Ten great authors give their opinion on James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’

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In 2022 it will be a century since the publication of the colossal novel by James Joyce, Ulises. Since it came off the printers, the book has received praise and applause across the critical spectrum. However, the consensus dictates that it is a masterpiece. Here are some words spoken or written by great pens over the years.

Joyce’s mistake

Jorge Luis Borges

Joyce’s talent was essentially verbal. I don’t know if poetic is the word. It is what Shaw called word music. Joyce is verbal music and the invention of words. A novel is done more by imagining characters, penetrating them. That doesn’t happen with Joyce. If you read or try to read the UlisesIn the end, the characters are unknown. In the Ulises thousands of situations are known but the characters are not known as those of Conrad, Dostoyevsky and others can be known. Joyce made that mistake. Although I think he was one of the greatest verbal artificers, that has nothing to do with the novel. In a novel you have to think about the characters, about the characters, about what happens, more than about the words used.

a fabulous artifice

Joyce Carol Oates

Many voices, many intonations; many storytellers struggling to impose their own interpretations on the world; an opera-style work that is best appreciated by reading and rereading it, aloud if possible, with an awareness of the ‘jokeseriousness’ underlying each passage. What does it mean Ulises…? A fabulous device. A ruse. A novel to complete the tradition of the novel.

A universe in a grain of sand

Salman Rushdie

In short, (Joyce) built a universe out of a grain of sand. That was a revelation to me: so it can also be written that way. For someone who wanted to be a writer, like me, it was so perfect, so inspiring, that it created a need that had to be met.

light and word

Salvador Elizondo

Ulises it is neither an a priori nor an a posteriori about the life or behavior of men, it is the historical present. It is not the reflection of light or the echo of the word; it is the light and the word: it is not the nostalgia for a distant or immediate past, or the premonition of a future, it is the suspension of the consciousness of the world.


George Orwell

I wish I hadn’t read it. It gives me an inferiority complex. When I read a book like that and then go back to my own work, I feel like a eunuch who has taken a vocal production course.

The verb before the verb

Anthony Burgess

Using the technique of the interior monologue to discover the most intimate thoughts and feelings of his characters —in a presyntactic and almost preverbal way—, the Ulises pushed to the limit the examination of the fantasy of human consciousness


George Bernard Shaw

I have read several fragments of Ulises. It is a sickening record of a disgusting phase of civilization.

Surprise, pleasure and terror

T. S. Eliot

I maintain that this book [Ulises] it is the most important expression that the present has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape. […] It has given me all the surprise, pleasure and terror that I require.

patience and relaxation

siri hustvedt

I have discovered that the best policy for all art is relaxation. I remember at 18 years old being so intimidated by the Ulises from Joyce, that I tied a knot and did not have a good time. I stopped reading it. A couple of years later, I relaxed and told myself that I would try to get what I could out of him. And I loved it.

a genuine world

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I read the Ulises in fragments, by parts and in successive starts until I lost patience. It was premature nerve. Years later, as a docile adult, I set myself the task of reading it again in a serious way, and that not only resulted in the discovery of a genuine world that I had never suspected within myself, it also gave me invaluable technical help in freeing my language and to manage time and structure in my own books.


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Ten great authors give their opinion on James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’

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