Book & Film Notes: Dubliners (1914) by James Joyce & The Dead (1987) directed by John Houston

Dubliners (1914) by James Joyce

Dead Dodo Vintage, 2013. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 1659 KB Print length: 182 pages. First published in 1914 ASIN: B00EDWB5IC

51JGWDaZYtL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_ Dubliners was completed in 1905, but a series of British and Irish publishers and printers found it offensive and immoral, and it was suppressed. The book finally came out in London in 1914, just as Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man began to appear in the journal Egoist under the auspices of Ezra Pound. The first three stories in Dubliners might be incidents from a draft of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and many of the characters who figure in Ulysses have their first appearance here, but this is not a book of interest only because of its relationship to Joyce’s life and mature work. It is one of the greatest story collections in the English language –an unflinching, brilliant, often tragic portrait of early twentieth-century Dublin. The book, which begins and ends with a death, moves from “stories of my childhood” through tales of public life. Its larger purpose, Joyce said, was as a moral history of Ireland. [Source: Penguin Classics taken from Amazon]

As I’ve already said, I took the opportunity to read Dubliners, the last short story in particular, taking advantage of St Patrick’s Day, of which I don’t regret at all. I must say however that the rest of the short stories included in this collection are rather unequal and, in my view, are not worthwhile except for the last story, a novella in length, entitled The Dead. The Dead is set in Dublin in the early years of the twentieth century. Two elderly sisters and their niece are giving a Christmas party. The two sisters have been devoted to teach music. The action begins when the first guests arrive. The story follows the behaviour of most of them at the party. Towards the end, when all the invitees are slowly leaving, a particular melody, reminds to one of them of an event that happened years ago, and she tells her husband something she had never told him before. In the final paragraph Joyce enters the mind of the husband, who has been left thinking over what his wife has just told him.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

This is an excellent short story that must be read leisurely, to be able to savour it up to the maximum.

Dubliners has been reviewed at FictionFan’s Book Reviews

The Dead (1987) directed by John Huston

UK – IE – US / 83 min / color / Channel 4, Delta Film, Liffey Films, Vestron Pictures, Zenith Entertainment Dir: John Huston Pro: William J. Quigley, Wieland Schulz-Keil, Chris Sievernich Scr: Tony Huston, based on The Dead by James Joyce Cine: Fred Murphy Mus: Alex North Cast: Anjelica Huston (Gretta Conroy), Donal McCann (Gabriel Conroy), Dan O’Herlihy (Mr. Browne), Donal Donnelly (Freddy Malins), Helena Carroll (Aunt Kate), Cathleen Delany (Aunt Julia), Ingrid Craigie (Mary Jane), Rachael Dowling (Lily), Marie Kean (Mrs. Malins), Frank Patterson (Bartell D’Arcy), Maria McDermottroe (Molly Ivors), Sean McClory (Mr. Grace), Kate O’Toole (Miss Furlong), Maria Hayden (Miss O’Callaghan), Bairbre Dowling (Miss Higgins), Lyda Anderson (Miss Daly), Colm Meaney (Mr. Bergin), Cormac O’Herlihy (Mr. Kerrigan), Paul Grant (Mr. Duffy), Paul Carroll (Young Gentleman), Patrick Gallagher (Mr. Egan), Dara Clarke (Miss Power), Brendan Dillon (Cabman), Redmond Gleeson (Nightporter), Amanda Baird (Young Lady) Release Date: 3 September 1987 (Venice Film Festival); 11 December 1987 (United Kingdom); 18 December 1987 (United States); 30 March 1988 (Spain) IMDb Rating: 7.4

Movie Info (Source: Rotten Tomatoes) The final film of legendary director John Huston was based on the closing story of James Joyce’s Dubliners. Anjelica Huston is top-billed as Gretta Conroy, the niece by marriage of turn-of-century Irish spinsters Kate Morkan (Helena Carroll) and Julia Morkan (Cathleen Delany). At the home of these two curious ladies, Gretta is prodded into remembering her long-dead lover. She tearfully reveals to her husband (Donal McCann) that the deceased boy may well have died on her behalf. Her tale of woe bespeaks the sentiment shared by James Joyce: no matter how long in their graves, the dead will always influence the living. Adding to the film’s elegiac quality, it stars Huston’s daughter Anjelica and was co-written with his son Tony Huston.


I can’t decide which one is better; they are both masterpieces, each one on its own merits. What is curious to note is that the novella is a youthful work while the film is not only a mature work, but the author’s last will. Maybe this terminology is not suitable for some artistic expressions.

6 thoughts on “Book & Film Notes: Dubliners (1914) by James Joyce & The Dead (1987) directed by John Houston”

  1. Thanks for the mention, Jose Ignacio! I enjoyed some of the other stories a lot too, but agree that it was a variable collection overall. I didn’t realise there was a film of The Dead – must search it out…

    1. You’re welcome FictionFan! I enjoyed some of the other stories but what I meant to say was that I didn’t find in them the merit that undoubtedly has The Dead.

  2. So glad you liked these Jose Ignacio – I completely agree that both are masterpieces. Reading your post made me want to read and watch again… Supreme works of art, both of them.

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