Today is Bloomsday, the annual celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses. It is the day on which the novel takes place – 16 June 1904 – and it is named after Leopold Bloom, its central character.
This date was chosen because it had a particular significance for Joyce: it was his first outing with Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid he had met on Nassau Street (Dublin) a few days before. He was twenty-two years old; she was twenty.
During that first rendez-vous they walked to the Dublin urban village of Ringsend and Nora put her hand inside his trousers and masturbated him.
“And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! They were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft! Then all melted away dewily in the grey air: all was silent.” (Leopold Bloom in “Ulysses”) (1)
Meanwhile, as reported by the headlines of that day’s newspapers, the world was witnessing the Russo-Japanese War, the sinking of a ferryboat in New York, the assassination of the Russian governor of Finland, and the Gold Cup race at Ascot.
(1) “E poi un razzo balzò e scoppiò sparando alla cieca e oh! poi la candela romana esplose ed era come un sussurro di oh! e gridarono oh, oh, in estasi e ne scaturì un flusso di pioggia, si sparsero fili di capelli dorati e ah! erano tutte umide stelle verdastre che ricadevano d’oro, oh così adorabile, oh, delicato, dolce, delicato! Poi tutto si sciolse debolmente nell’aria grigia: tutto tacque. ” (L.Z.)