Ep 3: The Literary City

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             So I walk into a bar. It’s loud and it’s packed and people are definitely smoking in here. The band’s great and everyone’s happy; there’s no cover and people are filling out onto the street. It’s 2 PM on a Sunday (with a crowd about as good as the best night at the Blarney Stone). It’s Dublin. Remember what I said last time, about the Irish stereotypes and none of them being true? Okay fine, some of them are true, at least as far as Dublin is concerned.

            Dublin isn’t a big city– at one and a half million people, it doesn’t come close by even Manchester standards, and the ‘good stuff” can be traversed in a day or so. Dublin also isn’t an old city, at least by European standards, with only a couple buildings being older than 1800 (sure  in Canada that’s amazingly old, but I do have London and Paris in periphery here). So yeah, viewed from a Wikipedia facts page Dublin doesn’t seem that special, and as my photos unfortunately reveal, the pictures in no way do the city justice.

            Because there’s something about Dublin; it’s a lot older and grander than it appears. Its university holds one of the oldest books in existence, its castle is totally open to visitors, its museums are free, its abundance of writers all have their houses converted into museums. Oh yeah, the literature? About that. Joyce Yeats Beckett Wilde Shaw… and so on. I’m generally not one to get overly proud of heritage (it starts to get a little creepy), but on this one, I get a little excited. Because there’s a lot. Out of all of them, Joyce really owns the city: you see his influence everywhere, from art to statues to the streets itself, since after Dubliners and Ulysses there’s very few corners of the city he hasn’t brought to life. It’s been nearly a hundred years, but going to the Dead house brings that amazing short story to life.

            That being said, possibly the highlight of the city for me was the Yeats exhibit, which had on display his original family photo album, all his notes, recreations of different rooms of places he wrote, and kept entries of his diary. It ended in a padded room which flashed various symbols of his on the wall (Byzantium, the fairy, the tower) while a voice read out his greatest poems. Incredible. It was there I realized I was in the right major. As much as I love history, it couldn’t bring that city alive the way the literature had. I mean, I didn’t even like Yeats until my incredible Honours Prof gave us her rundown of the poems. I can’t imagine going there even a year ago, thinking of all the Irish books I’ve read since. Eventually I’ll actually get down and read Ulysses, and the city will be new all over again.

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            Though I don’t want to make Dublin sound like a mothball-ridden mausoleum of a city. It’s the opposite, really. Dublin has an edge to it, from the streetart-grafitti along every wall, the numerous and excellent buskers in the streets, to the drinking culture. Now my biggest regret about my weekend in Dublin is that I didn’t get a chance to truly drink with the Irish, as we got in on a Saturday night, and my family was too tired. We went out on the Sunday, but apparently that’s the quietest night. But hey, now I get an excuse to come back, right? Not to mention the cousin we were staying with lived in a renovated workhouse from the industrial revolution. The factory? Guinness of course.

            Dublin is where I started to realize I’m, well, in Europe. It was a city I’d never been to before, so I came to it completely new, and it blew me away. I had one and a half days there, and although there’s a lot more to see, it was enough time to get a feel for the place. It was the place where suddenly an English degree didn’t feel so worthless; suddenly it was more valuable than pretty much any other degree at UBC, since I was able to get so much more out of such a rich and interesting city. It makes sense to me now why you do a Go Global exchange on the in the middle of your degree: the first two years you spend delving into your course subject and getting to learn how to live on your own; this semester those independent living skills will be put to the test when that happens to be Europe, while all the things you learned in class suddenly become valuable; come back for the last two years and you’re empowered. (So this is all just empty conjecture, but hey, it has a nice rhythm to it– we’ll see.) Dublin was amazing, while London and Paris are only weeks away. Hoh boy. 

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