As a teacher of James Joyce’s Ulysses, I have always been intrigued by the European wanderings of Rudolph Virag Bloom who in the penultimate Ithaca chapter of the book is said to have “narrated to his son Leopold Bloom (aged 6) a retrospective arrangement of migrations and settlements in and between Dublin, London, Florence, Milan, Vienna, Budapest, Szombathely with statements of satisfaction (his grandfather having seen Maria Theresia, empress of Austria, queen of Hungary), with commercial advice (having taken care of pence, the pounds having taken care of themselves). Leopold Bloom (aged 6) had accompanied these narrations by constant consultation of a geographical map of Europe (political) and by suggestions for the establishment of affiliated business premises in the various centres mentioned.”
Why did Rudolph, a Jewish man from a small town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, go to all these major European cities? What were his business dealings in each one? What were the specifics of his personal life? Why did he commit suicide? As a writer, I am being drawn to create a backstory to fill in the blanks and answer these questions. In short, this would be a prequel to Ulysses! Wish me luck. I’m going to give it a shot. If there are those reading this post, who may have suggestions for me in creating this backstory, it would be greatly appreciated.
The James Joyce Ulysses class that I will be teaching for ten weekly sessions at the Oakton College Emeritus program begins next Tuesday morning. I will be posting brief items of interest from the book on this blog starting today, until the class ends on December 1. These posts will be called Ulysses Titbits. Why Titbits? Well as we first encounter Leopold Bloom on the morning of June 16, 1904 home, at 7 Eccles Street, we learned that “he liked to read at stool.” Newspapers especially. And on that particular day, at stool, he happened to be reading, and later utilizing, a paper named Titbits.