Today was Bloomsday, by the way.
June 16, 1904: the day when James Joyce met Nora Barnacle, sauntering down a street in Dublin’s fair city.
The day he made into the day of Ulysses, the unsurpassed work of fiction of the twentieth century.
But how many of you know that one of the great themes of Ulysses is prejudice and Jew-hatred? Leopold Bloom, the hero of Bloomsday, is a Jew.
Here is Joyce reading a selection from Ulysses, followed by a transcript.
—Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: Great was my admiration in listening to the remarks addressed to the youth of Ireland a moment since by my learned friend. It seemed to me that I had been transported into a country far away from this country, into an age remote from this age, that I stood in ancient Egypt and that I was listening to the speech of some highpriest of that land addressed to the youthful Moses.
His listeners held their cigarettes poised to hear, their smokes ascending, frail stalks that flowered with his speech. And let our crooked smokes. Noble words coming. Look out. Could you try your hand at it yourself?
—And it seemed to me that I heard the voice of that Egyptian highpriest raised in a tone of like haughtiness and like pride. I heard his words and their meaning was revealed to me.
FROM THE FATHERS
It was revealed to me that those things are good which yet are corrupted which neither if they were supremely good nor unless they were good could be corrupted. Ah, curse you! That’s saint Augustine.
—Why will you Jews not accept our culture, our religion and our language? You are a tribe of nomad herdsmen: we are a mighty people. You have no cities nor no wealth: our cities are hives of humanity and our galleys, trireme and quadrireme, laden with all manner merchandise, furrow the waters of the known globe. You have but emerged from primitive conditions: we have a literature, a priesthood, an agelong history and a polity.
Child, man, effigy.
By the Nilebank the babemaries kneel, cradle of bulrushes: a man supple in combat: stonehorned, stonebearded, heart of stone.
—You pray to a local and obscure idol: our temples, majestic and mysterious, are the abodes of Isis and Osiris, of Horus and Ammon Ra. Yours serfdom, awe and humbleness: ours thunder and the seas. Israel is weak and few are her children: Egypt is an host and terrible are her arms. Vagrants and daylabourers are you called: the world trembles at our name.
A dumb belch of hunger cleft his speech. He lifted his voice above it boldly:
—But, Ladies and Gentlemen, had the youthful Moses listened to and accepted that view of life, had he bowed his head and bowed his will and bowed his spirit before that arrogant admonition, he would never have brought the chosen people out of their house of bondage, nor followed the pillar of the cloud by day. He would never have spoken with the Eternal amid lightnings on Sinai’s mountaintop, nor ever have come down with the light of inspiration shining in his countenance and bearing in his arms the tables of the Law, graven in the language of the outlaw.