The Words of James Joyce


James Joyce (1882 – 1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet who contributed to the modernist avant-garde and is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, particularly 'stream of consciousness'. His short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939) established his reputation, as well as three books of poetry, a play, his published letters and occasional journalism.

Born in 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin, Joyce was a brilliant student who went on to attend University College Dublin. In 1904, in his early twenties, Joyce emigrated to continental Europe with his partner (and later wife) Nora Barnacle, living in Trieste, Paris and Zurich. Joyce's fictional universe, though, centres on Dublin. Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of that city. He said, 'For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.’

Here is a small selection of quotes from his works:

'Life is too short to read a bad book.'

'Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.’

'Shut your eyes and see.'

'One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.’

'Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.'

'Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.'

'Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.'

'And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.'

'Her lips touched his brain as they touched his lips, as though they were a vehicle of some vague speech and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odor.'

'His heart danced upon her movements like a cork upon a tide. He heard what her eyes said to him from beneath their cowl and kn