“In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone…” Sorry, just catching up on some family business. It’s true though; I saw the statue of my semi-fictional possible ancestor on Grafton Street about ten years ago (I couldn’t see any resemblance myself, but you never know).
Aside from the famous fishmonger/woman of the night, of course, the Irish capital’s most well-known artistic creations are those of James Joyce, whose epic (in all senses of the word) novel ‘Ulysses’, did so much for Dublin’s culture – not to mention the tourism industry. However, Joyce’s preoccupation with his home city started much earlier, with the writing of a group of short stories which were to become the collection entitled (simply, and somewhat unimaginatively) ‘Dubliners’.
This collection consists of fifteen short stories, most of which are very short indeed (in fact, if you take out ‘The Dead’, a late addition to the book, they average about nine pages each). Each of the stories takes place in Dublin, usually over a very limited time span, and follows a local resident along their merry (or not so merry) way before ending, if not suddenly, at least unexpectedly. By this I mean that there is no real conclusion to many of the tales; the story simply stops, and we move on to the next little view of the great city.
The writing is beautiful, seemingly effortless, and despite the brevity of most of the stories, the reader is sucked into the details of the main protagonist’s life – what little we see of it anyway. Joyce also manages to tell the tale through language tailored to suit the speech and thoughts of the character he has created, which may sound obvious but is not actually that easy to do. As the book progresses, the age of the main character increases; where the first few tales are centred around children, by the end of the collection, the central personalities are far more mature (in years, if not always in behaviour).