DUBLIN — James Joyce famously left his native Dublin at the age of 22 and then spent the rest of his life writing about the city, sending characters to wander its slums, back streets and faded 18th-century grandeur.
A century before search engines and online street views, the exiled Joyce would bombard Dublin-based friends with postcards and letters, checking every detail of the city’s micro-geography, every shop front and street number. Not long before his death in Zurich in 1941, he was asked whether he would ever go back to Dublin. His reply: “Have I ever left it?”
But if Joyce died in love with Dublin, does Dublin still love Joyce? Last month, despite vigorous opposition from prominent writers, artists, academics and heritage groups, Ireland’s planning authority approved a proposal to convert one of Dublin’s most iconic Joycean landmarks into a tourist hostel, dashing hopes that it could be preserved as a museum and cultural space.
18th-century townhouse at 15 Usher’s Island was the setting for “The Dead,” the final story in Joyce’s collection “Dubliners,” often cited as the greatest short story written in English. It is certainly more accessible to general readers than Joyce’s great trio of modernist novels — “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake.”
the detailed decision on its website. An agent for the two developers, Fergus McCabe and Brian Stynes, said they had no comment beyond what was stated in their planning application.
For many Dubliners, the decision to redevelop the literary landmark is symptomatic of a wider erasure of the city’s street life and townscape by commercial development.