Beckett"Yet, rather surprisingly, only one book– Barbara Reich Gluck’s Beckett and Joyce: Friendship and Fiction (1979)–has been dedicated to the subject. Besides Gluck’s study, however, many other researchers and critics have addressed the Joyce-Beckett relationship. the difficulty is simply that the material is scattered among chapters of books and scholarly journals.
James Joyce left Dublin in 1903 at the age of twenty-one. He would return only three times thereafter–once to attend his mother’s funeral. once to serve as manager of the first movie theatre in Ireland, as passing an enterprise. and once to immerse himself in the physical and moral landscape that would become Ulysses. After January 1910, he remained on the Continent, conspicuously removed from his homeland, in Trieste, Zurich and Paris–the most cosmopolitan of writers. At the same time, he was the most insular of writers, writing of nothing but Ireland, nothing but Dublin, in fact, writing home constantly for details of Dublin life, Dublin history, Dublin geography. With Thom’s Post Office Directory at his elbow, he created his own map of the city, one that he boasted would outlive the physical city that was more real and vital and convincing than historical Dublin. Of course he was right–as anyone who has seen what passes for urban renewal in Dublin will attest. Not even Demolition Ireland, that most ubiquitous of Dublin symbols, can destroy the city of Joyce. Those Joyceans who religiously take Bloomsday tours through what remains of his city, those less dedicated tourists who turn a corner and discover with a shock a Joycean landmark-on my last visit, it was the City Arms Hotel, where the Blooms once had lived along with Dante Riordan, and then later, in Ennis, the Queens Hotel, once owned by old Rudolph Bloom–such travellers affirm the conviction that the city of Joyce and the city of history are inextricably linked and that, of the two, the fictional Dublin may well be preferable.
Yet Joyce’s city is not all of Dublin. As we follow lower-middleclass salesman Leopold Bloom and fallen, almost classless, would be-writer Stephen Dedalus on their wanderings through the city, we perceive that theirs is only a part of Georgian Dublin: the city which Joyce has preserved is essentially a lower-middle-class city, inbred, decaying, unaware that this will be the last generation in Ireland for the Empire which built this beautiful city and which kept hostage its people. There is no hint of any of this in Ulysses. It is not as social historian that we read Joyce.
There are other critical clichs fostered by Ulysses that are also not quite right. Joyce chose Dublin as his setting, he tells us, because it was large enough to serve as model of the modern metropolis and yet not too large to prevent the kinds of crossings and re-crossings, personal connections and missed connections, which make up so much of his view of urban life. This is perhaps true, in a symbolic sense, because we accept Joyce at his word. But his Dublin, in which hardly anyone works at a job demanding more than a few hours a day and many work only at sociability, is hardly representative of modern urban life in the West.
It is true that Joyce followed the Irish pattern of exile and distance and irony and just