James Joyce - Blind Date With Bloomsday



20110612 (BBC7)
20140215 (BBC7)

Much quoted but arguably little read, James Joyce's Ulysses is a Modernist classic. Set on June 16th 1904, the author cannily assigned his novel its own annual feast day. Peter White travelled to Dublin on Bloomsday last year to meet the celebrants who enthusiastically enact sections of the book.

Among them - resplendent in boater and blazer - is Irish Senator David Norris, a founder of Dublin's Joyce Centre, explaining how an apparently random string of consonants precisely captures the sound of a breaking wave. But there's also the writer and Irish Times journalist John Waters who's courageous enough to confess that he's only ever managed to get as far as page 35 of Ulysses. "It's more important to Irish tourism", he says, "than to readers".

What Peter White realises is that whilst the text of Ulysses might be dense and difficult on the page, it is in fact perfectly suited to the ear, as radio - filled with gleeful linguistic tricks, puns and jokes and stream of consciousness bawdiness.

Having read Ulysses in Braille, Peter finds out that Joyce was long troubled by eye problems, and that the author's eyesight worsened considerably whilst writing the book when exiled in Zurich. As a blind man himself, Peter is interested to hear how Joyce uses blindness and myopia to great symbolic effect in his work - evoking the whole of Dublin society by emphasising all the senses - sound, touch and smell as much as sight.

Producer Mark Smalley.