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Szombathely’s Ties to James Joyce Bring Cultural Cooperation with Ireland

MTI-Hungary Today 2024.04.11.
James Joyce statue in the main square of the city.

The Embassy of Ireland in Hungary, the City of Szombathely (western Hungary), and the Leopold Bloom Foundation have signed a cooperation agreement on closer collaboration in the Bloomsday project in Szombathely and the placement of the foundation’s art collection in the Gallery of Szombathely.

“Szombathely is very grateful to James Joyce for creating Ulysses and putting Szombathely on the bookshelf of world literature,” said Soma Horváth, Deputy Mayor, who noted that the city has been celebrating the Bloomsday Festival since 1994.

The first time it was organized by local avant-garde artists in honor of Leopold Bloom, the novel’s protagonist, who had Szombathely ancestry.

Over the past three years, Bloomsday has evolved into a contemporary art festival, thanks to the embassy, the foundation, and the Ward family,” the politician emphasized.


The Bloomsday project attempts to map the Szombathely aspects of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. According to the book, Bloom’s father, Rudolf Virág, was a native of Szombathely, but in addition to transforming the fictional biographical element into a real urban reference point, the project takes stock of the artistic initiatives in Szombathely inspired by the postmodern world of Ulysses.

The story of Bloomsday in Szombathely is set in the context of the post-communist period (after 1989), when James Joyce suddenly became part of the city’s cultural life. Although the Berzsenyi Dániel College had already organized an international Joyce seminar in 1993, the program of which referred to the conference venue as “the birthplace of Leopold Bloom’s father,” the real breakthrough came in 1994, when a group of friends and artists celebrated Bloomsday for the first time on June 16.

Photo via Facebook/Bloomsday Szombathely

“Culture forms a special bond between Ireland and Hungary, and in my months here I have seen how deep these links run. However, there is no stronger link than the one in Szombathely,” said Ragnar Almqvist, Ireland’s Ambassador to Hungary. He added that it is the city that hosts “the brightest Bloomsday celebrations on this side of the Irish Sea.” The Ambassador noted that they were delighted that the signing of the agreement would also support a major art project to decorate the walls of public squares with chapters from James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, immortalized by young artists.

Eszter Dalma Kollár, artistic director of the Leopold Bloom Foundation, remarked that

the Leopold Bloom Art Award, which is awarded to one artist every two years, was established in 2011.

The prize is EUR 10,000.

Memorial plaque to the protagonist of Ulysses. Photo via Wikipedia.

The artistic director noted that last year, the foundation decided to create a collection of contemporary art, with the aim of supporting young contemporary artists in other ways besides awarding prizes.

Therefore, the Szombathely exhibition will be a permanent one in the city’s art gallery,

she added.

Alice Ward, a representative of the family that founded the award, pointed out that the finalists and winners of recent years have been shown in institutions such as the Ludwig Museum.

She emphasized that it is important that the Gallery of Szombathely will be home to the foundation’s continuously expanding collection of contemporary art, consisting of works by the winners of previous years and works purchased by the foundation. The official opening of the exhibition will take place on June 15 at the Bloomsday Festival. Ward added: “I want this exhibition to become the most important contemporary collection in Hungary.”

The Blum House, the venue for the festival, where a family named Blum actually used to live. Photo via Wikipedia.

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Via MTI; Featured image via Facebook/Szombathely MJV

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