John Banville


Life
1945- [William John Banville]; b. 8 Dec., Wexford, son of office worker in garage-supply business; ed. Christian Brothers, and St. Peter’s College, Summerhill, Wexford, where he was taught by Fr. Larkin; bought copy of Ulysses in Liverpool at 17; intended for architect by parents; working as Aer Lingus clerk, 1968; m. an American, 1968; joined Irish Press, 1980; literary editor of The Irish Times, 1988-98 [var. 1999]; wins Allied Irish Banks and Irish-America Found. Lit. Awards, 1967; Macaulay Fellowship of Irish Arts Council, 1973; short stories, Long Lankin (1970), all involving an outsider and his effect on other characters and based on the Scottish ballad of that name dealing with the death of a child; Nightspawn (1971), a psychological thriller and anti-novel set in Greece on the eve of a military coup and narrated by Irish writer Ben White, who becomes involved;
 
issued Birchwood (1973), set in an Irish ‘big house’ combining features of different historical periods, and centred on the narrator Gabriel Godkin’s discovery that his ‘cousin’ Michael is actually his brother from an incestuous relationship between his father and his aunt - with jealousies, violence and deceits arising from these circumstances; compared in reviews with Jennifer Johnston to the disappointment of the author; issued Doctor Copernicus (1976), based on the life of the astronomer Copernicus [Koppernigk], and winner of James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction; issued Kepler (1981), in the same vein and likewise grounded in Koestler’s study of scientific paradigms in The Sleepwalkers (1959);
 
completed ‘scientific’ trilogy with The Newton Letter (1982), set in Ferns, where the scientist’s biographer takes accommodation with the Lawlesses and becomes involved with the daughter of the house; reputed to be Banville’s favorite and filmed for Channel 4; issued Mefisto (1986), a Faustian tale narrated by Gabriel Swan in two parts, before and after his own part-immolation in a burning ‘big house’ and ultimately concerned with matematical models of reality - a theme and treatment oddly in the manner of Flann O’Briens “De De Selby” character in The Third Policeman; author’s expectations of popular success disappointed by unfortunate timing of British reviews of the novel;
 
issued The Book of Evidence (1989), dealing with Freddie Montgomery’s killing of Josie Bell in circumstances not unlike those in the 1982 Macarthur murder case (‘all just drift, like everything else’), with an obsession with a Dutch painting lost to the character’s Anglo-Irish family as the immediate cause of the criminal events; shortlisted for Booker Prize and winner of 1989 Guinness Peat Aviation [GPA] Award - but only after a fracas involving the adjudicator Graham Greene and the unlisted entrant [Vincent McDonnell]; brought Banville his first popular success; issued Ghosts (1993), a novel about film-crew arriving on an island, with Montgomery under alias; wrote The Broken Jug (Peacock, 1 June, 1994; dir. by Ben Barnes), a stage-farce in verse adapted from Heinrich von Kleist’s Der Zebrochene Krug [1807], and dealing obliquely with the Famine;
 
wrote Seachange (Autumn 1994), his first TV drama, appeared in RTÉ “Two Lives” series, produced by Focus Th. along with Michael Harding’s play Kiss; issued Athena (1995), the third in a trilogy centred on Freddie Montgomery, now alias Morrow; issued The Untouchable (1997), a novel centred in career of Victor Maskell and based on story of the aesthete-spy Anthony Blunt (d.1983); it incls. the character Querell, widely held to be based on Graham Greene; rebuked journalists’ for ‘intrusive and inaccurate’ stories about his private life (Hot Press, 9 July 1997); winner Lannan Literary Award, 1997 ($75,000); mbr. of Irish Arts Council under Colm Ó Briain’s directorship in the 1980s; succeeded by Caroline Walshe in literary-editorship of Irish Times and becomes Chief Critic in succession to Brian Fallon, 1999;
 

