The Dubliners by James Joyce, abridged by Doreen Estall

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Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 3-28 February 2014
I must confess that I only switched on to Stephen Rea's magisterial reading of Joyce's novel during the third week, so my impressions are unfortunately only partial.
The BBC Radio 4 website described The Dubliners as Joyce's most "naturalistic" work, which I take to mean his most "accessible," as compared for instance to Ulysses, which contains a great deal of internal monologue that can be extremely difficult to follow.  Having listened to Rea's reading, however, I think that the distinction between "naturalistic" and "non-naturalistic" is a redundant one: in both texts Joyce creates a teeming world of early twentieth century Dublin, in which daily rituals assume paramount significance, and the characters are all expertly delineated.  There are no heroes and villains - the staple figures of the classical nineteenth century novel - in Joyce; instead he creates a teeming world of friendship, enmity, loss, alcoholism, love, politics and family; all the elements that comprise our daily lives.  He is a master of the transition from the mundane to the spiritual, from the ordinary into the extraordinary - no more so than in "The Dead" (memorably made into a film by John Huston in the late Eighties), where the protagonist Gabriel learns something about his wife's past, and through that experience comes to reflect on the importance of life and death.
Listening to Rea's reading of the text, I felt that we were in the presence of a genius - someone who understood the implications behind Joyce's words and who was possessed of that unique ability to communicate such implications to the listeners.  The producer of this epic Book at Bedtime was Stephen Wright.