And a reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian last year, which includes this great 1924 quote from Joyce on Ulysses – “I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.”
In June of 1929, [Sylvia Beach, founder of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company and the first publisher of Ulysses in 1922] was part of a celebration of Bloomsday and the publication of the French translation of Ulysses organised by the bookseller and publisher Adrienne Monnier, her partner. Monnier put on a charabanc trip out of Paris, in which Joyce participated, along with Samuel Beckett, his son Giorgio and others.
In true Bloomsday style, “Samuel Beckett got outrageously drunk. They kept stopping for drinks along the way and it was said that he was thrown off the bus for causing a rumpus,” says Bowker. “But Beckett himself said he decided to leave the trip.”
Joyce’s last Bloomsday would take place on 16 June 1940, when the author was trapped in Vichy France, two days after Paris fell. He died the next year, and according to Mark Traynor, managing director of the James Joyce Centre in Dublin, the next time the event was properly marked was in Dublin in 1954.
“It was a small event but it was reflective of the book’s growing recognition. Even though it was largely confined to the artistic community in Dublin, it recognised the growing significance of the work and of Joyce’s international contribution to literature,” says Traynor.
Organised by the publican and critic John Ryan, participants in the 1954 Bloomsday included the authors Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien. “They attempted to retrace the journeys taken by the characters in the book, starting at the tower and making their way to Sandymount Strand. They had a horse and carriage, but they were all heavy drinkers, and although the plan had been to re-enact the whole book, according to accounts, by the time they reached the city centre, they abandoned that and spent the night in the pub,” says Traynor.
Footage of the event on YouTube shows a chaotic affair, punctuated by impromptu urination stops and staggering. “It was a bit half-arsed,” says Traynor.