The city of Dublin, the UNESCO “City of Literature,” has recently announced this year’s mass-book-club choice for their annual “One City, One Book” campaign. The choice: James Joyce’s The Dubliners.

The Dubliners is a fantastic collection of short stories, far more accessible than his other, more widely touted works. But, in this collection, Joyce constructs Dublin as an ultimate symbol for decay and corruption, perhaps as a justification for his own self-exile from the city he hated and loved.

Given the current state of affairs in Ireland and the rampant corruption forced into the open by the recent Tribunal report, one has to wonder: was this choice a subtle jibe at the nepotistic politics or an unintended irony caused by ignorance of the book?  Given the way the choice has been described in the press, the latter seems more likely. The city of literature has chosen to critique itself through a famous and, apparently, little-read book. It is certainly an appropriate choice, but not for the presumed reasons it was chosen.