It was a hundred years ago, in 1922, that James Joyce’s Ulysses was first published in Paris. Joyce famously set the novel over the course of a day in Dublin; his connections with Galway, a smaller city on the opposite side of Ireland, are less well known but intriguing in their own right.
Those connections are mainly a result of Joyce’s lifelong relationship with Nora Barnacle. Though he visited Galway just twice, Joyce’s exploration of it continued vicariously through Nora as they settled and resettled in cities around Europe. Anyone who has read ‘The Dead’ will appreciate the richness and resonance of that exploration. But Joyce also wrote about Galway in poetry and in articles for a Trieste newspaper, for example.
Delving into this relationship between writer and place is Ray Burke in his book Joyce County: Galway and James Joyce, recently published in a beautiful revised edition by Connemara-based Artisan House. Long-time readers of this blog will be aware of my interest in Joyce’s writing, and I’m delighted to have worked as copy-editor on this project.
Joyce County, first published in 2016 by Currach Press, now reappears with original illustrations by Raymond Murphy and Joe Boske and around 10,000 words of additional text, the result of ongoing research in the intervening years. From the new foreword by Michael D. Higgins, president of Ireland (and himself a poet and scholar):
The powerful presence of Galway, skilfully tracked and traced in Joyce County, is evident across the writings of James Joyce. In his literature it is a presence that is sometimes a potent catalyst, and at other times a poignant whisper from the past. In his essays and articles it is a rich source of history and humanity, and a microcosm of a world that requires constant interrogation.
We can be deeply grateful to Raymond Burke for this new and revised edition of Joyce County, which so greatly adds to our knowledge of the work of James Joyce and the influences and people that drove it, but above all for the gentle recovery of the sense of place that informed the intimacies and memories of one of Ireland’s most valuable and brilliantly original brave couples, at home and abroad.
Ray Burke brings to Joyce County the skills and experience of his former trades as journalist and news editor. The book is deeply researched, the style accessible and aimed at general readers. Those of you with an interest in or love of Joyce’s work will savour this account of how it was shaped and inspired by the people and places of Galway.
Joyce County was launched this month in the wonderful Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop by Nuala O’Connor, author of Nora (2021), a novelisation of Nora Barnacle’s life with Joyce. You can order Joyce County from Charlie Byrne’s, from Artisan House, or from your local bookshop.