌، که‌ در میان‌شان‌ بانوان‌ معروف‌ بسیار بود، در سایه‌ همراهی‌ عُلیامخدرات‌ مکرّمات‌، به‌ بهترین‌ جای‌ِ جایگاه‌ هدایت‌ شدند، و سفیران ‌بدیع‌ منظر خارجی‌، که‌ به‌ «دوستان‌ جزیرۀ‌ زمرد» شهرت‌ دارند، در جایگاهی ‌درست‌، روبروی‌ آنان‌ جای‌ داده‌ شدند؛ سفیران‌ که‌ با هیبت‌ تمام‌ حاضر بودند، عبارت‌ بودند از: «کومنداتوره‌ باچی‌ باچی‌ بنینو بنونه‌ -که‌ شیخ‌ السفرا بود و نیمه‌ فلج،‌ و ناگزیر بودند او را با یک‌ جرثقیل‌ نجاری‌ قوی‌ به‌ چوکی‌ اش‌ برسانند-»، «مسیو پیر پل‌ پتیت‌ اپتان‌»، «گراند ژوکر ولادیمنجلاب‌ حیض‌ لته‌ تشف‌»، «آرکژوکرلئوپوک‌ رودلف‌ فون‌ شوانزنباد ـ هودنتالر»، «کنتس‌ مارهاویراگاکیسا سزونی‌ پوتراپستی‌»، «حرم‌خان‌ فیسافاده‌»، «کنت‌ آتاناتوس‌ کارا ملوپولیس‌»، «علی‌بابا بخشش‌ راحت‌ القوم‌ افندی‌»، «سنیور هیداگلوکابالرودون‌»، «پکادیلوای‌ پالا براس‌ ای‌ پاترنوسترد» و «لامالورا» و «دولا مالاریا»، «هوکوپوکو هاراکیری‌»، «هی‌ هونگ‌ چانگ‌»، «اولاف‌ کوبرکدلسن‌»، «ماین‌هیر حقه‌ وان‌ کلک‌»، «پان‌ پولاکس‌ پادی‌ ریسکی‌»، «گوزپوند پره‌ کلشتر کراچینابریچی‌سیچ‌»، «بوروس‌ هوپینکوف‌»، «هرهورهوس‌ دیرکتور پرازیدنت‌ هانس‌ چوچلی‌ ـ اشتورلی‌»، «داکتر پروفسور ورزشگاه‌ ملیوم‌ موزیوم‌ آسایشگاهیوم‌ فتق‌ بندیوم‌ مبتذلیوم‌ اختصاصیوم‌ سنتیوم‌ تاریخ‌ عمومیوم‌ ویژگیوم‌ کریگفریداوبرآل‌ گماینه‌؛

کلیۀ سُفرا بدون‌ استثنا با عباراتی‌ بسیار محکم‌ که‌ ناهنجارتر از آن‌ها ممکن‌ نبود، دربارۀ عملیات‌ وحشیانۀ بی‌نامی‌ که‌ آنان‌ را به‌ تماشای‌ آن‌ دعوت‌ کرده‌ بودند، سخن‌ راندند؛ سپس‌ مناقشۀ پرحرارتی‌ -که‌ همه‌ در آن‌ شرکت‌ کردند- در میان‌ «د.ج‌ ز» بر سر آن‌ درگرفت‌، که‌ روز تولد قدیس‌ نگهبان‌ «ایرلند» روز هشتم‌ مارچ‌ بوده‌ است‌، یا روز نهم‌ مارچ‌؛ در ضمن‌ این‌ مباحثه‌ به‌ توپ‌ و شمشیر و تیر برگرد و قره‌ مینا و نارنجک‌ گازی‌ و ساطور و چتر و منجنیق‌ و پنجه‌ بُکس‌ و کیسه‌ شن‌ و پاره‌ آهن‌ نیز متوسل‌ شدند، و بی‌ محابا برهم‌ ضرب‌ و شتم‌ وارد آوردند؛ پیک‌ ویژه‌ فرستادند و پاسبان‌ کوچول‌، آجدان‌ مک‌فادن‌، را از بوترزتاؤن‌ خبر کردند، که‌ آمد و به‌ شتاب‌ نظم‌ را اعاده‌ کرد و به‌ سرعتِ‌ برق‌ پیشنهاد کرد که‌ هر دو طرف‌ِ متخاصم‌ با قبول‌ روز هفدهم،‌ قضیه‌ را فیصله‌ دهند؛ پیشنهاد آن‌ پاسبان‌ تیزهوش‌ سه‌ متری‌ بی‌درنگ‌ مورد پسند همگان‌ واقع‌ شد، و به‌ اتفاق‌ آرا مورد قبول‌ قرار گرفت‌؛ تمامی‌ «د.ج‌ ز» به‌ آجدان‌ مک‌فادان‌ از تۀ‌ دل‌ تبریک‌ گفتند، در حالی‌ که‌ از بدن‌ چند تن‌ از آنان‌ خون‌ فراوانی‌ می‌رفت‌)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 11/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Mark André .
112 reviews236 followers
December 10, 2020
The best book I have ever read. Complex. Sophisticated. Fun!
Profile Image for William2.
745 reviews2,959 followers
September 24, 2020
1. Reading this so late, so long after its lessons have been absorbed and modified and abandoned and resurrected (see Will Self's Umbrella), I can't imagine what it was like for a first-time reader in 1922-23. For those who both loved and hated it, it must have been a hydrogen bomb of a book. The classicists must have been fit for tying. The hubris of rewriting Homer. The classicists must have been apoplectic!

2. In the Hades/Graveyard section (6), Leopold Bloom considers the enormity of death at Dignam's graveside: "Must be 20 or 30 funerals every day [here]. Then Mount Jerome for the Protestants. Funerals all over the world everywhere every minute. Shoveling them under by the cartload doublequick. Thousands every hour. Too many in the world." And later: "Plant him and have done with him. Like down a coalshoot."

3. I suppose what dazzles me most is that this novel can be so thoroughly packed with subtext, yet remain so readable. Is it the first scalable modern novel? This of course almost guarantees ever richer subsequent readings.

4. Father Conmee. What a great name. Too funny. Not sure if this is a pattern yet, but so far Joyce seems to alternate chapters of rich allusion (Stephen Dedalus and others discussing Hamlet at National Library in the Scylla and Charibdis chapter) with chapters of pretty straightforward action (Conmee, Bloom's peripatetic progress). There's conflation, too, of Odysseus ten-year ordeal at sea with Leopold Bloom as Wandering Jew.

5. The Wandering Rocks chapter is Ulysses's center where Joyce parades virtually his entire cast past the reader as the Governor makes what smacks as a triumphal progress through Dublin. This reminds me very much of Henry Fielding's The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling, when all the players cross paths at the inn in the book's middle. Perhaps Fielding was also using a Homeric model?

6. It's hard to endure the jeering layabouts (Lenehan, Dedalus pere, Dollard, etc.) as they make fun of Bloom's misfortune. Bloom who, suffering in silence, we come to like more and more. Also, cross-cutting, filmic. Yet we read (mostly) with assurance. Sure of our way. Again, I can't imagine what the first readers felt. Unlike us they had no precedent.

7. Joyce's penchant for puns annoys. Actually, I'm beginning to hate it. Funny, almost everything else I'm fine with: the purposeful rhymes; the interlarded alternately speculative, abject, or ebullient etc consciousnesses; the rich allusiveness and multiple languages; the use of meaningless, infantile sounds, almost a babble (or perhaps Babel). Yet the puns strike me as sophomoric, someone playing saw amidst the philharmonic. Harsh dissonance. I suppose dissonance is sometimes useful. Penderecki springs to mind, and Coltrane, though these may be extreme examples.

