Ulysses (novel)

1922 novel by James Joyce

Ulysses (1922) is a novel by James Joyce, written in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris (1914-1921). It tells in great detail many incidents of the life of Leopold Bloom and those around him on the single day of 16 June 1904. This commemorated the date Joyce first went out with Nora Barnacle, whom he had met a few days before, and which has since become celebrated in Ireland and elsewhere as Bloomsday.

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals to discovery.


It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.
History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
Unsheathe your dagger definitions...
As we, or mother Dana, weave and unweave our bodies... so does the artist weave and unweave his image.
The mocker is never taken seriously when he is most serious.
Love loves to love love.
Your God was a jew. Christ was a jew like me.
By Jesus... I'll brain that bloody jewman for using the holy name. By Jesus, I'll crucify him so I will...
It is as painful perhaps to be awakened from a vision as to be born.
I love flowers Id love to have the whole place swimming in roses...
...and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes...
  • Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air.
    • First lines, Ch. 1: Telemachus
  • The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea.
    • Ch. 1: Telemachus
  • He kills his mother but he can't wear grey trousers.
    • Ch. 1: Telemachus
  • It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.
    • Ch. 1: Telemachus
  • If you and I could only work together we might do something for the island. Helenise it.
    • Ch. 1: Telemachus
  • Kingstown pier, Stephen said. Yes, a disappointed bridge.
    • Ch. 2: Nestor
  • I fear those big words, Stephen said, which make us so unhappy.
    • Ch. 2: Nestor
  • Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants, willing to be dethroned.
    • ch. 2: Nestor page 28
  • History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
    • Ch. 2: Nestor
  • Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:
    — That is God.
    Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!
    — What? Mr Deasy asked.
    — A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.
    • Ch. 2: Nestor
  • — I just wanted to say, he said. Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?
    He frowned sternly on the bright air.
    — Why, sir? Stephen asked, beginning to smile.
    — Because she never let them in, Mr Deasy said solemnly.
    A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm. He turned back quickly, coughing, laughing, his lifted arms waving to the air.
    — She never let them in, he cried again through his laughter as he stamped on gaitered feet over the gravel of the path. That’s why.
    On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.
    • Ch. 2: Nestor
  • Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices filled with crustcrumbs, fried hencod's roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.
    • Ch. 4: Calypso
  • — Mrkgnao! the cat said loudly.
    She blinked up out of her avid shameclosing eyes, mewing plaintively and long, showing him her milkwhite teeth. He watched the dark eyeslits narrowing with greed till her eyes were green stones. Then he went to the dresser, took the jug Hanlon's milkman had just filled for him, poured warmbubbled milk on a saucer and set it slowly on the floor.
    — Gurrhr! she cried, running to lap.
    • Ch. 4: Calypso
  • — You don't want anything for breakfast?
    A sleepy soft grunt answered:
    — Mn.
    • Ch. 4: Calypso.
  • Vulcanic lake, the dead sea: no fish, weedless, sunk deep in the earth. No wind would lift those waves, grey metal, poisonous foggy waters. Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain: Sodom, Gomorrah, Edom. A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old. Old now. It bore the oldest, the first race. A bent hag crossed from Cassidy's clutching a noggin bottle by the neck. The oldest people. Wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere. It lay there now. Now it could bear no more. Dead: an old woman's: the grey sunken cunt of the world.
    • Ch. 4: Calypso
  • Come forth Lazarus! And he came fifth and lost the job.
    • Ch. 6: Hades
    • Ch. 7: Aeolus
  • Monsieur de la Palisse, Stephen sneered, was alive fifteen minutes before his death.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • Unsheathe your dagger definitions. Horseness is the whatness of allhorse. Streams of tendency and eons they worship.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • Bosh! Stephen said rudely. A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • If others have their will Ann hath a way. By cock, she was to blame. She put the comether on him, sweet and twentysix. The greyeyed goddess who bends over the boy Adonis, stooping to conquer, as prologue to the swelling act, is a boldfaced Stratford wench who tumbles in a cornfield a lover younger than herself.
  • Our national epic has yet to be written.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • Coffined thoughts around me, in mummycases, embalmed in spice of words. Thoth, god of libraries, a birdgod, moonycrowned. And I heard the voice of that Egyptian highpriest. In painted chambers loaded with tilebooks.
    They are still. Once quick in the brains of men. Still: but an itch of death is in them, to tell me in my ear a maudlin tale, urge me to wreak their will.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • As we, or mother Dana, weave and unweave our bodies, Stephen said, from day to day, their molecules shuttled to and fro, so does the artist weave and unweave his image.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • His own image to a man with that queer thing genius is the standard of all experience, material and moral.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis.
  • The mocker is never taken seriously when he is most serious.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • You know Manningham's story of the burgher's wife who bade Dick Burbage to her bed after she had seen him in Richard III and how Shakespeare, overhearing, without more ado about nothing, took the cow by the horns and, when Burbage came knocking at the gate, answered from the capon's blankets: William the conqueror came before Richard III.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • A father, said Stephen, battling against hopelessness, is a necessary evil.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • Paternity may be a legal fiction. Who is the father of any son that any son should love him or he any son?
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • — They are sundered by a bodily shame so steadfast that the criminal annals of the world, stained with all other incests and bestialities, hardly record its breach. Sons with mothers, sires with daughters, lesbic sisters, loves that dare not speak their name, nephews with grandmothers, jailbirds with keyholes, queens with prize bulls. The son unborn mars beauty: born, he brings pain, divides affection, increases care. He is a new male: his growth is his father's decline, his youth his father's envy, his friend his father's enemy.
    • Ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis
  • Shakespeare is the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance.
    • Ch. 10: The Wandering Rocks
  • It soared, a bird, it held its flight, a swift pure cry, soar silver orb it leaped serene, speeding, sustained, to come, don't spin it out too long long breath he breath long life, soaring high, high resplendent, aflame, crowned, high in the effulgence symbolistic, high, of the ethereal bosom, high, of the high vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all, the endlessnessnessness...
    • Ch. 11: Sirens
  • Tap. Tap. A stripling, blind, with a tapping cane came taptaptapping by Daly’s window where a mermaid hair all streaming (but he couldn’t see) blew whiffs of a mermaid (blind couldn’t), mermaid, coolest whiff of all.
    • Ch. 11: Sirens
  • But it's no use, says he. Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life.
    — What? says Alf.
    — Love, says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred.
    • Ch. 12: Cyclops
  • Love loves to love love.
    • Ch. 12: Cyclops, p. 327
  • Your God was a jew. Christ was a jew like me.
    Gob, the citizen made a plunge back into the shop.
    By Jesus, says he, I'll brain that bloody jewman for using the holy name. By Jesus, I'll crucify him so I will.
    • Ch. 12: Cyclops
  • And they beheld Him even Him, ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness at an angle of fortyfive degrees over Donohoe's in Little Green Street like a shot off a shovel.
    • Ch. 12: Cyclops
  • Therefore, everyman, look to that last end that is thy death and the dust that gripeth on every man that is born of woman for as he came naked forth from his mother's womb so naked shall he wend him at the last for to go as he came.
    • Ch. 14: The Oxen of the Sun
  • It is as painful perhaps to be awakened from a vision as to be born.
    • Ch. 14: The Oxen of the Sun
  • Absence makes the heart grow younger.
    • Ch. 15: Circe
  • But O, oblige me by taking away that knife. I can't look at the point of it. It reminds me of Roman history.
    • Ch. 16: Eumaeus
  • At the same time he inwardly chuckled over his repartee to the blood and ouns champion about his God being a jew. People could put up with being bitten by a wolf but what properly riled them up was a bite from a sheep.
    • Ch. 16: Eumaeus
  • The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.
    • Ch. 17: Ithaca
  • He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.
    • Ch. 17: Ithaca
  • If he had smiled why would he have smiled? To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.
    • Ch. 17: Ithaca
  • she had too much old chat in her about politics and earthquakes and the end of the world let us have a bit of fun first God help the world if all the women were her sort down on bathingsuits and lownecks of course nobody wanted her to wear them I suppose she was pious because no man would look at her twice I hope Ill never be like her a wonder she didnt want us to cover our faces but she was a welleducated woman certainly
    • Ch. 18: Penelope
  • O Jamesy let me up out of this.
    • Ch. 18: Penelope
  • I love flowers Id love to have the whole place swimming in roses God of heaven theres nothing like nature the wild mountains then the sea and the waves rushing then the beautiful country with the fields of oats and wheat and all kinds of things
  • the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many things he didnt know
    • Ch. 18: Penelope
  • I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first 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.
    • Ch. 18: Penelope. Last lines

