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  • Foto do escritorDirce Waltrick Do Amarante



By Dirce Waltrick do Amarante

Ulysses turned 100 on February 2, the day, incidentally, of its author's birthday. The centenary was celebrated around the world, and on June 16th there will be the usual Bloomsday, or Bloom's Day, in honor of Leopold Bloom, protagonist of the novel.

The first Bloomsday celebration took place on June 16th, 1924, in Paris. Joyce learned about the party while recovering from eye surgery. The writer had the opportunity to participate in some Bloomsdays.

Today Bloomsday has spread across the world and often the event takes place over the course of a whole week and even a month.

When one speaks about Bloomsday, we know that it is a day in honor of Leopold Bloom, the Irish Jew, protagonist of the novel, but I would say that it is also possible to think of Bloomsday as the day of the Bloom family; after all, Molly Bloom is just as important as her husband Leopold. Milly, the couple's daughter, and Rudy, their dead son, also play an important role in the book.

The Blooms form a mixed-race family: Leopold is an Irish Jew, as stated above, Molly is an Irishwoman with Spanish ancestry (perhaps a Sephardic Jew). Molly is a lyrical singer, that is not a role reserved for the woman, who was born to be a stay-at-home mom. The artists, it is worth remembering, were looked down on and not considered serious women.

The daughter, who lives far from her parents' house, is the one who will bear the surname Bloom, and not the son, already dead, who would represent all the losses - Ulysses is also a book about mourning, the different types of mourning.

The fact is, it's up to a woman to preserve the Blooms' blood and surname.

Leopold Bloom continues, however, in search of a son to replace his own. He dreams of giving birth and, in his delirium, gives birth to several children (all men): “O, I so want to be a mother […] Nasodoro, Goldfinger, Chrysostomos, Maindoree, Silversmile, Silberselber, Vifargent, Panargyros”. They will found their Bloomusalem, the Ireland of the future.

This family represents not only peripheral Ireland, a British colony, but also Jews, scapegoats, and other minorities. It represents the minorities that society struggles against. These minorities also have their prejudices, Leopold Bloom, for example, considers his wife unintelligent and women incapable of founding a new “kingdom”. Molly, on the other hand, despises her husband's lack of virility.

As for Leopold Bloom, in addition to the fact that he is Jewish, his sexuality is called into question, he is said to be “bisexually abnormal”, a female man, who needs to be “tamed” or “lynched”.

Joyce was astute, he appropriated the colonizer's language, English, and with it he gave voice and life to those who should have been silent. The writer placed his Ireland at the center of the world, debased by the mighty British empire, which, for example, let its people perish of hunger in the great potato crisis. Speaking the colonizer's language, that being English, has enormous scope, and Joyce knew it.

Now we can think, as Gayatri Spivak says, that the subaltern can speak, but nobody wants to hear him. In fact, for a long time, more was said about Ulysses than the book itself was read. So you spoke for the Blooms and didn't let them speak.

It was not until the 1970s, after hearing the Blooms' voice, that the first post-colonial studies of Joyce's work began to be published. Today we study Joyce and politics, Joyce and feminism, Joyce and the periphery... Today the Blooms speak and are heard.

With Ulysses, Joyce did not forcibly put the periphery at the center, nor minorities in the central role, for, as he states in an 1898 essay, all domination by force, if maintained and exercised by force, serves only to crush the dispositions and aspirations of men. Joyce moves forward like a sailor who cannot overcome the orders given by Aeolus, cannot directly revoke his order, but can move forward, changing direction, being patient, sometimes using the force of the [own] wind [the English language], sometimes dodging it, now advancing, now retreating, until the shifting sails begin a correct course, and amid the ensuing lull the ship docks at the quay.

All this to say that Bloomsday should be the day of minorities, peripheral nations, “subalterns”, etc. Anyway, Blooms Day should also be a day of resistance. After all, the bisexual Irish Jew resisted, the female artist resisted, Ireland resisted and went to the center of the world.

At this party, the peripheral and minority (not in terms of numbers of speakers) Portuguese language should have a prominent role, since, with the new translation of Ulysses that will be released now in June by Ateliê Editoral, we will have six translations of the novel in the language of Machado de Assis and Camões.

But in this centenary, at least in the articles I have read and which have been published in England, the United States, Ireland, all English-speaking, and Switzerland (where the James Joyce Foundation is located), etc., there is no mention of this feat. No one from the center, it seems to me, was interested in citing this translation phenomenon.

By the way, translators in general are peripheral; we rarely know who they are, rarely are their names on the covers of books. Late last year, an open letter was launched by UK Authors demanding that the names of translators appear on the cover of books. Joyce's translators, I would say, even enjoy a certain prestige and recognition; even so, when it comes to the centenary of Ulysses, the center forgot to mention the translators from the periphery.

Let's hope that one day the Freeman Journal machines blow a favorable wind that will take us to the center of the Joycian party.

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