‘My wife is from Galway city’, James Joyce told a London literary agent in 1918 when his writings began to attract international attention after over a decade of exile and relentless struggle. From the moment he met Nora Barnacle, his wife and muse, Joyce weaved tales of her native city and county into his writings, making Galway second only to Dublin as a wellspring in his major works.
Nora is central to almost everything Joyce wrote; Galway is central to knowing Nora. Joyce himself visited Galway twice, and he wrote memorably about the city’s history in two lengthy articles for an Italian newspaper. Galway is key to Joyce’s greatest short story, “The Dead”, and it is the location of one of his best-known poems, “She Weeps Over Rahoon”. A Galwegian also haunts the second half of Ulysses, the most influential novel of the twentieth century.
Written in an accessible style for the general reader rather than the Joycean specialist, this book nonetheless contains considerable new information, such as the first detailed account of the suspicious grounding of a passenger ship in Galway Bay in 1858, an event which gripped Joyce’s imagination and features in Ulysses. It also gives fresh insights into Nora Barnacle’s influence on Joyce’s writings and his relationship with his tragic only daughter Lucia, ‘a granddaughter of Galway’.
Ray Burke is a Galwegian and a graduate of NUI Galway. A journalist in Dublin and London for almost forty years, he was News Editor of the Irish Press from 1991 to 1995. He is the author of Press Delete: The Decline and Fall of the Irish Press (Currach Press, 2005) and has written on James Joyce for RTÉ News, the National Library of Ireland, the Connacht Tribune and Galway City Tribune. He has been a News Editor at RTÉ since 1996 and the broadcaster’s Chief News Editor since 2007.