When he wrote Ulysses James Joyce said: ‘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.’ He may well have succeeded in that as the interest and industry in all things Joyce continues to grow; but having a date in the calendar proclaimed in honour of his book is something else entirely. Such acknowledgement, worldwide and sustained, would have been a great source of pride and, no doubt, brought a smile to his steely countenance. Well done, Jimmy.
A few years ago I wrote a short story, The Bloomsday Boys, and was fortunate enough to have it read by the actor Shane Egan, on the fateful day, outside Sweny’s Chemist (where Leopold Bloom buys a bar of lemon soap in the Lotuseaters episode (No. 5) of Ulysses).
I was in Sweny’s Chemist recently and the smell of lemon soap was strong and wonderful. In James Joyce’s most famous book, Ulysses, the main character, Leopold Bloom, enters the old shop and buys a bar of lemon soap and carries it in his pocket like a talisman throughout the day (now celebrated worldwide as Bloomsday, June 16). Although no longer a chemist shop, you can still buy a bar of lemon soap and sample the atmosphere that Joyce and his contemporaries were familiar with. The shop is unchanged and is a ‘must see’ for all Joycean fans. And for those not so literary specific it is a great chance to open the front door and step back in time. The fittings, glass jars and many uncollected prescriptions give the place an air of authenticity that is unique and memorable. Readings of Joyce’s books are held each week and are free and open to visitors – enjoy!