Eighteen established writers, one from each city/region, will be commissioned to write a chapter in a response to their Arts & Society theme within the context of their city.
Just as Ulysses is innovative in its form and language, so the writers will be chosen with a view to reflecting a breadth of genres, styles and innovations. Each writer will ideally attend their own city’s event. All the (new) chapters from the 18 cities/regions will be brought together in a book publication: Europe-Ulysses (working title).
Anne Enright will write the Dublin chapter.
Each time I read Ulysses, I am surprised by the way it always sends me to sleep somewhere in the middle of the Proteus episode; the third section in which Stephen Dedalus walks across Sandymount Strand. Or perhaps I should say that my reading becomes so slowed and loosened by dreaming, it feels like a different kind of consciousness. No book frees the mind in this way: Ulysses happens in the place where words start. The prose enters the reader and opens them out.
I bought the book on holiday when I was fourteen years old and read with no great panic about understanding it, and this was a very fortunate first meeting, because the language of Ulysses refuses to be understood; it will not settle on a final meaning and constantly invites the reader to fill in the gaps. This makes it a truly democratic work, for all the elitism that attends its reputation. Whether the reader is young or old, pedantic or carefree, the language eludes our possession. It is democratic too, in its subject matter; an ordinary day in the life of two men, in a city on the edge of Europe, where nothing much happens and everything you could possibly imagine also happens.
My first copy of Ulysses was taken away from me when I came home from that holiday, and put away by my mother to read when I was older. Back then it was a disgraceful book – and it still is slightly disgraceful, that is part of its intention – but I walk my home town and am proud of these written stones and streets, each turn a new, perambulating sentence in one of the finest books in the world.
Anne Enright is one of Ireland’s leading writers. The author of eight novels, two books of short stories and many essays, she is a winner of the Man Booker Prize (2007) and the Irish novel of the year (2007 and 2015). Anne was the first Laureate for Irish Fiction (2015-2018) and she teaches creative writing as Professor of Fiction in UCD. Her new novel The Wren, The Wren is published in autumn 2023 by Jonathan Cape.