As some of you may’ve seen on twitter last week, Josh and I made this “Joyce as Humphrey Bogart” image for Bloomsday in Zagreb. Janine did a little interview with event organizer Igor Jurilj about the goings-on;
Janine Utell: Tell us the story of how Bloomsday Zagreb came to be: how did you start getting the event off the ground?
Igor Jurilj: I came up with the idea on New Years Eve when I decided to stay home and re-read Ulysses because of the imminent Joyce conference talk (I know I’m a dork). The initial intention was just to reintroduce Joyce to Croatia in the manner that we would experience Joyce beyond the cold statue of his in Pula where he had lived in 1904. Therefore, I decided to engage the citizens of Zagreb (where I study) into the celebrations of Bloomsday and at that point I knew that the best way of doing it would be to either recreate or organize a reading session of the Wandering Rocks episode from Ulysses. I believe this decision does not require much explaining. That was the foundation for the idea that would soon be developed in Rome, at Fiddler’s Elbow pub in the conversation with Professor John McCourt to whom I presented the initial idea.
JU: How did YOU come to Joyce, Igor? What’s been your experience reading Ulysses, and how were you inspired to make Bloomsday Zagreb happen?
IJ: I had been introduced to Joyce a while ago, probably on my second year of study (it was with Portrait), but I read Ulysses for the first time as late as 2009 as it was the most important novel of the course on Irish modernism and, after years of postponing the process, I finally read it and instantly, what a cliché, fell in love with it because it held my attention as the most challenging piece of writing to date. However, I had been familiar with Bloomsday at that moment, as my mentor, Professor Gjurgjan had organized the celebration in the previous years.
JU: What are some of the special challenges and opportunities presented by doing a Bloomsday in a non-English speaking country? What’s been the response so far?
IJ: The biggest challenge by far is to introduce Joyce and Ulysses to the people who have never read it and know hardly anything about it, but what is absolutely interesting is the level of curiosity among them because we tried to take a different approach – extract one layer and dimension of it and focus on it. That dimension are the cinematic aspects of Ulysses (my primary interest), so the response was excellent – friends, other students, and other citizens asked if they could participate in the activities, primarily the reading sessions.
JU: What events do you have planned?
IJ: The plan was to start at noon at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, so that everybody – participants and guests – could get their beauty sleep and be in full throttle for the full day activities. We are starting with the screening of 18 short experimental films inspired by Ulysses and Mulligan’s words in the opening part of Telemachus (see the pun in number?) by Ivan Ladislav Galeta. At 3PM we will proceed to the Main square where a corridor with a dome connects the square and the main street of the capital with the next square. So, in the middle of the corridor (called the Octagon), below the dome, our reading group (dressed in our „Bloomsday“ outfits) will read the Wandering Rocks episode. We decided for that location because it is always crowded at that (busiest) time of the day, but also because of its acoustic quality. We are planning to wrap up the session with a little linguistic experiment, which is a secret/surprise, but you will get the chance to see the video of it, hopefully.
In the late afternoon, we will go back to the Faculty where Professor John McCort will give a talk on Joyce and Cinema, wheres Dr Aidan O’Malley will show us which interesting theoretical things are hidden behind the title “Viewing the Spectre of Stephen Dedalus through a Cracked Looking-Glass”. I must say I am very excited about both because Professor McCourt will be talking about my favorite Joyce-related topic, and I know for a fact that Professor O’Malley will make his talk rather dynamic, as he always does. Finally, the participants and our friends will rally at 22,000 Miles where we will conclude the celebrations with a reading session of Cyclops that is going to be actually performed by our famous actor and Joyce fan – Sven Medvešek. As for the remainder of the night, I would rather not talk about it as I am not planning anything and do not consider myself responsible for that part
JU: Is there a Croatian translation of Ulysses? Is it widely read?
IJ: There are, in fact, two translations. One by Zlatko Gorjan from 1957, which is an interesting, but not necessarily the best translation. That version could be purchased at newspaper stands with our leading daily newspaper some time ago, so, relatively speaking, it was widely read due to its price. However, the second translation by our eminent writer, linguist and scholar, Luko Paljetak, is a praiseworthy translation which I consider remarkable due to its nuances that actually achieve the same semantic and syntactic quality in Croatian as the one from in the original.
JU: How will you know if Bloomsday Zagreb is successful?
IJ: The answer is pretty simple – if our friends’ friends show up and random citizens decide to stick around for a few minutes to observe what we have prepared. Anything more is beyond my expectations.
-Thanks, Igor, and happy Bloomsday!