issued Eclipse (2000), a novel about an actor who retreats into himself after a humiliation on the stage but has to come to terms with his family and especially his troubled dg. Cass; God’s Gift, based on von Kleist’s version of the tale of Amphitryon’s wife (Barabbas, Dec. 2000); contrib. essay to first issue of the new-series Dublin Review; resigned from Aosdána following non-election of his candidate Mary Morrissey, 2001; isued Shroud (2002), a sequel to Eclipse; issued Prague Pictures (2003); strenuously criticises Ian MacEwan’s novel Saturday, in The New York Review of Books (26 May 2005);

 
issues The Sea (2005), in which Max Morden remembers an summer with the Graces, a family of twin children Chloe and Myles with their parents Carlo and Constance; winner of Man Booker Prize (‘it’s the biggest toy in the shop’); issued, as Benjamin Black [pseud.], prepared tv mini-series set in 1950s Ireland in the early 2000s, which however remained unproduced - but was later turned into Christine Falls (2006), first of the Benjamin Black novels featuring the Dublin pathologist and crime-novel anti-hero Quirke - and written at Santa Maddalena, south-east of Florence (Tuscany), hosted by Beatrice von Rezzori, widow of Gregor von Rezzori;
 
issued The Silver Swan (2007), also as Bejamin Black, in which Quirke investigates the supposed suicide of a friend’s wife, bringing on a tale of blackmail, prostition, pornography and drugs; issued Conversations in a Mountains (2008), a play in which Jewish poet Paul Celan visits Martin Heidegger, hoping to hear his apology for complicity in the Holocaust; issued The Lemur (2008), as Benjamin Black, a murder tale set in New York introducing a new protagonist, John Glass; gave the keynote lecture at the Kate O’Brien Weekend in Limerick Courthouse, 2009;
 
issued The Infinities (2010), a novel which imagines the Greek gods living through contemporary beings in the form of a mathematician Adam, now dying of a stroke, and his family gathering about him in a latter-day big-house setting - with a deeply counterfactual historical plot-line as regards events in Ireland and the world - an excerpt appearing in the New York Times on 5 March 2010; issued Elegy for April (2010), another Benjamin Black novel, and A Death in Summer (2011), in which Diamond Dick [Richard Jewell] owner of the Clarion newspaper, is found decapitated by a gunshot; winner of 2011 Kafka Prize; issued Vengeance (2012), as Benjamin Black; as Banville, issued Ancient Lights (2012), in which Alex Cleave falls in love with a friend’s mother in teenage; winner of Bórd Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year. DIW FDA AOS DIL OCIL
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Works
Fiction
  • Long Lankin (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1970), 189pp., and Do . [1st rev. edn.] (Dublin: Gallery Press 1984) [without “Persona” and “The Possessed” but incl. “De Rerum Natura”;
  • Nightspawn (London: Martin Secker & Warburg; NY: Norton 1971; Oldcastle: Gallery 1993);
  • Birchwood (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1973; London: Panther 1984; London Minerva 1992; NY: Norton 1994; London: Picador 1998; 1999), 176pp.;
  • Doctor Copernicus (London: Martin Secker & Warburg/NY: Norton 1976; London: Panther 1980; London: Granada 1983; Paladin 1987;London: Minerva/Mandarin 1990; NY: Vintage 1993; London: Picador 1999);
  • Kepler (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1981; London: Panther/Boston: Godine 1983);
  • The Newton Letter: An Interlude (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1982; London: Panther 1984; Boston: Godine 1987);
  • Mefisto (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1986; Boston: Godine 1989; Minerva 1993);
  • The Book of Evidence (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1989; NY: Scribner 1990; Minerva 1990; Mandarin 1990; London: Picador 1998; NY: Vintage 2001) [220pp.];
  • Ghosts (London: Martin Secker & Warburg/NY: Knopf 1993; London: Picador 1998);
  • Athena (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1995; London: Picador 1998);
  • The Untouchable (London: Picador 1997; 1998); Eclipse (London: Picador 2000), 214pp. [ded. ‘in mem. Laurence Roche’];
  • Shroud (London: Picador 2002), 408pp.;
  • The Sea (London: Picador 2005), 264pp.;
  • The Infinities (NY: Alfred A. Knopf 2010), 273pp.
As Benjamin Black
  • Christine Falls (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2006), 310pp.;
    The Silver Swan (London: Picador 2008), 349pp.;
  • The Lemur (London: Picador 2008), 200pp.;
  • Elegy for April (London: Mantle 2010), q.pp.;
  • A Death in Summer ([Mantle] 2011).
  • Vengeance (London: Mantle 2012) , 313pp.
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Poetry & Drama
  • God’s Gift [after Kleist] ([Oldcastle: Gallery Press] 2000), q.pp.;
  • Love in the Wars [after Kleist’s Penthesilea ] (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2005), 78pp.;
  • Conversations in a Mountains (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2008), 64pp., ill. [by Donald Teskey].
Miscellaneous
  • Prague Pictures: Portraits of a City (London: Bloomsbury 2003), 256pp.
  • Preface to The Snows of Yesteryear: Portraits for an Autobiography, by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by H.F. Broch De Rothermann [NY Review of Books Classics] (NY 2009) [rep. in Irish Times, 25 April 2005, Weekend].
Articles (selected)
  • ‘Act of Faith’, in Hibernia, September 2 (1977), p.8;
  • ‘A Talk’, in Irish University Review [John Banville Special Issue] (Spring 1981), p.16;
  • ‘Physics and Fiction: Order from Chaos’, in The New York Book Review (21 April 1985), p.41 [see contributions to New York Review of Books, 1990-2007 [as infra].
  • ‘Bloomsday, Bloody Bloomsday’, in New York Books Review (16 June 2004) [“Essay”], p.31 [see extract];
  • John Banville, ‘Fiction and the Dream’, in Irish Studies in Brazil, ed. Munira H. Mutran & Laura P. Z. Izarra [Pesquisa e Crítica, 1] (Associação Editorial Humanitas 2005), 21-28 [see extract].
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Journalism (selected)
  • ‘Joyce and Neitszche’ [lecture & essay], in Augustine Martin, James Joyce, The Artist and the Labyrinth (Dublin: Ryan Publishing 1990) [q.pp.]
  • ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’, review of Derek Mahon, Selected Poems, and Paul Muldoon, Madoc: A Mystery, in NY Review of Books (30 May 1991), pp.37-39;
  • The Broken Jug (Dublin: Gallery 1994); ‘Introduction’ to George Steiner, The Deeps of the Sea (London: Faber 1995) [q.pp.];
  • Birchwood: Extracts from the Screenplay’, John Banville & Thaddeus O’Sullivan with Andrew Patmann, in Irish Review, 1 (1986), pp.65-73;
  • ‘The Writing Life’, in Washington Post [Book World section] (9 Sept 1999), p.8;
  • ‘Fate of the Fourth Man’, review of Miranda Carter, Anthony Blunt: His Lives, in The Irish Times ( 24 Nov. 2001);
  • ‘Lucia Joyce: [review of] To Dance in the Wake by Carol Loeb Shloss’, in ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, 6 (June 2004), pp.11-18;
  • ‘Bloomsday, Bloody Bloomsday’, in New York Times Book Review (13 June 2004), p.31.
  • ‘A Quantum Leap to Clontarf’, review of Neil Belton, ‘A Game with Sharpened Knives’, in The Irish Times, 11 June 2005, Weekend [infra].
  • [...]
  • ‘Making Marilyn’, review of MM - Personal, by Lois Banner & Mark Anderson, and Fragments, ed. Stanley Buchthal & Bernard Comment, in The Irish Times (9 July 2011), Weekend Review, p.11 [full-page].
  • Review of Arguably, by Christopher Hitchens, in The Irish Times (1 Oct. 2011), Weekend, p.10.
  • Introduction to The Eggman and the Fairies, by Hubert Butler, rep. in The Irish Times (1 Dec. 2012), Weekend, p.10 [see extract under Butler, supra].

See also sundry journalism in Quotations, infra.

TV drama
  • Seachange, appeared in RTÉ “Two Lives” series (Autumn 1994).
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Radio
  • “Stardust: Three Monologues of the Dead” [Copernicus, Kepler, Newton], read by Gordon Read, BBC2, 11 May 2002.

