am 14. April 2001
In his book Ulysses James Joyce has created a modern hero by transforming a classical myth into the parody of a wandering Jew who has to suffer loss and betrayal. Aspects of his two previous books "Dubliners" and "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" were incorporated as well as some of Homer's "The Odyssey. The Greek power is replaced by a human being, touched by banal activities like urination, dementia, alcoholism or voyeurism. He created characters with features of Homer's figures, including Homer's themes, the quest for a father, the intervention of god(s) and other allusions to the original Odyssey. The modern parallel of Homer's epic takes place in Dublin and describes a day in the life of Stephen Dedalus, who is already known from "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and now reappears, Leopold Bloom and Molly Bloom, his wife, the three central characters that are modern counterparts of Ulysses, Telemachus and Penelope The novel shows us the actions of different Dubliners on June 16, 1904, mainly the day in the life of Leopold Bloom. Although Leopold Bloom is Joyce's major character the author spends considerable time on the protagonist of his first work, Stephen Dedalus, the main character of the first three chapters, who thus enables him to discuss the political and religious topics that now dominate Ulysses. Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged, Jewish advertisement canvasser, is introduced in the second part of the book, beginning the day anew at 8 o'clock and later wandering in the streets of Dublin.
James Joyce's Ulysses is considered as his greatest achievement and gave him one of the greatest influences of novelists in the 20th century. Its main strength is to be found in the variant of the interior monologue, the stream-of-consciousness with its flow of impressions, unfinished thoughts, associations, worries, hesitations and sudden impulses. Joyce uses the interior monologue to reveal the inner thoughts and feelings of his figures and thus gives a deep portrayal of character. Leopold and Molly Bloom are portrayed with a humanity that can hardly be found in another work of literature. The reader is completely united with the book, with its figures and with Dublin. You can nothing but smell, see, hear and feel everything these figures do. All of them seem to become real, as you can immediately identify yourself with them, their success and their failure, describing and discussing problems that are still topical today. Of course there is also another point of view, another group of critics. Some of them described and still describe the book as pornography, written by a lunatic. But I think they are wrong, because pornography, vulgarisms, obscenities and such things are generally simple and easy to understand. And I think Ulysses is not at all easy to read, it takes an enormous effort to reach the end of a chapter. Its various characters, happenings and narrators require so much concentration, which leaves no time to do or think of something else, at least none to arouse sexual excitement. In fact this great book often seems to be rather a mess and leads to confusion as it contains many, partly unknown difficulties, making it necessary to read some passages twice and thrice. One of these is the fact that there are several narrators, some of them not even identified. It is also often difficult to draw the line between fragments of narration and snatches of a person's thoughts, for example in the third chapter, when Stephen Dedalus gives a long description of his visit to his uncle, which first seems to be real, but then reveals to be only an imagined event. Realism and symbolism are mixed together to an extensive diversity of narrative structures that make James Joyce' Ulysses different from other books. And this difference justifies the efforts and the work the reading of Ulysses takes. The extraordinary experience of following the epic voyage of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom is not impossible.