A World of Ulysses?


As regular visitors here would know, I love a list, it gives me some structure, helps with what to read next. I recently came across an article by author Joshua Cohen, written in 2010, for the 106th anniversary of Bloomsday, in which he identified “12 novels that have been described, whether by critics or the authors themselves, as the Ulyssi of their respective cultures.”

What a great reading list, twelve Ulysses from various nations:

The Russian Ulysses Petersburg By Andrei Bely 1913

The British Ulysses Mrs. Dalloway By Virginia Woolf 1925

The German Ulysses Berlin Alexanderplatz By Alfred Döblin 1929

The Japanese Ulysses The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa By Yasunari Kawabata 1930

The Hungarian Ulysses Prae By Miklós Szentkuthy 1934

The Indian Ulysses All About H. Hatterr By G.V. Desani 1948

The Argentine Ulysses Adán Buenosayres By Leopoldo Marechal 1948

The Turkish Ulysses A Mind at Peace By Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar 1949

The Welsh Ulysses Under Milk Wood By Dylan Thomas 1954

The Brazilian Ulysses The Devil to Pay in the Backlands By João Guimarães Rosa 1956

The Israeli Ulysses Past Continuous By Yaakov Shabtai 1977

The Spanish Ulysses Larva: Midsummer Night’s Babel By Julián Ríos 1983

From there Nathan “NR” at Goodreads has extended the list to include a further fourteen titles:

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson

Macunaíma by Mário de Andrade

Die Tutoren by Bora Ćosić

Leg Over Leg (all four volumes) by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq

Alastalon salissa by Volter Kilpi

The Bloodworth Orphans: A Novel by Leon Forrest

Rama and the Dragon by Edwar al-Kharrat

Belarmino and Apolonio by Ramón Pérez de Ayala

Dessen Sprache Du Nicht Verstehst: Roman by Marianne Fritz

The Disconnecte d by Oğuz Atay

Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

La Medusa by Vanessa Place

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by João Guimarães Rosa

Divine Days by Leon Forrest

It was my reading of The Disconnecte d by Oğuz Atay which alerted me to these lists and then I went on to read the first volume of Luis Goytisolo’s four volume “Antagony” which was compared to Joyce’s work by Mario Vargas Llosa, this got me thinking that a longer world journey of national Ulysses could well be undertaken (of course not back to back!!!)

Amazingly I own eleven of these titles, counting Leg Over Leg as one title even though it is four books, therefore I think a little Christmas reading is in order (along with a serious attempt at getting through another 100 pages of Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream”).

Instead of hunting down the various lists each time I go to choose my next read, I thought it prudent to capture it here. Of course, if anybody has any further references to novels which have been compared to James Joyce’s Ulysses then please leave a comment, I’d love to extend the list!!!


Two new suggested titles that have been highlighted to me via social media (I’ll keep adding as titles become known):

The Scottish Ulysses – “Lanark” by Alasdair Grey

“Women and Men” by Joseph McElroy “Big. Difficult. Masterpiece” I’ve been told.

8 thoughts on “A World of Ulysses?

  1. Pingback: House of the Sleeping Beauties and other stories – Yasunari Kawabata (translated by Edward G. Seidensticker) | Messenger's Booker (and more)

  2. Pingback: I read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” | Messenger's Booker (and more)

  3. Pingback: Lanark – Alasdair Gray | Messenger's Booker (and more)

  4. Pingback: All About H. Hatterr – G. V. Desani | Messenger's Booker (and more)

  5. The list could be extended indefinitely, especially if the criterion is simply “a big, ambitious novel that uses some moderately innovative techniques” (which I don’t think is quite satisfactory, myself). Certainly there are often multiple examples per country/language. For example, Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil and Hans Henny Jahnn’s Perrudja and trilogy River Without Banks are probably much closer to the Ulyssean mark than some of the examples that you cite. Ditto Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch. From the US, Ross Lockridge’s Raintree County is a definite qualifier, and then there is the whole cycle of 60s/70s/80s mega-novels – Pynchon, Barth, Gaddis, Marguerite Young’s Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, Gilbert Sorrentino’s Mulligan Stew, D. Keith Mano’s Take Five, Mark Smith’s The Death of the Detective, Thomas Klise’s The Last Western, Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren, Gil Orlovitz’s Milkbottle H and Ice Never F, Alexander Theroux’s Darconville’s Cat, in addition to Joseph McElroy. Truly this project could never end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by, and really appreciate your comments. Totally agree too.
      Nice examples, a few I will tackle too as they are on the shelves. The examples came from two published lists and it is always nice to have more meaty works to add to the growing pile of doors stoppers.


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