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Criticism
Books
  • Rüdiger Imhof, John Banville: A Critical Introduction (Dublin: Wolfhound 1989; rev. edn. 1997) [incl. bibl. of minor writings and novel-extracts].
  • Joseph McMinn, John Banville: A Critical Study (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1991) [see extract].
  • John Kenny, ed., John Banville [Irish Writers in Their Time Ser.] (Dublin: IAP 2008), 256pp.
Journal Issues
  • Irish University Review 11, 1 [‘John Banville Special Issue’] (Spring 1981), incls. Rüdiger Imhof, ‘“My Readers, That Small Band, Deserve a Rest”: An Interview with John Banville’, pp.5-12; Banville, ‘A Talk’, pp.13-17; Francis C. Molloy, ‘The Search for Truth’, pp.29-51, et. al.
Articles, interviews & reviews
  • Thomas Kilroy, ‘Teller of Tales’, in Times Literary Supplement (17 March 1972), pp.301-02.
  • Brian Donnelly, ‘The Big House in the Recent Novel’, in Studies 64 (1975), pp.133-42.
  • Seamus Deane, ‘“Be Assured I am Inventing”: The Fiction of John Banville’, in Patrick Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon eds., The Irish Novel in Our Time: Cahiers Irlandaises 4-5 (l’Université de Lille 1976), pp.329-38 [see extract].
  • Ronan Sheehan, ‘Novelists on the Novel: Ronan Sheehan Talks to John Banville and Francis Stuart’, in The Crane Bag 3, 1 (1979), pp.76-84.
  • Imhof, ‘John Banville’s Supreme Fiction’, pp.52-86; also Imhof, ‘John Banville, A Checklist’, pp.87-95].
  • Rüdiger Imhof, ‘The Newton Letter by John Banville: An Exercise in Literary Derivation’, Irish University Review 13, No. 2 (1983), pp.162-67.
  • Seamus Deane, Short History of Irish Literature (London: Hutchinson 1986) [see extract].
  • Ciaran Carty, ‘Out of Chaos Comes Order’, in The Sunday Tribune (1 Sept. 1986), p.18.
  • Geert Lernout, ‘Looking for Pure Visions’, in Graph 1 (Oct. 1986), pp.12-16.
  • Joseph McMinn, ‘Reality Refuses to Fall into Place’, in Fortnight (Oct. 1986), p.24.
  • David McCormick, ‘John Banville, Literature as Criticism, in Irish Review 2 (1987), pp.95-99.
  • Rüdiger Imhof, ‘German Influences on John Banville and Aidan Higgins’, in Wolfgang Zach & Heinz Kosok eds., Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England and the World, II: Comparison and Impact (Tubingen: Gunter Narr, 1987), pp.335-47.
  • Rüdiger Imhof, ‘Swan’s Way, or Goethe, Einstein, Banville: The Eternal Recurrence’, Études Irlandaises 12, 2 (Dec. 1987), pp.113-29.
  • Rüdiger Imhof, ‘Q & A with John Banville’, in Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 1987), p.13.
  • Richard Kearney, ‘John Banville’, Transitions (Dublin: Wolfhound 1987), pp.91-100.
  • Joseph McMinn, ‘An Exalted Naming: The Poetical Fictions of John Banville’, in Canadian Journal of Irish Literature 14, 1 (July 1988), pp.17-27.
  • Geert Lernout, ‘Banville and Being: The Newton Letter and History’, in Joris Duytschaever and Lernout, eds., History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Literature (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1988), pp.67-77.
  • Richard Kearney, ‘A Crisis of Fiction: Flann O’Brien, Francis Stuart, John Banville’, in Transitions: Narrative of Modern Irish Culture (Manchester UP 1988) [q.pp. ]
  • James M. Cahalan, The Irish Novel: A Critical History (Boston: Twayne 1988), pp.277-78.
  • Dorinda Outram, ‘Heavenly Bodies and Logical Minds’, in Graph [4] (Spring 1988), pp.9-11.
  • Joseph McMinn, ‘Stereotypical Images of Ireland in John Banville’s Fiction’, in Eire-Ireland 23, 3 (Fall 1988), pp.94-102.
  • Rüdiger Imhof, John Banville: A Critical Introduction (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1989).
  • Fintan O’Toole, ‘Stepping into the Limelight - and the Chaos’, Irish Times (21 Oct. 1989) [q.p.].
  • Anthony McGonagle, ‘The Big House in John Banville’s Fiction’ (M.A. thesis, UUC Jordanstown 1989).
  • Neil Cornwell, The Literary Fantastic: From Gothic to Postmodernism (New York: Harvester/London: Wheatsheaf 1990), pp.172-84.
  • Terence Brown, ‘Redeeming the Time, the Novels of John McGahern and John Banville’, in James Acheson ed., The British and Irish Novel Since 1960 (London: Macmillan 1991), pp.159-73.
  • Gearóid Cronin, ‘John Banville and the Subversion of the Big House Novel’, in J. Genet, ed., The Big House in Ireland (Dingle: Brandon 1991), pp.251-60.
  • Sean Lysaght, ‘Banville’s Tetralogy: The Limits of Mimesis’, in Irish University Review 21 (Spring/Summer 1991), pp. 82-100.
  • Joseph McMinn, ‘“Naming the World: Language and Experience in John Banville’s Fiction’, in Irish University Review 23 (Autumn/Winter 1993), pp. 183-96.
  • Joseph Swann: “Banville’s Faust”, in onald .E. Morse, Csilla Bertha & I. Palffy, eds., A Small Nation’s Contribution to the World: Essays on Anglo-Irish Literature and Language (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe; Debrecen: Lajos University 1993), pp.148-60.
  • John Devitt, ‘Early Banville’, review of Nightspawn, The Book of Evidence and Ghosts , in Irish Literary Supplement 13, 1 (Spring 1994), p.36.
  • John Dunne, ‘Fiction’s Own Laws,’ review of Nightspawn (1971), in Books Ireland (Sept. 1994), pp.201-02.
  • Mark Wormald, review of Athena, in Times Literary Supplement (10 Feb 1995), p.19.
  • Amanda Craig review of Athena, Times (16 Feb 1995).
  • Patricia Craig, ‘This is Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On’, review of Athena, in Spectator (18 Feb. 1995), p.30 [see extract].
  • John Dunne, ‘Weird or What?’, review of Athena [with novels by John McKenna and Gaye Shortland], in Books Ireland (April 1995), pp.81-83 [see extract].
Reviews of Athena (1995)

