Originally published in Global Traveler.
Though Irish independence is still less than a century old, Ireland was distinct from England in its culture. Most prominently, the Emerald Isle is known for churning out its own crop of literary heavyweights between the 19th and 20th centuries. Most notable among the likes of Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and Anne Enright is James Joyce.
Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882, long before the modern trams and glitzy convention center. His literary career began early in 1891 when a young Joyce authored a poem on the death of Charles Stewart Parnell — an Irish politician credited with giving people the feeling of an independent Irish nation. The inability of the ruling political parties of the day to secure Home Rule for Ireland frustrated Joyce’s father, John, so he printed his son’s poem and even sent a portion to the Vatican Library. That measure of support for his son aside, the family began to fall into poverty thanks to the elder Joyce’s alcohol abuse and mismanagement of finances.
Still, James managed to work his way through school and found himself repeatedly returning to the arts. It wasn’t until 1914 Dubliners was finally published, the first in a series of poems and novels from the prolific author of modernist avant-garde works. Ulysses and Finnegans Wake followed in the coming decades to solidify Joyce’s place in Irish and literary history.