Dublin and the river Liffey

Dublin and the river Liffey
Isabel del Rio

With an interesting Celtic past, the city of Dublin was founded by the Vikings and it became the principal city of the island following the Norman invasion. Dublin expanded quickly from the 17th century and it became the second largest city in the British Empire and the fifth largest in Europe. However, Dublin entered a period of immobility following the Act of Union in 1800 although it remained the economic center for the island. In 1922, after the partition of Ireland, Dublin became the capital of the Irish Free State and the new parliament, the Oireachtas, was located in Leinster House.

Today, Dublin is a modern center of arts, education, administration and economy, listed by the GaWC among the top 30 cities in the world.

Placed near the midpoint of Ireland east coast, at the mouth of the beautiful River Liffey, Dublin has always loved this river, which gives a peculiar personality to the city.

Catholic and culture, Dublin is home to many artists and authors (Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett…) but the most eminent for the culture of 20th century was James Joyce.

James Joyce loved and hated Dublin, loved and hated its Catholic traditions, and loved and hated its people. Anyway, he married an Irish woman (Nora Barnacle) and his best friend was an Irish man (Samuel Beckett) by he emigrated from the island as soon as he could and lived abroad (Paris, Trieste, Zurich…) dying and being buried in this last city.

Dubliners, by James Joyce

Dubliners, by James Joyce

Nevertheless, all of his books are inspired by Dublin (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses; Dubliners…) and the river Liffey becomes in Finnegans Wake the main character, because the river is the metaphor of life, of this feminine force that gives life and the soul of Anna Livia Plurabelle, its alter ego in the novel.

The sculptor Earnonn O’Doherty built this beautiful fountain in Dublin, along the River Liffey: “The Source of the River Liffey (or James Joyce) and it represents Anna Livia Plurabelle, our mother, the eternal feminity.

Who was Anna Livia Plurabelle, that strange lady in the strangest of the strange novels of the twentieth century? As her name implies, all of the women rooted in Lady of the Lake, the mythological goddess who gave the sword Excalibur to Arthur of Brittany. In fact, she is none other than the White Goddess, the divine female who reigned in the Neolithic. That mythology had its home in the water (also in Dublin and its main river) and in the Moon (the Sun was always masculine).

Long hair, wet and eternal, rolling clothes carrying messages. Her classic features and her eyes looking to heaven are those of Mother Nature, present in the origin of all of the cultures and in every women. Also in Nora Barnacle, the only lady of James Joyce, boozy but faithful.

They say that when James Joyce escaped with her from this Catholic cosmopolitan island to Paris, Joyce’s father said, “he never will leave her” (remember Barnacle meaning: a limpet). No, they never split because the goddess had decided by Nora, because Joyce had decided by his pen: Nora is Anna Livia Plurabelle and the main river of Ireland.

Nora never read James Joyce’s books. He reproached her this but she replied: “I do not like reading about me.”

**The fountain is a bronze monument located in the Croppy Acre Memorial Park in Dublin. It was formerly located on O’Connell Street. The monument was commissioned by businessman Michael Smurfit, in memory of his father, for the Dublin Millennium celebrations in 1988.

Video: James Joyce reading of Anna Livia Plurabelle:

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