Joyce on your iPad - bringing 'The Dead' to life

Thu Jan 30, 2014 7:36am EST
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By Sam Cage

DUBLIN (Reuters) - "Snow was general all over Ireland," the noted Irish stage actor Barry McGovern intones while reading the famous line from James Joyce's "The Dead" in a free app for iPads that seeks to bring the heart-rending story to life for the high-tech age.

In some quarters technology is seen as the death-knell of literature, but the Joyce app developed by University College Dublin (UCD) is a runaway hit. It was downloaded 5,000 times in 48 hours - five times the sales of Ireland's best-selling work of fiction that week, Donal Ryan's "The Spinning Heart".

"He's our boy, he went to UCD, so we've always had this special relationship with the Joyce tradition," said Gerardine Meaney, leader of the project and director of the humanities institute at UCD.

"It was great to think of them all sitting down and enjoying it," she said of the thousands of downloaders.

"The Dead", often rated one of the best short stories of the 20th century, joins other works including Shakespeare's sonnets, T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" and children's classic "The Wind in the Willows" as early adaptations to an app format for Apple's iPad that may change the way people read and appreciate literature.

Released on the 100th anniversary of the first publication of "Dubliners", the acclaimed collection which includes "The Dead" as its final story, the app includes the full text as well as McGovern's reading - plus a whole lot more.

Joyce's words are set alongside commentary looking at music and history in the narrative, where music plays a crucial role, as well as images of Dublin during Joyce's time and the background of the house on Usher's Island where a lavish dinner party is hosted by the Morkan sisters.

Readers can delve deeper into the early 20th century setting, from the opening Epiphany party at the house on the banks of the Liffey to the snow-bound horse-carriage journey to the plush Gresham hotel where the main character, Gabriel Conroy, realizes his marriage is an empty shell.   Continued...

A statue of Irish writer James Joyce stands on O'Connell Street in Dublin January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton