In Dublin, you get your first whiff of how much the city is proud of its literature from the quotes printed at intervals onto the airport walls. From then on, it’s an unstoppable crescendo of literary moments, and a voyage into the heart of the city itself. You soon learn that Dublin has two great loves, literature and drinking, existing happily side by side and mingling freely, a feature brilliantly summed up by the Irish poet Brendan Behan who once said, ‘I am a drinker with a writing problem.’
Life is definitely good in Dublin if you love literature. The obvious place to start your pilgrimage is at the Writers’ museum on Parnell Square, a treasure-trove of material encompassing the Irish literature of the last three hundred years. Beyond the value of the contents themselves lies also the beauty of the building in which they are housed, a restored Georgian mansion with exquisite stained glass windows.
One particular man was worthy of being given a building all to himself, none other than James Joyce, one of the most hard-to-read yet internationally known and celebrated Irish writers. The James Joyce Centre houses a reconstruction of the writer’s study, (a roughly-made bed, papers strewn everywhere, clothes hung onto any available protrusion, a still life in an ornate gilded frame) a screening room and the original front door from No. 7 Eccles Street, the home of the fictional Leopold Bloom, protagonist of Ulysses, found at the back of the centre in a courtyard adorned with a Ulysses-themed mural.
But the spirit of Joyce is not contained within the space of a single house. It roams the city freely, reminding it that writer and space are intertwined. A bust of the writer stands in St. Stephen’s Green, as does a fully blown statue just off O’Connell Street, known by the locals, (affectionately or mockingly, depending on the perspective ) as ‘The Prick with a stick’.
Beyond Joyce’s influence on Dublin, that of other great Irish writers also exerts itself. Behind the window of the Dublin general post office there is the statue of a dying Cuchulain with a black raven perched on his shoulder, a legendary Irish hero revitalised by the verse of William Butler Yeats; A tour to the nearby Wicklow Mountains will take you to the house of the Wilde family, until this day not open to the public; And in the very heart of Dublin, Trinity College stands proud for having academically nurtured writers like Samuel Beckett, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and Lord Byron.
When the day turns into night and one is tempted to savour that other thing for which Dublin is famous, the traveller can couple his pint of Guinness with a literary pub crawl, where talented local actors perform pieces of Irish plays, fill him in on the places and people which have shaped literary Dublin and drop him off at a few pubs along the way to quench his thirst. Even if you’re not the drinking kind, this pub crawl should not be missed if just for the short performance of Samuel Becket’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, unless of course, you can catch the whole play at one of the city’s theatres.
There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from literature in Dublin. Even on the 7th floor of the Guinness Storehouse at the ‘Gravity bar’, the large panes of glass which allow unobstructed views over the city are decorated with Irish quotes and verses, the dark black print superimposed onto the buildings and houses of the city itself, making it look as if the words of those great men and Dublin were one. But there is no doubt. In the minds of Dubliners, indeed, they are.
- Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.theartofslowtravel.com. This is a sponsored post.