Quotes about Ulysses

  • I never got very much out of Ulysses. I think it's an extraordinary book, but so much of it consists of rather lengthy demonstrations of how a novel ought not to be written, doesn't it? He does show nearly every conceivable way it should not be written, and then goes on to show how it might be written.
  • The other book that I worry no one reads anymore is James Joyce's Ulysses. It's not easy, but every page is wonderful and repays the effort.
  • Ulysses is my favorite novel, first read at age 20. It was the book, along with Dubliners, that made me want to be a writer, or at least it made me think about the formal possibilities of fiction. My second short story stole its structure from the Wandering Rocks section in Ulysses, only in my story it was downtown Seattle (my big swerve). I walked the length of the Belltown neighborhood with my notebook, trying for some of that Joycean precision. My third story was a cringy piece about the Irish Troubles called “Ourselves Alone”...My point is that Joyce is a life-long literary love. My obsession with novel structure was born with Ulysses. Whatever formal radicalism I aspire to have came from that book (plus Faulkner and Woolf).
  • In 1932, renowned Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote a largely critical piece for Europäische Revue on the subject of Ulysses, James Joyce's groundbreaking, controversial, and famously challenging novel. From Jung's essay: "I read to page 135 with despair in my heart, falling asleep twice on the way. The incredible versatility of Joyce's style has a monotonous and hypnotic effect. Nothing comes to meet the reader, everything turns away from him, leaving him gaping after it. The book is always up and away, dissatisfied with itself, ironic, sardonic, virulent, contemptuous, sad, despairing, and bitter... Yes, I admit I feel have been made a fool of. The book would not meet me half way, nothing in it made the least attempt to be agreeable, and that always gives the reader an irritating sense of inferiority." In September of that year, Jung sent a copy of his article to Joyce along with this letter, which both made Joyce proud and infuriated him. Two years later Jung treated Joyce's daughter, Lucia, for schizophrenia; it was around this time that Joyce wrote in Jung's copy of Ulysses: To Dr. C. G. Jung, with grateful appreciation of his aid and counsel. James Joyce. Xmas 1934, Zurich.
    • Shaun Usher, editor's note in More Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (2015)
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