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Celebrating Ulysses on Radio 4

Wednesday 6 June 2012, 18:00

Jeremy Howe Jeremy Howe Commissioning Editor

James Joyce - author of 'one of the least read novels of the century, as one of the filthiest novels ever written and as one of the cleverest.'

Now this is a challenge! James Joyce's Ulysses has an awesome reputation - as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, as one of the least read novels of the century, as one of the filthiest novels ever written and as one of the cleverest. It is all of these, and more, but let's get something straight - for all its wit, bravura and its tricksiness, it is also one of the funniest most entertaining books to come out of Ireland, and is one of the most tender accounts of everyday life ever written. It is a completely engrossing portrait of the life of a great city over one day - Dublin on June 16th 1904, now known as Bloomsday after the workaday hero of the novel. Which is reason enough for Radio 4 to break its schedule and broadcast it across one day on June 16th.

We are in safe hands I think - Melvyn Bragg will set the book in its context in In Our Time a couple of days before, Mark Lawson, live from Dublin, will guide us through the novel as it is being broadcast, and the dramatisation - co produced by Jeremy Mortimer, fresh from his Sony triumph with A Tale of Two Cities, and Jonquil Panting, written by Robin Brooks who dazzled us with his version of I, Claudius a few years back, and starring Henry Goodman, Andrew Scott, Niamh Cusack, Stephen Rea and a stellar Irish cast - promises to be wonderful.

But it is pretty earthy too: it has one of the best toilet scenes in world literature, and enough sexual content for it to be seen as a work of pornography when it was first published. And Radio 4 is doing it all. To do Ulysses without the sex would to be unfaithful to one of the most beautiful books in the English language, and we think our audience would not thank us for censoring a masterpiece. Or as my boss, the Controller, Gwyneth Williams, says, luckily for us James Joyce was writing with the Radio 4 schedule in mind - although we have no watershed on Radio 4, all the sex scenes come late at night.

You have been warned - but it promises to be a real treat and great days listening, and if you cannot catch it all on air, it will be there to listen again and download for a fortnight after transmission. Please enjoy!

Editor note: James Joyce's Ulysses will be broadcast in seven parts on Saturday 16 June. The dramas will be available to download. Clips, videos, character profiles and a series of blog posts wil be available on the Radio 4 website.

Listen to clips, meet the characters, sign up for the downloads and find out more about this landmark dramatisation on the Ulysses site.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Greatly looking forward to this.

    I searched for the podcast feed, to add it to my reader, but it's not available yet. In searching, though, I discovered Frank Delaney's epic podcast of the whole of Ulysses with detailed discussion as he goes.


    There's a list of previous podcasts but it only goes back to episode 11. You can overcome this, however, if you open the RSS feed, which goes right back to the first episode.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Looking forward to listening to this great epic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Please please please leave the Archers alone. The vast majority of listeners do not want it to turn into a ''dramatic' series. We love the smallness of the story lines - which are in fact much more true to life than the 'dramatic' series on the TV. Most of us do not have any experience of gang shootings etc and we certainly don't want that sort of stroyline intruding into a lovely peaceful viallge of Ambridge. LEAVE it alone and let it continue tp reflect the minutiae of life - the real stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    On this week's Desert Island Discs Margaret Rhodes revealed that when she was a child water would freeze in her unheated bedroom. This privation could be encountered some 25 years later in Chapel Court of Jesus College, Cambridge, during the winter of 1957/8. Plus ça change? Not quite - that part of Chapel Court is currently undergoing a splendid renovation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I would like to add weight to Duckpond's comment about Frank Delaney's podcast, dissecting Ulysses paragraph by paragraph. I was one of those "I started Ulysses once but didn't finish it " people until I found this. It completely won me round. Unfortunately I will be about 100 by the time he finishes it. I can now completely understand Joyce's comment that if Dublin was flattened it could be totally recreated from the pages of Ulysses. Yes......

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Delighted that my favourite radio station is being imaginative - just as we expect - but please check the spelling of Niamh Cusack on the Ulysses website. I know Irish names can be awkward, but unless I am much mistaken you could do with rearranging the vowels there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Now that Joyce's works are out of copyright (i'd rather download the podcats) you can now read 'MY READABLE' Finnegans Wake - here -


    This is the first part of the whole book i have rewitten so it is readable to all. I just need a publishing contract now. Any offers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    This is fantastic, I live in Brisbane, Australia, and as you can imagine bloomsday is not exactly a big event here.

    For those interested there are a number of websites that have been created for the event



    Back to Barracks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I thought listeners might be interested in the song I penned 20 years ago called Reading Aloud James Joyce. It was well received back then and still gets airplay. (Although it was basically the Dubliners abridged)
    Here's the link to the remastered version. Its free downloadable in June http://www.stephendunwoody.com/#!bloomsday


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