(Maev Kennedy’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/14.)
The Irish actor Olwen Fouéré's extraordinary riverrun, which is coming into the National Theatre's Shed next month, was born in Australia three years ago on Bloomsday – 16 June, the feast of St James Joyce, when literary pilgrims across the world celebrate the day and night that the author sent Leopold Bloom on his odyssey through the streets of Dublin.
Fouéré was asked by her Australian hosts to read something from Ulysses. "OK, I'll do a bit of Molly Bloom," she recalls saying with a groan, "if you'll let me do a bit of Finnegans Wake too."
Finnegans Wake, a torrent of words, jokes, literary references, scraps of songs, place names and puns in several languages, has a reputation in Ireland much like Proust's À La Recherche du Temps Perdu – much picked up, much put down again. One friend remarked that even more Irish people claim to have read it than claim to have been in the GPO when the 1916 Easter rising broke out.