Little pills

Demonstrating his familiarity with all parts of the globe, "skipper Murphy" reveals a solemn mystery of the Far East: "— I seen a Chinese one time, related the doughty narrator, that had little pills like putty and he put them in the water and they opened and every pill was something different. One was a ship, another was a house, another was a flower. Cooks rats in your soup, he appetisingly added, the chinks does." Not only could these toys have been found in Europe in 1904—no travels needed—but they were most likely Japanese in origin. Joyce probably encountered them in Marcel Proust's monumental novel In Search of Lost Time: it was being sequentially published in France at the time that he was writing Ulysses, and when he wrote Eumaeus he was living in Paris. If this inference is correct, then the seemingly inconsequential little recollection resonates with implications about the survival of the past in the present, in a chapter preoccupied with that theme.

JH 2019

Cover of the first edition of Proust's first volume. Source:

Flottille (2011), by French artist Etienne Cliquet, shows small (2-3 cm.) origami papers unfolding in water. The music is not Cliquet's. Source:

Sponge capsules. Source:

Sponge capsules expanded. Source: