'A Dirty Mind,' Mr. Joyce? -- A Tale of Repression and Redemption

“A nice thing to find in one of the largest bookshops in the city. And in one of the main streets of Dublin, no less.”

Dan slammed the book on the manager’s desk.

Mr. Molloy looked at the book. “My good man, there is no way we would have that book for sale,” he said.

“It was with the Greek literature.  Any young student could have picked it out thinking it was by Homer,” Dan snorted. “Disgraceful.  Absolutely disgraceful. Ulysses indeed.”

Pictured, a 1922 edition of "Ulysses," published in London by Egoist Press. This edition was smuggled in various forms against the threat of discovery and pirated printings. Source: ViaLibri.Net

 “I assure you there has been a mistake. We have never ever stocked that man Joyce's book in our store.  We have very strict rules.”  Mr. Molloy wiped sweat from his forehead.

 "It's a banned book.” 

Dan pointed to the notice that was prominently displayed around the shop and could be seen through the glass panel of the office. It read:

“THERE ARE OVER 8,000 BOOKS BANNED IN IRELAND. IF BY CHANCE WE HAVE ONE ON DISPLAY,

PLEASE INFORM US AND IT WILL BE DESTROYED.”

“So much for that, indeed,” Dan sneered. “Not only banned by our own Irish censors, but I believe it is on the Index, too.”

Mr. Molloy went white. “Not the Index. Oh my, God, not that." The Church's Index of Forbidden Books carried more weight than the censors' list so far as he was concerned.

“The same.”

“A filthy piece of work. And it gets worse at the end. A married woman languishing in her bed recounting her escapades and indulging her fantasies. A disgusting soliloquy.” Dan said.

Mr. Molloy reached for the book.  “As bad as that?” he asked.

Dan detected more eagerness than shock in his tone.  “I’ll show you,” he said, and opened the book. “Forty-five pages.” He held the last chapter between his fingers.

Mr. Molloy licked his lips.  He leaned forward as if to try to read the vertically held pages. 

“Will I read some of it to you?” Dan asked.

“Yes. Yes, of course.”

Still holding the pages together, Dan turned to the last page of the chapter and read:

I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

“My God,” Mr Molloy said. “What a wanton hussy!  How could any man write it?”

Dan looked him in the eyes, “A dirty mind, Mr. Molloy?”

Mr. Molloy's eyes were wide, his breathing heavy. “Leave it with me then. I’ll burn it this very day.  It shouldn't be held with the tongs.”

“Ah, now, I think that I had better take care of it.  After all, you didn't even know it was on your shelf.”

“It's just that I wouldn’t want it to be an occasion of sin for any young man. You know what I mean.”

Pictured, the James Joyce Statue on North Earl Street, Dublin, dubbed "The prick with the stick" by many Dubliners. By Toniher; Marjorie FitzGibbon (the statue) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Or any young woman, for that matter,” Dan said, with just the right touch of innuendo.

Mr. Molloy flushed a bright red. He licked his lips again. “God forbid, and may He keep the women of Ireland pure,” he said. By now, he was almost panting.

“I’ll take care of it for you,” Dan said. “After all there is your reputation and that of your store to be considered. You supply most of the schools in the city. And it would never do for this to get out.”

Mr. Molloy sought to recover himself. “Perhaps we can come to some arrangement then."

Afterwards, Dan told his delighted friend Mick, “Brother, I got all the books the kids need at school this year. All free of charge. A very nice little deal, Mick. We can always benefit from the influence of the obscurants in this country.”

“Yeh, turned the tables there alright. But I’m glad you didn’t let him keep me book,” Mick laughed. “Brand new and smuggled across the border via Belfast. From one peculiar and closed society to another. Jaysus! The bould Joyce himself would be tickled pink at it all.”

This story is based on an incident that occurred in 1950s Dublin that involved two friends of our family. They did not live to see a statue of James Joyce erected close to where the bookshop with the sign once stood. Acknowledgments to the James Joyce Estate for the lines from Ulysses. ©

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Tags: Arts, Fiction, James Joyce, Literature

Comment by John M. Strathern on July 28, 2015 at 4:13pm

Thanks for sharing!. Several years ago I studied Ulysses for a year...of course it took me that long. I glad I did. He was a true genius, great writer, commentator on Irish society. I must admit, I almost quit reading it several times. Real work! But, I persevered and am glad I did. By the way Joyce was in trouble immediately, with the Catholic Church, with his first paragraph! I visited the Joyce Museum, in Dublin, and took one of the street tours. It was great.

Comment by James O'Brien on July 28, 2015 at 9:20pm

 

You did well John; some never manage to finish the book. Best to start on Joyce with the short pieces in Dubliners, then A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, to get some grounding before tackling Ulysses, I was once told. As for Finnegans Wake well the best I could do was enjoy the bawdy ballad of the same title by the “Dubliners”.

 

Comment by John M. Strathern on August 14, 2015 at 3:05pm

So true James! Ulysses takes some serious study!

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