Now in its ninth year, The Oslo Bloomsday Celebrations are held at the Henrik Ibsen Museum. This was Ibsen’s last home and it was from here that the ageing writer corresponded with a very young James Joyce. In 1900, the eighteen year old Joyce made his literary debut with an essay on Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken in the literary magazine The Fortnightly Review. Ibsen’s London agent passed this on, and as Ibsen had no English, he had to painstakingly translate it with the aid of a dictionary. In reply, Ibsen wrote a brief note of praise in his own language. Joyce, who had studied Norwegian at UCD in order to read Ibsen in the original, was astounded and subsequently replied. In his biography, Richard Ellmann describes the impact: “He had entered the world of literature under the best auspices in that world.” Ellmann also comments that “Before Ibsen’s letter Joyce was an Irishman; after it he was a European.”

The Henrik Ibsen Museum contains a basic theatre, which seats about 70, as well as a large reception room overlooking the royal palace. Each year there is a capacity or near capacity attendance with many of the guests dressing up in Edwardian attire. Proceedings begin with an address by the Irish Ambassador followed by a talk by a visiting academic. Some of the high calibre contributors over the years have included, Professor emeritus Bjørn

Tysdal, artist Eamonn O’Doherty and Anne Fogarty, Professor of James Joyce Studies at UCD. After an intermission there is a one-man theatrical presentation, selected from an open call earlier in the year. Some of the many highlights over the years have included Katie O’Kelly’s world premiere of Jimmy Joyced, Declan Gorman’s self-penned The Dubliners Dilemma and A Portrait of the Artist’s Mother performed by Marion McEvoyMost years there is something extra.

In 2016, the head librarian at Oslo University brought along a hand signed and numbered first edition of Ulysses. Number 28 of 100 somehow found its way into their collection in the mid 50’s and they were delighted to showcase it at our event. Other related fringe events have included the world’s first Bloomsday Flash Mob in 2011, another world’s first with a wake for the James Joyce copyright in 2012 and more recently the Norwegian launch of the limited edition of The Dead by Stoneyroad Press, beautifully illustrated by Robert Berry.

“One of our main objectives is to demystify the works of Joyce and to make them accessible to one and all. Over the years we have found our format works quite well, considering that we have a very mixed audience with everything from Joycean scholars to people who have yet to read Joyce.” says John Fitzgerald, chairman of the Oslo Bloomsday Society. He adds that the event is going from strength to strength each year and has become a popular item on the cultural calendar for the relatively small Irish community in Oslo, as well as for many Norwegian Joyce fans. Over the years, the event has received very favourable coverage in national and international press. ​


Article by John Fitzgerald, March 2018


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