8. On another level the book can be read, at least in part, as an indictment of Irish Anti-Semitism. As expressed cogently on p. 484 of my Everyman edition:

And to the solemn court of Green street there came sir Frederick the Falconer. And he sat him there about the hour of five o'clock to administer the law of the brehons at the commission for all that and those parts to be holden in and for the county of the city of Dublin. And there sat with him the high sinhedrim of the twelve tribes of Iar, for every tribe one man, of the tribe of Patrick and of the tribe of Hugh and of the tribe of Owen and of the tribe of Conn and of the tribe of Oscar and of the tribe of Fergus and of the tribe of Finn and of the tribe of Dermot and of the tribe of Cormac and of the tribe of Kevin and of the tribe of Caolte and of the tribe of Ossian, there being in all twelve good men and true. And he conjured them by Him who died on rood that they should well and truly try and true deliverance make in the issue joined between their sovereign lord the king and the prisoner at the bar and true verdict give according to the evidence, [etc.]

This passage and others ridicules the bigotry and suggests that we are all of us of one tribe. Not to put too fine a point on it, but much else is given similar treatment in this chapter: blind nationalism, especially, which, at time of publication, had done so much to depopulate Europe of its young men. Come to think of it, aside from the well-known exceptions, there are no teeming displays of young men in the novel as there are displays of old men. On p. 632, supporting this observation, there is a deprecation of the "mutilated soldiers and sailors" of Dublin's streets.

9. In the pure-streaming language section now known as "Oxen of the Sun." If this were Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, this would be the part where Dave has entered the pod and is now speeding through far-flung intergalactic space experiencing a virtuoso display of psychedelic landscapes on the way. Yes, one can see how this would have been completely new in 1922. Then the language turns mock-chivalric/courtly/archaic as Bloom awaits some word on the Purefoy child. (See Erik's excellent comment No. 30 below.) Dixon arrives and so it's hie to the pub where Bloom comes upon a drunken Stephen, and they await Stately, Plump, Buck Mulligan. After long consideration of Mrs. Purefoy's protracted labor, Malachi arrives with the hilarious lament, to wit:

It grieved him plaguily, he said, to see the nuptial couch defrauded of its dearest pledges: and to reflect upon so many agreeable females with rich jointures, a prey to the vilest bonzes, who hide their flambeau under a bushel in an uncongenial cloister or lose their womanly bloom in the embraces of some unaccountable muskin when they might multiply the inlets of happiness, sacrificing the inestimable jewel of their sex when a hundred pretty fellows were at hand to caress, this, he assured them, made his heart weep.

This chapter must include a dozen or so parodies of various narrative styles, each with an almost seamless transition to the next. I can only pick out a handful of them on this first reading. They include the triumphalist battle song, troubadour's ballad, bawdy Rabelaisian tale, ancient Greek drama, epistolary, confessional, gothic, and Restoration Comedy modes, etc.

10. The early going in the hallucinatory Brothel chapter (15) is as funny as anything in the book. I especially like Bloom's mock trial in the street, which might be called "Bloom's Ordeal," for sexual molestation and general rakishness. The style reminds me of Samuel Beckett who, as we know, thought the world of Joyce. Most of the section is wildly madcap and suggests a sheer ecstatic joy in storytelling. But it is long, too. Stephen's Latin has worn thin. I've stopped translating these passages. That can wait for a second reading. I have to admit I'm a trifle mystified by the long sex-reversal hallucination with Bello and Bloom. I thought at first that it might be a proto-feminist tract whose unseemly length hammers home a commentary about the lowly station of early 20th century women, but but then I thought that's too earnest and forthright for Joyce, who was no one's moralist. This was almost immediately contradicted by a passage in the following chapter (16), set in the cabman's shelter, in which the fate of prostitutes is bemoaned at length.

The chapter (15) is a massive, teeming set-piece in which every character in the book makes an appearance, plus many historical figures not seen before: Shakespeare, Edward the Seventh, Lord Tennyson, etc. This was for me the most wearying slog of the entire book. I put it aside and came back four times before I could finish it. Hope your progress is brisker.

11. Molly's soliloquy.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,861 reviews519 followers
January 26, 2023
To read Ulysses by James Joyce, I think you ought to have a certain literary maturity; otherwise (but also) you must let yourself carry away, and too bad if you don't understand everything.
When we travel, will we analyze everything? If we go to a museum, will we look at everything down to the details? My examples are perhaps a little prominent, but it explains that this book is to be read simply without taking the head, then to come back to it and hop why not analyze it more in-depth.
It is a complex but original book because it differs in the interior monologue, the absence of punctuation, etc.
Warning; the author is pretty raw!
Good luck reading this literary Everest.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
778 reviews
June 16, 2020
Reviewed in August 2012

This review is my attempt to reclaim Ulysses from the Joyce specialists and prove that it can have universal reader appeal. My edition was a simple paperback without notes or glossary but containing a preface which I intend to read after I've written my review. I'll probably look at other reviews too as, frankly, I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms from the world of this novel.

The word 'novel' seems inappropriate to describe Ulysses but at the same time, the word might have been invented specifically to describe it. Everything about it is novel, from the structure to the use of language, from the characterisation to the treatment of history.
But by ‘novel’, I don’t mean experimental in an obscure or inaccessible way, as its reputation seems to imply: I found Flan O’Brian’s At Swim-Two-Birds quite difficult to follow in a way that Ulysses is definitely not, and I’m finding Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, which I’m currently reading, much more difficult to get involved with. Ulysses was pure pleasure in comparison.

So why has this book developed such a fearsome reputation? Perhaps because we mistakenly think that to enjoy it, we need to have a thorough knowledge of the classics, including Shakespeare and Homer. The fact that I know very little about The Odyssey except that it recounts a long journey home made by Odysseus/Ulysses didn’t take from my enjoyment in the least. I’m not an expert on Hamlet either, but the little I know, and which most people probably know, was sufficient to allow me to follow the sections which refer to it. There are a few Old English phrases near the beginning that I googled but I soon decided to just let myself sink into the world of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus without further interruption.
Being able to read this without disruption is probably part of the reason I enjoyed the experience so much. When I bought my copy some fifteen years ago, I read about a third of it with great pleasure but as I had young children at the time and limited free moments, I had to give up when the reading experience became more challenging. And yes, it does become challenging in some parts, but never for very long, as if Joyce knew exactly how far he could try our patience.
As to deciphering those challenging sections, I think that one reader’s guess is as good as another’s. A big part of the pleasure for me was the puzzle element because I had plenty of time to reflect on what I was reading, time to figure out a meaning that satisfied me and also made sense of the bigger picture. And that’s what my reading without notes proved to me: there is a perfectly logical trajectory behind it all, even behind the more phantasmagorical elements. During the course of one day, Joyce reveals more and more facets of his main character, Leopold Bloom, and of the world he lived in. The characterisation of Bloom is so well done that by the end, he represents everyman, and every woman too, as well as messiahs and prophets, kings and emperors, in short all of humanity, complete with all of its goodness, and yes, some of its failings.
Of course, my interpretation may not be accurate and there may be acres of symbolism that I missed, but since I had such a satisfying read, how can that matter?
My satisfaction may have depended to some extent on the fact that I have an Irish background, but to what degree it helped me, I cannot tell. It is true that some of the material was familiar from history lessons and from general culture but at the same time, the Dublin of 1904 was a complete revelation to me. And the themes covered move quickly from the local to the universal so that a lack of knowledge of Irish life and culture shouldn’t be an impossible barrier, just a challenging one.
If you prefer exciting, stimulating, rewarding reading experiences, Ulysses might be the perfect book for you.
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
February 16, 2022

Silly little kalliope, the spirally-kalliope, who had thought about entering the Labyrinth in the past but just stood outside looking at its entrance. For years. Luckily for her, the real Kalliope, the Grand, the Muse, springing out of GR where she has been dwelling in the recent past, took pity on her and after visiting the gods of literature and seeking their acceptance, decided to assist the spirally and guide her through the imposing Labyrinth.

