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England’s dreaming

Brexit—and one nation’s bewildering battle to wake from the nightmare of history

England could have a lot to learn from Ireland's move from self-mythology to real-world complexity. Photo: Prospect

In an early chapter of Ulysses, James Joyce’s alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, goes to collect the wages he is due for some part-time teaching in a Dublin school. The opinionated headmaster Deasy talks to him of history.

“History,” Stephen replies, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” Then, from Stephen’s perspective, we read: “From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare…

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