The half-informed discussion of Catholic doctrine and Vatican politics among these worldly businessmen always reminds me of my father, who was born in 1920, and took over the family business aged 17. As a young Irish wannabee writer in England I felt possessive about Joyce, but of course I’d never read him until I crossed the water. What struck me most when I finally did was a vision of the very world I was trying to turn my back on, rendered in loving detail without overt critique or comment, at the centre of an acknowledged masterpiece of world literature. It had never occurred to me that this sort of chat could be worth writing down, that these men would offer a valid subject for fiction; in other words, that the stuff I already had might be all I needed. That’s a lesson I’m still struggling to bring to my own writing.
First published in Dubliners, Grant Richards, 1914, now widely republished, including in Penguin Classics. Available to read online here