Dublin wants James Joyce’s bones. As this article insinuates, you can’t go three steps there without bumping into something Joyce-related, so what is a macabre trophy like his corpse going to add to that?
This question of return has lately been raised again, in the form of two Dublin city councillors, Dermot Lacey and Paddy McCartan, proposing a motion to seek the repatriation of his remains in time for the centenary of Ulysses’s publication in 2022. There is no evidence that Joyce himself ever expressed a desire to be buried in the country of his birth, but the councillors cited an apparent effort by his widow Nora in the late 1940s to have his remains returned to Dublin. “The benefit of this,” said Lacey, “is that you’re honouring someone’s last wishes.” But of course the honouring of Nora’s wishes – evidence for which, as the Joyce scholar Sam Slote pointed out in the Irish Times, is not all that compelling – was hardly the true motivation for digging up her husband’s earthly remains and sticking them on the next Ryanair flight out of Zurich. “I’m not going to be cynical about bones,” Lacey said, before immediately going on to be quite cynical about bones: “I think it’s something Joycean lovers would appreciate. I don’t want to calculate something like this in shillings and pence but I don’t think it would do any harm. I think it would do some good.”