The lost Dublin he immortalised is a shadowplace of contrasts, a provincial Edwardian backwater. It has elegance and pitiless squalor; the desolation of a scandalised diva reduced to beggary. Chandeliers illuminate her mansions, candles glow in chapels; red lights flicker in the brothel doorways. Joyce said his hometown had “a faint odor of corruption”. But few novelists have written more beautifully about any city. And nobody has ever depicted with such scrupulous precision what it is to be a native of a colony.
If ever there was a novel that is truly about everything, it is this wonderful, infuriating book. It contains passages of unearthly beauty, sequences funnier than any stand-up comedian, sentences so graceful that you stand in the sunshine of that summer day, transported by the communion of language. It is virtual reality, a century before the internet. It is Fellini before Fellini, and Scorsese before Scorsese.