Notable Books of the Twenties: Ulysses – James Joyce (1922)

If there was a single work that could give TS Eliot cause to question his own talents, it was Ulysses. Published a mere week after he put out The Waste Land, Eliot – like everyone else who read it – was sledgehammered by its genius. ‘Ulysses,’ Eliot would tell Virginia Woolf, ‘destroyed the whole of the 19th century. It left Joyce himself with nothing to write another book on. It showed up the futility of all the English styles.’

Banned, burned and bowdlerised, the sprawling novel shattered convention in its style, substance and sexual explicitness. Considered by some a full-frontal assault on literary tradition, it follows ad salesman Leopold Bloom as he wanders about Dublin across a single day. Warm and witty, wacky and wise, it is a uniquely intimate exploration of what it means to be a human – and is as influential today as in 1922, when Eliot said it had ‘the importance of a scientific discovery.’

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