As the Grand Kalliope-the-Muse thought that Spirally would need further assistance once she entered the traitorous mesh, she awarded her three magic weapons: an edition with footnotes; a textual companion; and an audio version.

After religiously (strike out the word religion in Joyce) looking up every footnote, Spirally, decided after a while to forget about them. Looking at the glow-worms in the floor, even if they seemed to be illuminating the way, could also mean that Spirally would knock herself against a wall. Too much attention paid to Mr Irish1, to Mr Irish37, to Mr Irish142. Too many of them. And even if the Labyrinth exists in a particular location and in a particular time and is not a product of fantasy, too much attention paid to Dublin’s streets could make Spirally miss the right corner and enter the wrong alley and never survive the Labyrinth.

The textual companion was her safety jacket, however . It kept her afloat by giving meaning. This was the compass. Otherwise Spirally could have found herself going up and down, right and left, and as in an Escher puzzle, with no end in sight. And Spirally does not like enclosing puzzles; they are anathema to her always advancing inner spirally being.

The Audio was a blessing of the gods. The Labyrinth forms part of the spheres of sound and music, and its harmonies live in the vocal tradition. But Spirally’s ears are not tuned to its language. English is not phonetic and Spirally’s complete ignorance of Gaelic names meant that Spirally could not trust her own interior voice to unlock the right sounds, the rhymes. The Labyrinth has shifting walls and to find the right way one needs to listen to its inner reverberations and echoes. Listen to the Voice and you will Know. The voice also sculpts a high-relief out of flatness. Songs, and verses stand out and elevate themselves to the right register. With intonation. Baritones, mostly tenors, and eventually a shrilling soprano. Moments of welcomed and sonorous clarity.

So the Muse advised Spirally that the full passage would take one day, which really meant seven weeks – seven – the magic number for the Creation – but seven times slower. But at least it did not take her ten years like Ulysses.

The sixteen. One and six.

The Muse also gave Spirally the clue that she would have to find the way through eighteen chambers, and that those places had already been marked by the ‘resourceful hero’ of classical antiquity. The chambers are also grouped in complexes, with an Antechamber, the maze proper, and a welcoming Home.

Her protecting Muse also foretold her that there would be a son, and where there is a son, there must be a father – somewhere.

Having done Spirally her preparatory calisthenics with Homer, she finally enters, but is immediately baffled since she sees no Greek ruins. Optimistic, she hopes her training will bring its benefits later. There is however a Tower, and that must be the son that the Muse foretold. From the non-classical belfry she could envision vaguely the forthcoming intricate maze through which she would have to survive. At first there are no difficulties in the progress, but while still in the Antechamber, Spirally has her first taste of the dizziness that the maze could induce in her. And yet, she enjoys this protean ambiguity. Relaxing. She can let the flow take her along. Not difficult. The walls seem to become wind, or water, and the lack of definition does not prevent her from advancing. On the contrary, there is an indeterminate flow that pushes her along. Mesmerizing her.

Upon entering the intricate web, there he is, the father. The fatherly non-father. She notices the passages, and their names. She follows the broad one, Ecclesia, as welcoming as a church. There are many flowers along the way. How can they bloom with so little light? Could they serve as a way to find the way, like in Tom Thumb? As she proceeds, together with the flowers she encounters mushrooms with very wide and flat caps and make her think of the magic “nénuphars” in Boris Vian. Those mushrooms affect consciousness and it is no longer clear who is there and who is here.

Could I get dizzy if I ate the mushrooms? Is that what is making me see that the pathway has become a canal and that not only there is water, on which one could navigate, but also that it falls over the walls, forming aerial cataracts. Luckily there is a boat and I can continue until I reach a new shore and continue walking. On the floor I see a slab with the letters Inferno (has Dante been here?) I should not fall in there. I have already followed Dante and managed to get out at the other side of the Earth, propelled upwards (downwards to the antipodes). No need to try that again.

Suddenly a very strong waft of air blows me over, makes me lose my balance and had I not held strongly onto my weapons, it would have pushed me back to start all over again. It is so easy to miss a reference in this intricate web. Once recovered, I feel hungry and see that on the sides there are shelves with food. But it is all disgusting food, all bloody and fleshy, human flesh? If I survive, I may become a vegetarian. I also see a man peeing in Latin. Does this labyrinth have the shape of guts? What if I am in the guts of a large cetacean? Would that explain the water, and the winds?

I hear an inner voice. Keep talking to yourself and you will not dissolve. Language is your being. It will guide you in putting order in a timely fashion: Nebeneinander and Nacheinander. Remember your texts, all the literature in your life will give you food for thought and energy. It is all bound in Mnemosyne. Hamlet knew his Shakespeare. This is the advice from the GreatMuse, and she should know. She is poetry. She warns me also: But don’t drink, or that liquid will liquefy your mind.

OMG, OhMyMuse, there is another labyrinth within the labyrinth. And now what? At least I must be in the middle. I am entering an area in which Ulysses companions waxed their ears, but Kalliope-the-Muse has given me no wax. I will have to fugue it then, and grab onto the voices as they mix and interlace, straight and inverted, with false entries, but luckily my Audio will mark my way and will allow me to advance and to do so fast. Just as the Sirens of the cars open their way in emergencies.

But I am still far from safe. In danger, I will have to pretend I am not here, in case I encounter a Monster. But MyMuse said that there would not be any monsters, at least not those of Nationalisms and bigoted Creeds. Nonetheless, I must try to stick to the wall and make anyone think that there is NoBody here. My spirally self must flatten and become linear as much as possible.

The alleys from chamber to chamber are getting longer now. One needs more stamina before reaching another break and the end cannot be envisioned yet. But I get a respite because the walls are now getting smoother and of a lighter tint. Fit for a princess, or a nymph? And I can also see better now. And I am glad the quality of my vision is somewhat restored, for there are texts written on the walls. From the script I guess they have been written long long ago. They are in a language that I can decipher, but which stays foreign. The Audio contraption I carry helps bring these texts to life and I can hear their different harmonies even if I don’t recognize the tunes.

But although I think I am advancing there comes a point in which I despair at the difficulty in finding my way and invoke Kalliope-the-Muse to come and help me. There is a new mist and it is thick and discerning forms becomes more difficult. Was I given something to drink that has bewitched me? I remember the story in Apuleius, with his Julius who turned into an ass, or was it a pig? This makes me wonder, could I be bewitched and not know? How could I find out? There are no mirroring surfaces on these shadowy walls. May be I am experiencing the very process of metempsychosis.

But suddenly I see some light and I wonder whether I have traversed through the worse and since I have memory and there was an Antechamber, may be I am reaching the Postchamber and I would not be too far from the exit and from Home. Sweet home.

And it must be so, because I feel my legs firmer on the ground. So is my vision. Clear. As clear as a catechism in which precise questions elicit precise answers and there is no way around it. My soul feels a great deal lighter. It can touch truth.


Yes, here is the exit. Just as I stop hearing the male utterances a new one rises over the previous echoes. This sweet, mellifluous voice sings her feelings when Morpheus has silenced the past ones. Candied tone but I do not like her song. They are the words from a myth, the female that men fear. It certainly is a female voice but do I detect a male mind behind?



Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
713 reviews591 followers
February 25, 2022
22nd book of 2022.

2nd reading. Reading Ulysses again, which I didn’t imagine doing until the end of this year, but couldn’t resist starting it on its birthday, opened up many more doors within it. As well as having read Ellmann’s brilliant biography on him, too. Ithaca still makes me laugh the most, and it was Joyce’s own favourite too: I see why. I also adore Hades. Bloom’s humanity is restorative to read in the time we are living in right now. There’s something about getting to the end of the novel, 900+ pages, and realising that it’s just one day, it makes you realise the hugeness and, at the same time, smallness of life. The book is a masterpiece and it’s sad that so many people never even try it because of its reputation, which honestly taints it. There are hard bits, no doubt, but the general feeling of the novel, it’s illuminating ordinariness, completely outweighs that. And above it’s funny, funnier than Pynchon and Wallace and the postmodernists on the whole. It’s honest, funny, surprising (still!), filled with piss and semen and menstrual blood and shit, it’s filled with dirty streets and spots, drunken men, adulterers, prostitutes, but actually, it’s probably one of the best books about life ever written. Joyce once said to Djuna Barnes, ‘A writer should never write about the extraordinary. That is for the journalist.’ And yet, his writing of the ordinary is so extraordinary. Just like last time, when I put it down for the day and went out walking, I felt like I was inside Ulysses, or somehow Ulysses was outside of me, all around me. One of those books that does get close to being somewhat, somehow, life changing.


—‘Leopold was the first name of Signorina Popper’s father in Trieste; Bloom was the name of two or three families who lived in Dublin when Joyce was young.’
—Leopold Bloom was partly based off the man who would later be known as Italo Svevo.
—‘Ezra Pound, for example, insists that the purpose of using the Odyssey is merely structural, to give solidity to a relatively plotless work. But for Joyce the counterpoint was important because it revealed something about Bloom, about Homer, and about existence.’
—Asked why he entitled his book Ulysses, Joyce replied, ‘It is my system of working.’’
—‘The theme of Ulysses is simple, and Joyce achieves it through the characters of Bloom, Molly, and Stephen. Casual kindness overcomes unconscionable power.’
—‘In later life Carr, who loathed the sight of Joyce, told his wife unconcernedly that Joyce had presented him as a bullying villain in Ulysses.’
—‘He worked 1,000 hours by his own calculation on the episode [Oxen and the Sun].’
—After finishing Circe he commented, ‘‘I think it is the strongest thing I have written.’’
—But ‘then he hurried on to Ithaca, which he described to Miss Weaver as my ‘last (and stormiest) cape,’ ‘the ugly duckling of the book and therefore, I suppose, my favourite.’’
—‘Perhaps I have tried to do too much in this book,’ he worried.’
—Jacques Benoist-Méchin, who was translating Ulysses, actually came up with the final word. It ended with ‘I will’ and Benoist-Méchin said it should be ‘Yes’. They argued for hours until Joyce said, ‘‘Yes, you’re right. The book must end with yes. It must end with the most positive word in the human language.’’
—‘‘If Ulysses isn’t fit to read,’ Joyce replied, ‘life isn’t fit to live.’’
—‘Joyce announced proudly that the unused notes [of Ulysses] weighed twelve kilos.
—'When a young man came up to him and Zurich and said, 'May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses?' Joyce replied, somewhat like King Lear, 'No, it did lots of other things too.’’

1st reading, 2019. Now, I have a lot to say. Firstly, my reading of this book has been a secret. I say secret like anyone cared anyway. I didn’t take it out with me, I didn’t put it on Goodreads and I told none of my reader friends. I read it in bed late into the night and early in the morning.

I actually started Ulysses to get over heartbreak. I read in a book once about a man who had his heart broken so he translated the whole of Don Quixote to take his mind off things. As a four year relationship of mine ended and I suddenly felt like I was floating in a limbo with all this free time and sudden loneliness. So, on the 31st August, I picked up the hardest and most intimidating thing on my bookcase simply to occupy me, like translating Don Quixote. I had no intention or idea that I would ever finish it – especially not a month later, today, on the 1st October. It’s a shame September doesn’t have 31 days so it could have been the 31st to the 31st of the following month but 31st to the 1st still has a nice ring, I guess.

Before I talk about the book itself, I want to say one more thing. During my time at University, I, partly jokingly and partly not, hated on James Joyce. I read Dubliners and didn’t get along with it. My housemate started Ulysses so it became a joke between us to hate on it, and Joyce. It was the usual. God, he’s so arrogant! Who would even read it! It’s not even a novel! You can imagine us, in our early twenties, bumming around our student home, talking badly about Joyce. It’s where Martin Amis went wrong, being too young and talking badly about some literary greats. Some people hold their beliefs about Joyce though, there are some horribly negative (funnily so) reviews on Goodreads for this book. I’ve read them many times, before even reading the first page. We all know the most famous one: Life’s just too damn short to read Ulysses.

You can imagine my surprise then, as the pages were disappearing behind me and I wasn’t despising the book, not at all, I was enjoying it. There was a time near the beginning when I considered dropping it. There’s so many other things I want to read, what’s the point in sticking to this? I only picked it up in an emotional low, I didn’t really mean it. But then I thought, no, I’ve picked it up. Let’s see where this goes. Halfway through I was thinking, I want to try and get it done before Christmas. And then the pages kept flashing by. I began enjoying it more and more. Until, I read over one hundred pages yesterday and finished it in bed this morning.

My first thought on finishing? I want to go back and read the whole thing again. On reflection, all the most wildest images and scenes are returning to me? It’s like coming out of a stupor; it’s strange reading about one day in Dublin over a whole month of your life. So much happened to me and the characters were reflecting on things I read two weeks ago, but it was only their morning. I bring back the image of Buck Mulligan shaving in the beginning, or picking noses on the beach, or masturbating on the beach, or fireworks, lame legs, men becoming women and giving birth to eight children, dead mothers bursting in manifestation, Stephen getting knocked out in the street, the wandering rocks, the citizen, the phonetic sounds in the beginning of the Sirens… In other words, utter madness. But in all that madness (and me researching alongside the madness to check I’ve understood the madness) the strangest clarity. The strangest sense of understanding without possibly, truly understanding.

I recently had a poetry lecture by a lecturer well loved who comes out with the best lines and explanations, you can’t help but write them down. He said (on poetry):

“No one asks what classical music means, they just let it happen. People seem to think that they need to beat a confession out of a poem and if it doesn’t confess, it’s a bad poem. I would say to that, you’re just a bad torturer, and a bad reader.”

Partly, I think this is applicable to Ulysses. Of course, I’m not saying that if you don’t understand it or don’t read it or dislike it you’re a bad reader. But for me, the madness of Ulysses can sometimes be felt or perceived rather than wholly understood. I didn’t understand every single word, far from it, but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book, following the plot and the feelings of the characters. I’ve spent a long time saying many things about Joyce and I take a lot of them back, not all of them, but a lot of them. There’s no denying this novel is one of the greatest things ever written. As an aspiring writer it’s opened a million doorways in one novel about what’s possible. How did this come out of Joyce’s brain? How is this even possible? It seems extraordinary to look at the book now and know what it contains between it’s pages. It’s uncanny. A script within a novel? A question and answer during a novel? Bursting into the dreams and the subconscious of characters, a chapter with no punctuation, and all those made-up words. It is, really, a masterpiece. And if you know me, it’s surprising that I would say that. My favourite two episodes by far were Circe and Ithaca. The book gets considerably both harder and more enjoyable towards the end. Some chapters I didn’t care for as much, but that’s the same with all books, right?

So, I haven’t given it five stars because it’s Ulysses. I’ve given it five stars because it is a feat, whether you like it or not. It��s one of the most ambitious things I’ve ever read and Joyce created this, came up this, made this world, this single day, out of only words. It also shows me the power of words, that literally anything is possible. Maybe, only if you’re as smart as Joyce though.

To those who want to read it, I would say just try. Let your mind open its pores and let Ulysses in. It’s worth it. It's mad and funny and powerful and original and it has changed my writing too. I now understand how Ulysses has changed the world of novels forever. I just want the whole thing to start over from the beginning. And two months ago I could never imagine reading more than ten pages of it. Ulysses is a masterpiece. Joyce, I’m sorry about what I’ve said in the past. I was wrong. And that’s something I never admit to being: wrong.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,861 reviews519 followers
August 13, 2022
I remain perplexed after reading this. I never really managed to flow into the story and get into the book. Moreover, I also noted that I had the impression of having lost something with this new translation for specific passages which I knew from the old translation.
Suddenly, I am quite unable to say what, in this book, prevented me from adhering to it as the supposed quality of this work supposed: lack of culture on my part? The new translation is too pompous and loses the original novel's artistry. Overestimation of a job in the end not so essential? Too much expectation on my part given the dithyrambs that flourish here and there in this novel?
I am at a loss to determine the primordial element of my feelings; only one thing is sure; this novel disappointed me.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,023 reviews4,068 followers
August 17, 2012
First, about the haste. This book is a page-turner. Forget Stephen King. Joyce is the man you read in bed, furiously tongue-fingering the pages to see what seminal modernist technique he invents, masters, inverts, spins on its head like a circus freak with a whirligig in his bonce. The first five episodes set the pace perfectly, setting the reader up for the all-singing all-dancing feats of outrageous showboating that follow in the remaining thirteen chapters, each adding a few Jenga blocks to the superseding chapters to challenge the reader and keep her on her toes. Look, Joyce loves his reader! He’s the most unpatronising author this side of L.L. Cool J.! Joyce believes in you. He believes everyone has the capacity within them to crack his boggling Enigma code, and if that isn’t some heartwarming Sunday school moral, what is? So what if Joyce was wrong and every reader would need The New Bloomsday Book merely to scratch the surface of this amorphous, expanding superbrain of a book? Ulysses is an infinite novel. Unlike Finnegans Wake, where every attempt at some semblance of lucidity and meaning falls flat—the book a distant satellite fated to drift forever in space—Ulysses is an infinitely re-readable supernova of emotional and intellectual replenishment. Pure aesthetic pleasure. Everything that followed Ulysses expanded, plundered and rehashed Ulysses. It was the end and beginning of literature. If you like any books at all, anything post-Ulysses, you’re an ideal candidate to read Ulysses. It will break your heart, and your brain. End of.
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,585 followers
February 16, 2018

Some works are not written; they are lived. The authors write not with ink, but with breaths. Every breath that finds its way in, sucks in a piece of the world and releases it into the author’s being, letting it permeate, gauge, prod, absorb and contemplate, and packages it like a farewell gift onto the back of the breath being puffed out. And since the saga of this breath-taking game continues for a few years till the red starts blinking, we get a work that resembles distilled crystals, found at the end of a purification process of worldly chemicals.

Fuelled by my love for Stephen , when I instinctively picked up Ulysses to read last year, I knew I was entering a labyrinth of diverse and encrypted observations, thanks to its inescapably cult reputation. I was aware I won’t understand half of it. And I felt okay to be in that space.

Ulysses, in simple terms, is an account of events of a single day in the lives of two Irish men, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, in Dublin. They go out of their respective homes, go to work, meet a couple of friends and acquaintances, have normal and heated conversations over food and drinks, run into each other at a library, discuss some more ideas and opinions, bond and disengage, and say goodnight before going back to their respective dens.

That’s pretty much the story, yes. But it’s Ulysses, right? And so it comes with its huge Andromeda of caveats. Within its seven letters, it held seven worlds and I was, unintentionally I assure, captured into its throes for seven months. This intimidating text often tames the ambition of a reader I had heard, sometimes right in the beginning, and occasionally, mid-way, of reading it in full. And the trepidation wasn’t without reason.

Do we ever wonder about the answer we must truthfully give should someone ask the question, ‘What are you doing now?’ We are asked this atleast a dozen times in a day and mostly, we zero in on one activity, at the most, two and sometimes, none. But incidentally, the mind registers much more than one thing at a time. I am writing this review but I also heard the beep that my phone, kept next to my keyboard, made a second back. Oh, and I am also recording the movement of the person who is loitering by the door through the corner of my eye. A certain subdued chatter, emanating from the adjacent wing is also not going uncaught and so is the phone ring that is singing its soft bellow outside the corridor, in some random cabin. You see, my mind is going back and forth among all these activities and I am thinking of all of them at once, perhaps with a millisecond’s gap: who is messaging me (and what does he/she want), who is loitering around (and who is he waiting for, and what color is that shirt), what agenda is the group chattering about (and does that concern me in any way), where is that phone ringing (and why is no one answering). Mostly, the questions are inconsequential to me but not to my observations. The latter feeds on this scattered field of food and hungrily gobbles them up to keep its health in pink. These uncertainties in answers are, after all, the gaps within which, new meanings are born, every minute.

The beauty of this work lies in this very premise: intricately overlapping thoughts that run within the minds of these two men over a canvas as vast as your imagination. Joyce must have been an avid reader and an even keener learner for the references one stumbles upon, stretch geographical boundaries, political systems, societal norms and religious beliefs. While the literature flavors swell into nostrils with Blake, Milton, Shakespeare, Swift, Dante, Aristotle and Poe concocting a rich broth, the linguistic sprinkling of Latin, French, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek and Italian jewels encrust the prudent mayhem. Algebra is summoned in a conversation and dispatched to an opera; sandwich is anointed as the hero of an Irish mythological meal. Coffee finds intense scrutiny over a discarded table top but adultery walks away like a dignified head of state. Since thoughts defy chains, words do too and all the structural nomenclature and conventional meanings are shown the door. So, no good becomes n.g and bartender is rechristened aproned curator.

This voluminous work is made light by the collective effort of literary levers as all of them sashay in a bedazzling appearance beneath the core film: conversations, vignettes, reflections, satire, parody, lyricism, hallucinations, catechism, theatrical enactment, humor, allusions and aphorisms make hay while the sun shines and night whistles. The only mainstream narrative style I didn’t find was the epistolary route.

Reading this was like undertaking water-skiing. The balance was slippery and the grasp, minimal. But one glimpse of the blue sea and all fears folded in its hues. And that occasional zenith one suddenly finds herself at, courtesy a huge, giant leap of cognition, is worth all the chugging along through choppy waters. I felt those incredible apogees at Oxen of the Sun (Chapter 14) and Ithaca (Chapter 17). But is there a way to read it? I am not very sure. But if my experience helps in any way, I am happy to share it under the spoiler :)

Ulysses, on the surface, appears to have been written in an urgency. Upon reading it though, slowly, sipping a mug of coffee at every 20th page, I realized the urgency was a façade; all Joyce wished to do was talk. Talk because he was compelled to; compelled by the stunning sprouts of life and death around him, compelled by the inundating significance of routine and triviality engulfing him. Even while I suffered a string of failures in grasping the entirety of his revelations dripping from each page of this epic, I reveled in the overwhelming gusts of illuminating thoughts that shielded me from the maelstroms of ignorance.

And yes... Happy Birthday, Sir Joyce.



Also on my blog.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,382 followers
November 14, 2022
You shouldn't read this. Almost no one should read this. People get mad when I say that. (Some people. Almost no one actually.) They think I'm dissing the book and I'm not, or at least not at that moment, although I don't particularly like it and I'm going to dis it soon. I'm not saying it's not a brilliant book though. If nothing else, it's definitely a brilliant book. I'm just saying almost no one should read it.

The reason is that it's the most difficult book in the canon: it's the K2 of literature. And should everyone go climbing K2, just because it's a very good mountain? No, almost no one should because they haven't trained for it and they're going to die. Almost no one should climb K2 and almost no one should read Ulysses. You haven't trained for it and it's going to kill you.

What it's going to do is it's going to annoy you to death. It's not like it's boring - it's not boring, really, except for episodes ten and fourteen - but it's annoying. It's 800 pages of trying to figure out what's happening. It's the most difficult book that we all agree is brilliant. Everyone knows about Ulysses. It's a taunt, a boogeyman, a trophy. Look, I read a lot of books myself, and I barely staggered through this and understood very little of it.

And given that almost no one should read it and almost everyone who has feels about it the same way they feel about the time they ate a fried spider on a dare, it's easy to find yourself reviewing not the book, but the fact that the book exists.

Because we have opinions about the fact of the book, right? Why must Joyce write an 800-page stream-of-consciousness masterpiece in which it's very hard to figure out what's going on and when you do figure it out it's probably farting? Why must people continue to call it a masterpiece? Is everyone just being assholes?

Is it rewarding? Yeah, sure, I guess so. You won't forget it, anyway. Leopold Bloom, in his pathetic everyman interior optimistic life, feels like no one else in literature. And the feel of the words themselves, their collisions into each other and their abrupt abdications, is entirely unique.

Will you like it? No, probably not. Some people do. Most people don't. I didn't, not really. I like having read it more than I liked reading it.

But Ulysses is a rare thing: it's a book that doesn't need to be liked. It's not even really about being "liked". It has something else in mind.

Virginia Woolf famously called Ulysses the work of "a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples," but she also said of it, "If we want life itself, here surely we have it." It was a clear influence on Mrs. Dalloway, but she "invites the suspicion that she is awkwardly straining to rationalize an aversion that she cannot justify by logical means," and I bring this up in order to point out that a super smart lady feels the same way I do and therefore I'm right or at least not definitely wrong.

Because here's my problem with Ulysses: my problem is James Joyce. I don't like him. I don't like his style, I don't like his sense of humor, I don't like his kinks or his kidneys, and I really don't like his bear-on-a-tricycle tricks. There's a new gimmick for every chapter in here. One contains a parody of every style of literature Joyce knows, which isn't as much fun as it sounds. Another is written as the Rabelaisian answers to a series of 309 questions. I don't like it.

And that's okay, right? Authors are just people. You get to know them, not necessarily through their characters but through their books. Sometimes you don't like them. It's okay if you like James Joyce and I don't; people are like that. Joyce isn't the easiest guy to like compared to, say, Judy Blume, the most likable author I can think of...but you might.

(So Joyce is not Leopold Bloom. I'm not sure if he's Stephen Dedalus; to be honest, I didn't feel I got to know Dedalus very well. But the kinks and the farts...those are all Joyce, my friend, make no mistake.)

When Woolf called this "life itself", what she meant was that thing modernists were trying to create in the early 1900s (or trying to catch up to Tristram Shandy on, anyway): the interior process of living. Your inside voice, the unfiltered id. And Joyce has done it as well as anyone has; that's one of the reasons Bloom is so memorable. You know him on a level you don't know anyone else in literature, or really in life either; it's a level of direct access that you only otherwise get with weird dudes on the subway.

And one of the things about that level of access is that I think it necessarily comes with a certain amount of farting. I mean that I'm earthier inside my head than I generally let on. The weird sex stuff, the awareness of my body's prosaic functioning - this is, actually, how my brain is too. Woolf and I find Joyce's frankness distasteful; in fact, we find it shocking, which is a funny feeling for me. But it's true, so maybe its shock says more about us than Joyce.

Or, maybe turning into a lady and getting fisted is just super weird even for me and Virginia. We're all gross, but Joyce is gross in a specific way that's not mine, and we're back to I don't care for him.

One of the recurring themes of Ulysses is how poorly we know each other. Bloom spends the book trying desperately to explain who he thinks he is to everyone around him. And everyone, from Dedalus on to Gertie, the young lady whose upskirt he whacks off to in the park, disagrees with him about who he is. In fact Bloom isn't who he likes to think he is either; he's some combination of his and others' perceptions of him, and Joyce does a lovely job of showing us how that all works. And in the climactic almost-twist-ending we find out that

So in his creation of a person whom we know, from every angle and from the inside all the way out, Joyce has done something that was entirely revolutionary at the time, which is still shocking today, and which to my knowledge has still not been matched. So. Five stars not for the book but for the fact of the book. Five stars for life itself, because we do want it, even if we don't always like it, and here - surely - we have it.
Profile Image for ArturoBelano.
99 reviews287 followers
January 6, 2020
İnsan dünyada tek bir gün geçirse bile, hapishanede ona bir ömür yetecek kadar anı biriktirir.” Yabancı

Açılın Ulysses’i övmeye geldim! Yazıldığı günden bu yana hakkında belki de Kutsal kitaplar kadar çok konuşulmuş, kurcalanmış, koca bir külliyat oluşmuş bu eser daha ne kadar övülebilir, üstüne ne söylenebilir bilmemekle birlikte kendi okuma deneyimimden yola çıkarak birkaç kelam etmek isterim.

Ulysses’i biri sözlük eşliğinde, biri de destek almaksızın iki sefer okudum, ara sıra da herhangi bir sayfasını açıp kendimi kitabın ritmine kaptırdığım çok oluyor. Bu yanıyla eser benim için bitmiş değil, her yeni okumamda yeni tatlar, güzellikler keşfetmeye devam ediyorum. Joyce’un arzuladığı aktif okura ya da Faulkner’in "Ulysses’e baptist bir vaazin kitab-ı mukaddese yaklaştığı gibi yaklaşın," önerilerinin ne kadar hakkını verdiğim muamma, çabalarım devam ediyor.

Gelelim bu yorumun temel dertlerinden birine. Bu kitabın etrafında 90 yıldır öyle bir hâle oluşturulduki metne yaklaşan herkes en baştan eser karşısında maça 1-0 yenik başlıyor. Her yerde karşısına çıkan “dünyanın en zor, en anlaşılmaz metni, göndermelerinin altında yolunu kaybediyorsun, zaten yazar da anlaşılmamak için yazmış," yorumlarının ön bilgisi ile kitaba yaklaşan okur “ee zaten anlaşılcak bir şey yokmuş” diyerek metinle arasına mesafe koyuyor ya sıkılarak bırakıyor ya sıkılarak bitiriyor. Oysa Ulysses ne anlaşılmayacak bir metin ne abartıldığı kadar zor, ne de anlamdan azade. Eser ilk yayınlandığında müstehcen diye İngiltere ve Amerika’da 12 yıl basılmıyor, bugün bu esere müstehcen diyenimiz var mı? Anlaşılmama hususuna da böyle bakmak lazım. Virgina Woolf ilk okuduğunda günlüğüne şöyle bir not düşüyor “sanırım eser tek bir günde geçiyor." Bugün ise bunu bilmek için eseri okumaya bile gerek yok. Demek istediğim şu; anlaşılmama mevzusu ilk başta anlaşılır olsa da bugün için karşımızda yapılan yüzlerce çalışma, didiklenme, ıcığı cıcığına çıkarılması ile önümüze çırılçıplak serilmiş ( Kim olduğu hala tartışılan Macinthos yağmurluklu adam hariç) bir eser var. Ha ben emek harcamam okur geçerim diyorsanız saygı duyarım ama böyle yapıp “ya anlaşılmıyor işte” derseniz çok kızarım.

