A Traveller’s Tale by Kathleen Munson
Bloomsday, 16 June 2019, in Zürich was a real treat.
I arrived in Zurich on Bloomsday eve after an exhilarating bike tour in Italy, so a Guinness in the James Joyce bar seemed appropriate. Joyce had known this bar and drew on the barmaids there for Sirens in Ulysses. When Jury’s in Dame St Dublin demolished, the Victorian interior of the bar was saved and reassembled in Zurich in Pelikanstrasse. In the 1970s, it was the meeting place for the weekly reading of Finnegans Wake which is still going but is now held at the James Joyce Foundation in Augustinergasse.
To my disappointment for all its atmosphere, with waiters wearing plaid pants and braces, there was no information about Joyce to be found. It was closed on Sunday, so no chance for yet another Guinness on Bloomsday.
Next morning, my Bloomsday began with a tram trip to Fluntern Cemetery, James Joyce’s final resting place. Set on a hill overlooking Zürich the cemetery is resplendent with wonderful gardens and wildflower lawns which I felt fortunate to enjoy as I wove my way to Joyce’s graveside.
The tram stop was hard to find, so I asked a young Swiss family for directions to the zoo since they didn’t know where the cemetery was. I remembered Nora
saying something about Jim being pleased to hear the lions roar from his grave, though all I could hear when I was there were some very noisy monkeys.
My next stop was Kronenhalle, a restaurant enjoyed by Joyce, reached by walking through the very picturesque part of old Zürich. Arriving too
early for lunch, and being more frugal with money than Joyce, I took in its surroundings and indulged in a drink at its side bar. The bar had been renovated in 1964 so nothing remaining would have been recognised by Joyce, save , perhaps, a beautiful Matisse sketch and works by Miro, Picasso, and Chagall.
I asked a waiter for a peep into the restaurant, but he either didn’t understand English, or was wise to tourists just wanting to look. He didn’t even know it was Bloomsday!
In the evening I attended the celebrations organised by the Zürich James Joyce Foundation. The foundation was established to keep Fritz Senn’s collection of books and objects, his Joyceana, in one place – his ashplants, moustache cup, and even a death mask. It was a joy to be with people who loved and knew so much about Joyce’s work. We started with drinks and food in the small sundrenched street by the front door.
We went upstairs for the reading. Morgan Crowley gave a most energetic performance as he read, acted, and sang his way through parts of Ulysses. He brought in familiar characters including Leopold Bloom and Gertie and the citizen, to the many approving nods and smiles and laughter of the larger than expected audience.
It was easy to be a stranger in such a group with Joyce its common interest. Welcoming too, to attend the dinner after the reading. A woman bought Morgan Crowley’s CD of ‘The Dead’ for me, to support the foundation. He donates all the money to the Foundation, and she has given a copy to all the people she can think of. The funding is about to run out so they’re hoping to find a very generous benefactor.
There was time to go back to the Foundation in the morning before catching my train to Hamburg. The women there were very generous with their time, and seemed very knowledgeable and pleased to have a visiting Joyce enthusiast from so far away.