• Morgan Fagg

What language are they even speaking?

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

Bloomsday Society Monthly Meeting

Finishing work at 7, I bumped into Bill Dixon at Metro Antón Martín who was rushing in the other direction and we only had the briefest of moments to greet one another but it was a quick reminder that the Bloomsday Society had their monthly reading at El Ateneo, the beautiful theatre, El Ateneo, Cientifico, Literario & Artistico de Madrid situated in the heart of Madrid by the Spanish Parliament.


Naturally, their readings would be missing the ever talented Mr Dixon who reads and sings and even plays the occasional musical instrument superbly for the Bloomsday Society. Jack of trades, Bill Dixon has actually mastered each which he graciously shares with the group and is always happy to explain some Joycean facts to me.

What language were they even speaking I had to question as the talk seemed to break into an Italian discussion on where Joyce lived and while I appreciate that Joyce spoke many European languages and apparently even had his own language at home with his daughter. Reading Joyce in Madrid can turn into a multitude of languages being spoken at any given moment.


Last year on Bloomsday, a girl took to reading Ulysses in greek at an event in Desperate Literature bookshop and throughout the monthly readings Joyce’s works can be heard read in both Spanish and English and in some cases, Damien Gallagher has read verses in both languages and I arrived just as Malacy Murphy had finished his reading, Damien Gallagher took to reading from Finnegan’s Wake which looked like it was written in Welsh.

Experts in the life and writings of James Joyce the group discussed various aspects with Sara Canto quoting months and years and locations like she was Joyce's personal secretary and even afterwards, people talked of Dublin with such fondness and detail.

I had spent six months living in Blackrock without ever getting a sense of Dublin like my Spanish friends.


Talking with one of the members afterwards I had to explain that I had never even been to the Forty Foot but on one occasion while chatting to a girl in Dublin she was planning to go to the Forty Foot but I didn’t want to intrude by inviting myself along. My shyness aside, we finished the reading with everyone joining Chris Dove in singing, Just a Song at Twilight.

As I have written before, We all sing from the same Hymn sheet but we don’t always understand Joyce. https://www.nohemingway.com/blog/the-mystery-of-joyce

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© 2018 by Morgan Fagg.