Ulysses’e başlamak ve anlayarak okumak için uygun anı bekleyen okura öyle bir an gelmeyeceğini söylemek ister ve uygun andan öte Ulysses için evveliyatında doğru okumalar yapmasını öneririm. Bu okumalar bile başta yetersiz kalacaktır zira bütünlüğü ile o kültüre hakim olamayız ancak bu okumalar bizi metne daha da yaklaştıracaktır. Öncelikle Joyce’dan Dublinliler ve Sanatçının Genç Bir Adam Olarak Portresi okunmalı. Böylelikle hem Joyce’un dili ve dertleriyle tanışılır hem de Dublinliler’deki karakterler eserde yan karakter, Portredeki Dedalus ise baş karakterlerden biri olarak karşımıza çıkacaklar. Shakespeare’in Hamlet’ini okumakta fena olmaz bence. Ancak okunması olmazsa olmaz metin Homeros’un Odysseia’sıdır ki bildiğiniz üzere Ulysses kelimesi Odysseia’nın İngilizce yazılış şeklidir. Joyce elini baştan aç��k oynamış ve bu eser ile Odysseia arasındaki ilişkiyi vurgulamıştır. Kitabın sonuna geldiği günlerde arkadaşı Stuart Gilbert’e Ulysses’i anlamada yardımcı olacak Ulysses- Odysseia paralellikler tablosu vermiştir.Bugün Gilbert şeması olarak anılan bu tabloyu internette bulmak mümkün ve bu tablo üzerinden kitabı okumak faydalı olur diye düşünüyorum. Nevzat Erkmen’in Ulysses sözlüğü ilk okumada elinizin altında olursa işinize çok yarayacaktır. Zaten İngilizce biliyorsanız külliyat derya deniz, adama zorla öğretiyorlar anlaşılmaz denilenleri.

16 Haziran 1904 (eşi Nora ile ilk randevu tarihleri) Dublin’inde geçen bu modern edebiyatın ilk ve en büyük “destan”ına arka plan olarak Homer’ın Odysseia ‘sını yerleştirken Joyce’un derdi ne Homer’a ne de onun büyük tanrılarına saygı duruşunda bulunmak değil elbette. Homeros’un tanrıları ve büyük dertleri olan kraliyet fertlerini ( Odysseus-Telekhamon- Penolepeia) Joyce; Bloom-Stephan Dedalus-Molly’e çevirirken kutsadığı ve destanlaştırdığı şey küçük insanların sıradan günlük yaşamlarıdır. Ulysses somurtkan ve ciddi okuru (allasen biri de bu kitabı çok matrak diye övsün diye dert yakınır Joyce) üzecek kadar gündelik yaşamın dertleri ve zevklerine boğulmuş bir kitaptır. Anlam noktasındaki sıkıntılardan biri de bu bence. Evet edebiyatta sıradan insan ilk kez anlatılmıyor ancak ilk kez sıradan dertleri, tasaları, monotonlukları ve düşündükleri ile birlikte anlatılıyor. Bu yanıyla anlam bekleyen okura Joyce sanki kutsadığı gündelik rutinin dışında ve üstünde bir anlam olmadığını söylemek istiyor gibidir, anlamsız değil anlam olanın kendisi ve düşündürdüğüdür. Ulusal destanların temel işlevlerinden biri o ulusa bir kimlik, kişilik, bir ahlak biçmesi ise Joyce’da iki efendiye (Katolik kilisesi ve İngiliz krallığı) hizmetçi İrlanda’nın basit insanlarına o eşsiz, kimselere benzemez üslubuyla bir şey anlatmanın derdindedir. Bir İrlanda destanı olan bu kitabın baş karakterleri Bloom ve Molly’nin İrlanda’lı olmaması, hatta Bloom’un başına iş açan Yahudi kimliği ( yurttaş Abe’nin gözünde kurnaz, içten pazarlıkçı, orta yolcu ve şıngırdak fein’in gizli kurucusu) bile soykırıma 20 kala çok şey söylemektedir.

Joyce bir yerde serzenişle “ komünistler beni niye sevmiyor bilmiyorum, oysa ben her zaman küçük insanları anlattım” derken haklıdır. O İrlanda’nın küçük insanlarını kücük dertleri ile sokakta, meyhanede, cenazede, kilisede, genelevde, gazete büroları, kütüphaneler ve hastanelerde eyler ve bol bol düşünürken bir gün içinde anlatır. Kitabın zorluklarından biri de İrlanda’nın bu bir günüdür. Kitabı anlamak için bu günü, çelişkilerini ve joyce’un konumlanışını bilmek faydalı olur. 16 Haziran 1904 gününün Dublin’i politik( bağımzılık yanlıları ve İngiliz muhipleri), ekonomik ( yoksul köylüler ve geri alt orta sınıf ile aristokrasiden nemalananlar) ve mezhepsel( Katolik-protestan ) olarak ikiye bölünmüş bir topluluktur. Joyce politik bağımsızlık yanlısı bir ortamda büyümüş ancak bağımsızlık yanlısı hareketin lideri Parnell ihanete uğrayınca siyasete olan ilgisi öfkeye dönüşmüştür. Ulysses’in geçtiği Dublin sokakları 1916 yılında Connoly önderliğinde Paskalya ayaklanması ile sarsılmış, İngiltere tarafından kana bulanmıştır. Kitapın her bölümünde bu yoğun atmosferin etkisi hissedilmektedir, İngilizler yerilirken öze dönmeci Kelt miti ile de dalga geçilmektedir. Bu döneme dair az biraz bilgi metni daha anlaşılır kılacaktır. Elbette her gönderme ya da her muhabbeti anlamak zorunda değiliz, bunlar olmadan da keyif alabilirsiniz okumadan. Yeter ki gözünüz korkmadan ve o ukala dümbeleklerin yarattığı haleye teslim olmadan yaklaşın esere.

Joyce, kullandığı anlatım teknikleri, üslubu, tanrı anlatıcıyı dışarıda bırakan, anlatıcıyı belirsizleştiren ve hatta iç içe geçiren ve kurduğu yapı ile roman biçiminin sınırlarını sonuna kadar zorlamış ve bunu yaparak gözümüzün önünde akan gündelik rutinin monotonluğunda sıradışılığı ortaya çıkarmıştır, hepimizin hayatı bir roman olmasa da Ulysses’de bir yan karakter olabilirmiş mesala. Sırf bu nedenle bile seviyorum bu romanı. Basit hayatlarımızdaki değeri anlatan ve Molly’nin “Evet isterim evet”i ile tüm yanlışları ile hayatı kucaklayan Ulysses’i bugün kitlesel kıyımların sayılara indirdiği milyonlarla yoksul ölü, 2 dünya ve yüzlerce bölgesel savaş sonrası ve sırasında okumak ve yeniden okumak lazım, Ulu, yüce ve tanrılar diyarından bizi ve hayatımızı aşağılayanların suratlarına biz buradayız ve değerliyiz demek için.

