Eternal exile

Anthony J. Jordan examines the failed attempts to repatriate James Joyce’s body


Bloomsday, 16 June, is a now a major celebration in Ireland. It is unusual in being a public holiday with no official sanction but grew from a small event organised by James Joyce enthusiasts to the point where it is now a major global event that is celebrated across the world. Joyce, however, was not always in favour with the Irish establishment and even after independence, Ireland was reluctant to acknowledge the significance of Joyce or to embrace his legacy. Even in death he remained out of favour and was shunned by the Irish politicians. Attempts to return his body to Ireland were thwarted by the government of the day.

President Michael D. Higgins paid a historic visit James Joyce’s grave in Fluntern Cemetery, Zurich, on 8 June 2018. He thanked the Zurich authorities for maintaining the grave. One week later at a Bloomsday event in Áras an Uachtaráin, President Higgins described the 16 June as the most important day on Ireland’s cultural calendar, and said: ‘Bloomsday remains a day when we have the opportunity to celebrate the genius of James Joyce and his legacy to us. We must never forget on Bloomsday the person, the family and the sacrifice that gave us the ground-breaking literary inheritance that is celebrated all over the world. Ireland owes a debt to James Joyce.’ Those words illuminate how much Ireland has moved on, as the official attitude to Joyce was not always so generous.


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May/June2019 (issue no.385)

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