Dubliners

Whether it’s schoolboys playing hookie from school, girls marrying into craved-for money, or old maids celebrating Halloween, James Joyce’s detailed stories of Dublin lives draw extensively on the author’s deep understanding of Irish culture. First published at the start of the First World War, Dubliners is written in a naturalistic style far more accessible than Joyce’s later experimental novels Finnegans Wake and Ulysses, though many of the protagonists – who vary in age, gender and agenda – reappear in the latter. Join us in reading some of the finest stories in the English language.

About the author

The publication of Dubliners heralded the arrival of one of the twentieth century’s most influential literary voices, James Joyce. Born into a deflating middle-class Dublin family, Joyce left his native Ireland for continental Europe in his twenties and rarely returned. Ireland remained at the centre of his imaginative universe as the setting for all of his fiction. 

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Why We Like It

  • A series of daily short stories kicking off on Bloomsday
  • An eminently readable way into this notoriously cryptic author
  • Captures the Dublin of a century ago in razor-sharp focus

Born in Dublin in 1882, James Joyce was the first of 12 children, and managed to excel in school despite the distractions of an alcoholic father and a generally unconventional home life. In his adolescence, he was bitten by a dog and told by his grandmother that thunderstorms were a manifestation of God’s anger, two incidents that resulted in lifelong phobias.
   His education was interrupted by the financial troubles of his father, who was forced to remove his son from his boarding school at the age of 10 as he could no longer afford the fees. Through his father's serendipitous encounter with a Jesuit priest, Joyce was able to join a school again in 1895 at a reduced rate, before going on to University College Dublin to study modern languages. He then attempted to study medicine in Paris but quickly dropped out owing to the difficulties of undertaking the course in French, health problems, and the weather. It was at university that Joyce made his first impressions on the literary world.
   In 1904, after a period of heavy drinking and intermittent literary success, Joyce moved to Zurich with Nora Barnacle, a woman he had met in Ireland. After spells in Trieste and Rome, where he worked as a teacher and in a bank, he returned to Dublin in an attempt to get Dubliners published, a saga that would rumble on for more than a decade. In lieu of literary income, Joyce ran a number of revenue-generating schemes with mixed success, including running Ireland’s first cinema and trying to import Irish tweed to Trieste.
   In Zurich, Joyce met Harriet Shaw Weaver, whose friendship and ongoing financial generosity was perhaps the most important factor in allowing him the time to write. He visited Paris in 1920 following a invitation from Ezra Pound and ended up living there for the next 20 years. Despite ongoing health issues, predominantly with his eyes, it was here in Paris that Joyce finished writing Ulysses.
   Joyce returned to Zurich in 1940 to escape the Nazi occupation of France but soon fell ill, undergoing subsequently fatal surgery in 1941 on an ulcer. He was survived by his wife and daughter, and is buried in Zurich.

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