Bir de popüler kültür ve kolpa edebiyat dergileri sayesinde Oğuz Atay çılgınlığına kapılan Türkiye’li okur Tutunamayanlar’da gördükleri anlatım biçimi, noktasız virgülsüz bölüm ve diğer bir çok şey için bir Ulysses’e baksın. Oğuz Atay’ı en çok etkileyen ve kitabında etkileri en bariz olan Ulysses’i ve Nabokov’un Solgun Ateş’ini okumayan bir zahmet Oğuz Atay seviyorum diye gezmesin ortalıkta ya da gezsin canım bana ne oluyor ki!
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May 31, 2022
It's impossible to speak generally about a book that I love so much, so I decided to collect some half-baked thoughts on each chapter. Here goes:

1. Telemachus
"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan" ... "the scrotumtightening sea" ... the old milk-woman ... The strange, vivid, meandering language of this chapter is basically etched in my brain from all my earlier failed attempts to read Ulysses when I was younger. I would always get exhausted by trying (and failing) to understand every detail. Finally I stopped doing that and just read it. The style of this chapter is what I think of as the quintessential "Joycean" style. I can see why people get discouraged early on, because Mulligan as a character is quite irritating.

2. Nestor
Unlike chapter 1, this chapter feels like we are picking up where A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man left off. There's something warm and fuzzy about seeing Stephen back in the schoolroom, but this time as the teacher.

3. Proteus
This is probably the archetypal "stream of consciousness" chapter, punctuated with those amazing brief flashes of thought ("Paris rawly waking, crude sunlight on her lemon streets") that thrill you with a potent image and dissolve away. We are clearly in the mind of someone extremely erudite and a little solipsistic. But I think the real genius of Joyce here is that he (literally) keeps Stephen's feet on the ground, bringing us back now and then to the plodding of his boots in the sand.

4. Calypso
Leopold Bloom is the cutest character ever! I am sorry but he is adorable. Stephen (as the avatar of the younger Joyce) has to be all cerebral and brooding and Hamlet-esque, but Bloom is just wonderfully curious and open-minded and full of funny little ideas. It is in Bloom that Joyce shows the full depth and breadth of his humanity and empathy. Through bumbling Bloom, this book becomes so much more than than what Portrait was—more than a piece of formal innovation or a Novel of Ideas, but a real breathing piece of vulnerable life.

5. Lotus Eaters
More introduction to Bloom, kind of a counterpoint to Proteus. Would be interesting to count the parallels between them (lemon houses, lemon soap, etc.). But of course there are images and echoes like this that pop up everywhere. The connection to The Odyssey in "Lotus Eaters" seems pretty tenuous.

6. Hades
It's James Joyce ruminating on death so of course it's brilliant. The mysterious man in the mackintosh is such a lovely detail. Notice how Joyce is teasing us by having Stephen and Bloom almost meeting but not quite. Ulysses is not exactly a plot-driven page-turner, but there is a kind of narrative tension that comes from our curiosity about when the two main characters will finally meet (this, of course, comes from the Odyssey as well). Bloom and his wandering mind continue to be adorable. Wonderful how Joyce, a Catholic, describes Bloom, a Jew, observing the Catholic church service.

7. Aeolus
Probably the most dated chapter in the book, based on a layout parodying newspapers of the time. A lot of this went over my head.

8. Lestrygonians
Joyce once again proves his chops (get it?) with a masterful evocation of hunger and eating.

9. Scylla and Charybdis
Stephen seems to be trolling everybody with his weird Shakespeare theory. Reminds me of the later parts of Portrait, and I guess this could be seen as the logical continuation of that novel, which started with baby-talk and became increasingly more linguistically sophisticated. Here we reach dizzying heights of pun and wordplay—but I think even Joyce is acknowledging that, in the end, this kind of bookish repartee is a bit hollow.

10. Wandering Rocks
Joyce flexing with a bunch of mini streams of consciousness. Amazingly detailed. People talk about Ulysses as though it's a novel all about Dublin as a city, but only a few chapters seem that way to me, and this is one of them.

11. Sirens
In this chapter, which is all about music, rhythm and sound eventually overtake sense, and as a result this is, in my opinion, the most difficult chapter in the whole book. I wonder if it should be read aloud—listened to, rather than read.

12. Cyclops
Bloom's famous encounter with "The Citizen". Joyce seems to be parodying the various irritating men one may find in an Irish pub. He is at his caustic best when lampooning the arrogant nationalists. Unfortunately, like a boorish drunkard in a pub, this chapter drags a bit. I also don't understand why Joyce seems to go back and forth between colloquial/pub language to highfalutin epic-style language. I suppose it's about the way people boast and pontificate in drinking establishments. Still entertaining, and Bloom emerges as the only truly heroic one there.

13. Nausicaa
James Joyce describes an orgasm. Amazing.

14. Oxen of the Sun
This is simply one of the most accomplished, ingenious, dazzling pieces of writing of all time. Just incredibly clever. Joyce parodying the entire history of English literature is the biggest flex ever, and the way he interweaves it with the gestation and birth, the men going from the hospital to the pub and talking a lot of nonsense, and Stephen and Bloom finally meeting. And it's kind of funny how even when parodying other writers, Joyce still sounds Joycean.

15. Circe
This is where everything goes apeshit and departs entirely from reality. Even today, almost exactly 100 years later, this still seems transgressively modern and original. Bloom's subconscious comes spewing out of these pages in a carnivalesque fever dream of characters and surreal images. The nagging guilts and regrets and insecurities that various characters have stifled over the course of the novel finally take center stage, and Bloom (poor Bloom!) becomes the scapegoat for all Ireland's wrongs. The first time I read this I was not at all ready for the ending of this chapter. After all that ridiculousness, it comes out of nowhere. A real gut-punch. I cried!

16. Eumaeus
I have to admit I just don't get this chapter. It seems to be deliberately very badly written. I wonder if maybe, consistent with its themes of mistaken identity, Joyce was trying to write in a style as different as possible from his own? Worst chapter.

17. Ithaca
Probably my favourite chapter in the novel. There are just so many beautiful passages, like the one about "what Bloom liked about water" or whatever it is (can't find it now). Also, after such a long build-up, this is the real moment of bonding between Stephen and Bloom, which is what this book is all about. People will disagree, but I really believe that's what it's about—human connection, empathy, the ability of one brain (one stream of consciousness) to relate to and identify with another. There's a great quote:

"each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity."

18. Penelope
At the last minute Joyce (kind of) makes up for the glaring absence of female subjectivity from the rest of the novel, with Molly Bloom's hypnotic, half-asleep monologue. It is a pitch-perfect way to end this novel, giving Molly the last word. And the language is of course stunning. There are a few dregs of misogyny here but I think Joyce's heart was in the right place. Again, human empathy, relating to the thoughts of others, seems to me to be the whole point.

Basically Ulysses is a novel that puts things into perspective. This is what literature is supposed to do. It is the first and greatest novel that honestly takes as its object "the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past". It reminds us that there is richness and complexity and beauty and ugliness within us and surrounding us at every moment. And rather than just saying that in a stylish way, as many other writers would have done (and still do 100 years later), Joyce actually set out to demonstrate it, to literally prove it, to change the very form of the novel itself in order to do it, scrupulously observing and recording the minutiae of the fleeting thoughts of one or two minds, on one day, 16 June 1904. And not only that, but he structures it all on Homer's Odyssey!
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