James Joyce enthusiasts – as well as fans of drinking, swimming and running – around the world are celebrating the 107th anniversary of Bloomsday today.
June 16 marks this annual homage to the Irish author and his 1922 novel “Ulysses.” The date is central to both Joyce’s life and the novel: Joyce is believed to have first gone out with Nora Barnacle, who later became his wife, on June 16; “Ulysses” takes place entirely on June 16, 1904, beginning at 8 a.m.
Bloomsday is named for “Ulysses” protagonist Leopold Bloom, who wanders the streets of Dublin throughout the novel in his own epic one-day journey. In 1954, on the 50th anniversary of the novel’s events, Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh and several other writers retraced Bloom’s route on the streets of Dublin, making pit stops at pubs along the way and sparking the tradition of Bloomsday. In 2004, 10,000 people ate breakfast together on O’Connell Street to commemorate the 100th anniversary.
Staged readings of “Ulysses” are taking place today in cities as far-flung as New York; Seattle; Pittsburgh; Melbourne; Buenos Aires; Santa Maria, Brazil and Zagreb, Croatia. There’s a Bloomsday run in Spokane, Wash. and a Bloomsday breakfast and swim in Fuengirola, Spain, as well as a Joyce-themed festival in Szombathely, Hungary, the birthplace of Leopold Bloom’s father.
Although Joyce died in 1941 after spending most of his life abroad, Bloomsday remains an institution in his hometown. Dubliners can sign up for walking tours of the novel’s key locations and follow in Bloom’s footsteps, often dressed in period costume.