On Sunday, Aug 29th 2010, I went to buy Ulysses. Having lived in Dublin for nearly a year now, it seemed it was the next step in connecting to the city even more. I figured I get could get for 2 or 3 euro. I was in Hodges Figgis. Ulysses wasn’t as cheap as expected. ‘It would be great to get it second-hand’, I thought. Fate forced me to pick-up ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man represents the transitional stage between the realism of Joyce’s Dubliners and the symbolism of Ulysses, and is essential to the understanding of the later work.’ – having read Dubliners three or so summers ago (and I began re-reading at the start of this year), it seemed as if the back cover was speaking to me personally. “Ah, now, ya couldn’t skip ‘A Portrait...’, ya have to go about Joyce the right way!” – that’d be the Joycean translation. And at €2.99, it was perfect. (Of course, ‘perfect’ would really have meant that a mysterious figure had approached me on the street, out of nowhere, and simply presented it in before me.)
I felt that the best place to begin it would be in a café in the centre, rather than in the oh-so-familiar, not-particularly-Dublin setting of my bedroom or living-room. So, I began it with a fresh, heavy, porridge-soda bread muffin thing (it was nice, ok!). Drinking cappuccino, reading Joyce, and occasionally glancing up and out upon the Nassau St. – Trinity campus is just behind the wall and railing – with the August sun blinding all of Dublin’s westbound traffic (pedestrian, motorised or otherwise). Really the only time you need sunglasses in Dublin is in August from roughly 4pm to 7pm.
I’m use to learning about Dublin through history rather than story. I know that Nassau St. used to be called ‘St. Patrick’s Well Lane’ because there was (and still is, though it’s hidden inside the Trinity campus –under the Nassau entrance) a prolific well there, and that the street was laid by earth taken from the Viking Thingmote, which was situated where St. Andrew’s Church, i.e. the Tourist Office, is today. I know the facts. I don’t necessarily know the story, though.
So, what happened on Nassau St? What strange events unfolded there, real or fictitious, once upon a time? “On Nassau St., at bronzing dusk, in the week's retirement, Ulysses Bloom and Stephen Dedalus...”