Irishness is for other people
- BuyDublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated by Anne McLean and Rosalind Harvey
Harvill Secker, 245 pp, £16.99, June 2012, ISBN 978 1 84655 489 6
Enrique Vila-Matas’s new novel centres on Bloomsday, the annual celebration in Dublin of the day on which Joyce’s Ulysses is set. Many nations celebrate mythical events, but Ireland commemorates a fictional one. It is as if Britain were to dedicate a feast day to Falstaff or to the Artful Dodger. For some in Ireland, Bloomsday is a useful alternative to memorialising the Easter Rising or the United Irish Insurrection: honouring uprisings against the British has been controversial ever since the shadow of the IRA hung over the country. Bloomsday is a secular rather than a sacred feast. It turns a non-existent character into a real-life event, rather as Leopold Bloom himself is a fictional figure who is solidly real. Illusion and reality converge: if Joyce himself crops up in the novel, as some critics maintain, Bloom even encounters his own creator, rather as religious believers are supposed to do when they die. The same may be true of the hero of Dublinesque, who spots a man who may be Vila-Matas.