The cantankerous xenophobe referred to as the “citizen” in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses seems poised to finally get his wish after more than a century.
In Joyce’s literary masterpiece, set in Dublin on 16 June 1904, the character rails against foreigners, Jews and the “thicklugged” English and yearns for an Irish battleship to fly the flag of the province of Munster, which shows three crowns on a blue field.
It is not quite a battleship but on Wednesday the LE James Joyce, an offshore patrol vessel of Ireland’s naval service, is expected to sail through Dublin Bay under the Munster flag.
The gesture will be part of Bloomsday, an annual celebration marked around the world in honour of the day Joyce’s character Leopold Bloom wandered around Dublin.
Ireland’s capital will host tours, a punk cabaret, lectures, film screenings and workshops.
Irish diplomats will unveil a 36-foot Joyce mural in New York, stage a poetry competition in Mozambique and host a virtual celebration at the embassy in London, with the actor Adrian Dunbar performing a reading.
The naval service is to participate for the first time by sailing close to Sandycove – a bathing spot where the novel begins – and by flying the Munster flag, the Irish Independent reported. The act will reflect enthusiasm for Ulysses but not endorse the bigotry of the “citizen”, the paper said. The naval service was contacted for comment.
Scholars say the character, who ends up throwing a biscuit tin at Bloom, satirises a strain of Irish nationalism and xenophobia that helped drive Joyce into exile.
The citizen accuses the English of “syphilisation” and says they lack art or literature worthy of the name. “Any civilisation they have they stole from us.”
“With the help of the holy mother of God,” he says, Ireland’s empty harbours will fill with vessels and the first Irish battleship will breast the waves and fly “our own” flag. “None of your Henry Tudor’s harps, no, the oldest flag afloat, the flag of the province of Desmond and Thomond, three crowns on a blue field, the three sons of Milesius.”