Centenary recording of Ulysses to be read by Eddie Izzard, Margaret Atwood and others | James Joyce


One hundred years ago, in February 1922, Sylvia Beach, owner of the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, published James Joyce’s Ulysses for the first time, in full. Now, to mark the seminal novel’s centenary of publication, the publisher and bookseller she ran is set to release a set recording of her full text, featuring major names from Eddie Izzard to Margaret Atwood.

Over 100 writers, artists, comedians and musicians gather to read a section of Ulysses for Shakespeare and Company, including Will Self, Jeanette Winterson, Ben Okri and Meena Kandasamy. The recordings will be released as a free podcast, beginning February 2 and ending June 16, the date also known as Bloomsday in honor of the day in 1904 when Leopold Bloom wandered the streets of Odysseus.

“We thought we had to do something to mark the occasion,” said Shakespeare and Company literary director Adam Biles. “Normally our instinct for something like this would be to have a big party on the day, but due to Covid restrictions and the difficulties the bookstore has been through for the past few years, we had the idea of ​​bringing people to record the readings. It sort of wound up from there until a full-length, unabridged version of Ulysses is published – it’s never going to reach Joyce’s level of ambition with the book, but it’s something very ambitious things to do for us.

Authors and artists were eager to sign up for the project, Biles said. Self will be the first reader – “He’s a great interpreter, and also a great torchbearer of modernism,” Biles said – followed by Winterson. Izzard tackles the famous first part of Calypso: “Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with delight the internal organs of beasts and poultry. He liked thick giblet soup, gizzards with hazelnuts, stuffed roast heart, fried slices of liver in a crust, fried chicken coop eggs. Above all, he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave his palate a fine flavor of slightly perfumed urine.

Molly Bloom’s soliloquy will be read by multiple voices, including Atwood and Deborah Levy, Biles said. “It’s going to be very polyphonic.”

The readings will be accompanied by a 10-episode “Bloomcast”, hosted by Biles and meant to be an introduction for those new to Ulysses. “So many people have started and left Ulysses, and it’s a very difficult book in many ways. But it’s also a book that really pays off for the investment you make in it. It’s hard work. But it’s It’s also an incredibly emotionally powerful book, it’s definitely one of the most intense literary experiences there is,” Biles said. “And having this diverse cast of people with different accents, with different ways of reading , means each section is going to take on its own character and hopefully keep people interested and focused between February and June.”

Readers will use text from a new edition of Ulysses, published by Penguin Classics to mark the centenary. The novel will also be celebrated at the Hay festival with a series of debates and live performances between May 26 and June 5. And Shakespeare and Company isn’t the only organization to mark the centenary with a recording: Thornwillow Press has engaged readers, including Stephen Fry and Salman Rushdie, for a video and audio podcast reading of Ulysses. The weekly episodes will peak on Bloomsday, when readers can watch or listen to 300 readers, over 30 episodes, reading Ulysses.


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