Ulysses continues to be one of the central books of the twentieth century and this is an audacious new take on it. It was never meant to be an abstruse a book for the elite, argues Declan Kiberd. It is a book for the common people, and offers a humane vision of a more tolerant and decent life under the dreadful pressures of the modern world. Leopold Bloom, the half-Jewish Irishman who is the book's hero, teaches the young Stephen Dedalus (modelled on Joyce himself) how he can grow and mature as an artist and an adult human being. Bloom has learned to live with contradictions, with anxiety and sexual jealousy, and with the rudeness and racism of the people he encounters in the city streets, and in his apparently banal way sees deeper than any of them. He embodies an intensely ordinary kind of wisdom, Kiberd argues, and in this way offers us a model for living well, in the tradition of Homer, Dante and the Bible (on all of which Joyce drew in the writing of his book).
Declan Kiberd is the author of Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation, which won the Irish Times Prize in 1995. It is one of the most influential works on Irish culture published in the last twenty years. His Irish Classics came out in 2000 and won the prestigious Lannan Prize in the USA. He is the Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature at University College Dublin and is a widely respected broadcaster, critic and reviewer.