Today is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses by the Irish writer James Joyce.
Joyce, a committed philhellene, insisted that the cover should match the blue of the Greek flag (which hung in his Paris apartment).
As the printer found it almost impossible to find the blue ink to match with the Greek flag, only two copies of Ulysses were ready by publication date – 2nd February 1922 – Joyce’s 40th birthday.
Of the two copies ready by publication date, Joyce took one, unopened, to his 40th birthday celebrations.
When Joyce opened the package and finally saw Ulysses bound in Greek colours – white letters on a blue field – he was deeply moved.
Joyce, steeped in admiration for ancient Greek civilisation, constructed his novel as a parallel to Homer’s Odyssey – “If you want to read Ulysses you had better first get or borrow from a library a translation in prose of the Odyssey of Homer”.
Joyce also started to learn Modern Greek while writing Ulysses – “I spoke… modern Greek not too badly and have spent a great deal of time with Greeks of all kinds from noblemen down to onion sellers, chiefly the latter. I am superstitious about them. They bring me luck.”
Until his last day, Joyce retained an interest in Greek affairs, and was known to finish his birthday celebrations by singing the Greek National Anthem.
Ulysses is now widely recognised as a masterpiece of modernist writing.
Make sure to join us in 2022 as we celebrate #Ulysses100 – “…yes I said yes I will Yes.”
By the Irish Embassy in Athens.