The Original Great Gatsby: Petronius’ Satyricon

Interesting Literature

In this week’s Dispatches from the Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle considers the ancient Roman novel that inspired James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Today is Bloomsday. James Joyce’s vast modernist masterpiece, Ulysses (1922), is set in Dublin on a single day, 16 June 1904. Since at least the 1950s, devotees of Joyce’s novel have marked the 16th of June each year by reading the book, getting drunk on Guinness, or – in the case of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes – getting married on that day. I’d like to mark Bloomsday by paying homage to ancient Rome’s equivalent to Joyce’s 1920s novel, and an underappreciated work of classical literature that almost certainly influenced him.

Three of the most important works of western literature from the 1920s, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, all tip a…

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