Excerpt from Joyce’s ‘The Dead’
December 31, 2015
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The Dead, James Joyce’s famous story, takes place between New Year’s Eve and the Feast of the Epiphany (Twelfth Night). It was probably written in 1904. Included as part of Dubliners, it is one of my favorite short stories. I often read it around the holidays.
2015 has been a particularly hard year. I offer the following impromptu reading from the opening page this New Year’s Eve as a way perhaps of seeking comfort and reassurance (or penance) for my own uncertainty.
In 1916 the Irish experienced a national uncertainty, with roots dating to Cromwell’s occupation. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising. The Dead, with its ghosts and melancholy, foreshadows this bloody event and the controversy over Irish independence. In Joyce’s story Molly Ivors calls Gabriel a ‘West Briton’ and asks why he doesn’t go cycling in Galway (where his wife, Greta, is from) instead of traveling to Europe:
“And why do you go to France and Belgium,” said Miss Ivors, “instead of visiting your own land?”
“Well,” said Gabriel, “it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.”
“And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with—Irish?” asked Miss Ivors.
John Huston directed a film adaptation written by Tony Huston and co-staring Anjelica in 1987.