Dublin – A season hardly anyone knows

A thousand pages in one day. Everything in James Joyce’s monumental work revolves around the events in the life of Dublin proclaimer Leopold Bloom on June 16, 1904. This Bloomsday Day is one of the most famous dates in world literature and has been celebrated annually in Dublin since 1954 in honor of Joyce’s novel.

This year, the festive mood in the Irish capital has been particularly glorious, as it marks the centenary of the first publication of Ulysses. The festival program also includes literary pilgrimage tours that follow in the footsteps of the characters in the novel through Dublin and lead to real scenes of fictional events. For example, to James Joyce’s Sandikoff Tower, to Glasnevin Cemetery, to the National Library or the Davy Burns Tavern, where Joyce fans stop for a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy, just as Leopold Bloom did in Chapter 8 of the act “Ulysses”.

final chapter

But no one would visit a nondescript housing development in the Dublin suburb of Crumlin on a Bloomsday day, even though the final chapter of Leopold Bloom’s life took place there. Only those who have come across Dermot Keogh’s book “Jews in Ireland in the Twentieth Century” know this. In it, the author tells the gruesome story of the end of Leopold Bloom as told by Asher Benson.

Benson, a member of Dublin’s Jewish community, stopped at the Bleeding Horse pub one evening and met a man named Snifer Cohen. A few pints from the Guinness Book, Cohen tells him that he had been called to his deathbed by Leopold Bloom in 1942. Bloom, the son of a Hungarian Jew who converted to Catholicism, lived a very reclusive life after the publication of Ulysses’ novel and did not dare reveal his name publicly. He was dying “clad in a faded prayer shawl (it was written ‘Property of Grenfell Road Synagogue’), a fat-stained kippah embroidered with the word Jerusalem, and a tattered Hebrew prayer book turned over his lap.” “He promised to bury me in the Jewish cemetery in the dolphin barn,” Bloom asked his visitor now. Then he drank a mug of beer and died of a curse on James Joyce, who vowed to deal with him in Hell.

strange grave

However, because Bloom had converted, the Jewish community refused to bury him in the dolphin barn. Sniffer and a few close associates took the body to Aughavannagh Road in the Crumlin District in a wheelbarrow. At that time, the road was still under construction and its border was directly on the Jewish cemetery. The men combined their efforts, and the men dug a hole under the tomb wall long enough to bury at least Bloom’s head in sacred ground, while the bones remained in the yard of a country house in Crumlin. Doubting the truth of the story, Asher Benson allowed Sniffer to lead him to the grave site. On the side of the tomb they found the piece of wood that the unconventional mourners had brought to the funeral and thrown over the wall. The worm ate after all these decades, but the inscription was still readable: “Leopold Bloom, June 16, 1942. His head was a Jew, even if the rest was not of him. May he rest in peace.”

So on June 16th, on Blooms’ Day of All Day, one of the most famous literary figures of modern times left the world stage. To this date, this story hovered so beautifully between fact and fiction that one could only believe it.

Life-size statue commemorating Ireland’s most famous author in the heart of Dublin.

– © bildbändiger.de

In fact, Joyce found inspiration for his main character in Dublin’s Jewish community. Today, only the few remaining sites such as Pretzel Bakery, the Jewish Museum co-founded by Asher Benson or the memorial plaque in honor of Ireland’s first chief rabbi – Isaac Herzog, Sr. – tell us how Jews influenced life once in the Irish capital and later President Israel Chaim Herzog. With Leopold Bloom, Joyce cemented the memory of Dublin Jews in the collective memory of literature. Would he have liked Asher Benson to put an end to his creation? Perhaps yes, the tale is a wonderful subversive joke that keeps interest in “Ulysses” alive after the last page of the book.

Bretzel Bakery, opened by the Grinspon Jewish baker in 1870, is still part of Dublin's culinary history.  - © bildbaendiger.de

Bretzel Bakery, opened by the Grinspon Jewish baker in 1870, is still part of Dublin’s culinary history.

– © bildbaendiger.de

If the plaque on the house at 52 Upper Clanbrassel Street in south Dublin is allowed to announce that Leopold Bloom, commoner, husband, father, mother, and impersonation of Ulysses, was born there in May 1886, then this fictional character also has one real After all, a place to rest and the world deserves a blooming day to celebrate events that never happened.

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