Boston Globe (23 May 1995), p.76.
Los Angeles Times / Book Reviews (2 July 1995), p.11.
New Statesman and Society, VIII (17 Feb 1995), p.38.
New York Times / Book Reviews, C (21 May 1995), p.15.
The New Yorker, LXXI (31 July 1995), p.79.
The Observer (19 Feb 1995), p.18.
The Spectator, CCLXXIV (18 Feb. 18 1995), p.30.
Times Literary Supplement(10 Feb. 1995), p.19.
Washington Post / Book World, XXV (9 July 1995), p.1.

Noticed in Endnotes.com online; accessed 24.07.2011.
  • Robert Tracy, ‘The Broken Lights of Irish Myth’, review of The Broken Jug, in Irish Literary Studies (Fall 1995), p.18 [see extract].
  • Hedwig Schall, ‘An Interview with John Banville’ [Shelbourne Hotel, Sat. 18th Dec. 1996], in The European English Messenger [ESSE], VI, No.1 (Spring 1997), pp.13-19.
  • William Trevor, ‘Surfaces Beneath Surfaces’, review of The Untouchable, in Irish Times (26 April 1997) [see extract].
  • Frederick Raphael, ‘The Sensitive Plant’, review of The Untouchable, in Independent [UK] (26 April 1997).
  • Maggie Gee, review of The Untouchable, in Times Literary Supplement (9 May 1997), p.20 [see extract].
  • Chris Petit, ‘Autopsy of Englishness’, review of The Untouchable, Guardian Weekly (18 May 1997) [see extract].
  • John Bayley, ‘The Double Life’, review of The Untouchable, in NY Review of Books (29 May 1997), pp.17-18.
  • Frank Kermode, ‘Gossip’, review of The Untouchables [sic], in London Review of Books (5 June 1997), p.23 [see extract].
  • Liam Fay, ‘The Touchable’ [interview with Banville], Hot Press, 21, 13 (9 July 1997), pp.44-46.
  • Joseph McMinn, The Supreme Fictions of John Banville (Manchester UP 1999), 220pp., [reviewed by Kevin Keily in Books Ireland (Feb. 2000), p.19].
  • Ruth Frehner, The Colonizers’ Daughters: Gender in The Anglo-Irish Big House Novel (Tubingen: Franacke 1999), x, 256pp.
  • Carlo Gébler, review of The Untouchable, in Fortnight [q.d.], p.31 [see extract]. James Wood, reviewing Eclipse, in The Irish Times [Weekend] (16 Sept. 2000) [see extract].
  • Christopher Taylor, reviewing John Banville, Eclipse, in Times Literary Supplement, 29 Sept. 2000) [see extract].
  • John Kenny, ‘The Ideal Elegies’, review of The Revolutions Trilogy: Doctor Copernicus, Kepler, The Newton Letter [rep. edns.], in The Irish Times, 6 Jan. 2001 [see extract].
  • Hedwig Schwall, ‘An Interview with John Banville’, in The European English Messenger, VI, 1 (Spring 1997), pp.13-19.
  • Laura P. Zuntini di Izarra, Mirrors and Holographic Labyrinths: The Process of a New Synthesis in the Novels of John Banville (SF: Internat. Scholars Publ. 1999), 181pp.
  • Conor McCarthy, ‘Irish Metahistories: John Banville and the Revisionist Debate’ [Chap. 2], in Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000), pp.80-134.
  • Derek Hand, John Banville: Exploring Fictions (Dublin: Liffey Press 2002), 188pp.
  • Declan Kiberd, ‘The Art of Science: Banville’s Doctor Copernicus’, in Irish Fiction since the 1960s: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Elmer Kennedy-Andrews (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2002) [Chap. 8].
  • Robin Wilkinson, ‘Echo and Coincidence in John Banville’s Eclipse’, in Irish University Review, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Autumn/Winter 2003), pp.356-70.
  • Brendan MacNamee, ‘A Rosy Crucifixion: Imagination and Time in John Banville’s Birchwood’, in Studies (Spring 2003) [q.p.; extract].
  • Monica Facchinello. ‘Sceptical Representations of Home: John Banville’s Doctor Copernicus & Kepler, in Global Ireland: Irish Literatures for the New Millenium, ed. Ondrej Pilny & Clare Wallace [IASIL Conference 2004] (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia 2005), pp.109-21.
  • Neil Murphy, Irish Fiction and Postmodern Doubt – An Analysis of the Epistemological Crisis in Modern Irish Fiction (Edwin Mellen Press 2004), 286pp. [Chap. 3: John Banville - Out of the Postmodern Abyss].
  • John Kenny, ‘What Lies Beneath’, review The Sea, in The Irish Times (28 May 2005) [see extract].
  • [...]
  • Joanne Watkiss, ‘Ghosts in the Head: Mourning, Memory and Derridean “Trace” in John Banville’s The Sea’, in The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, 2 (March 2007) [see extract];
  • Laura Miller, ‘Oh Gods’, review of The Infinities by John Banville, in The New York Times, Sunday Book Review (7 March 2010) [see extract]
  • Janet Maslin, ‘Gods Are in Their Heaven, but All’s Not Right With World’, review of The Infinities by John Banville, with Elegy for April by Benjamin Black [John Banville], in The New York Times, Books of the Times (4 April 2010) [see extract]
  • John Boyne, ‘The World and Its Wicked Ways’, review of A Death in Summer, in The Irish Times (4 June 2010), Weekend Review, p.10 [see extract].
  • Sara Keating, ‘All artists think they are gods, creating worlds that didn’t existing, bringing something into the world. You might call me an unreconstructed 19th century Romantic artist’ [interview with John Banville], in The Irish Times (4 June 2011), Weekend Review, p.1 [see extract].
  • ‘John Banville on the birth of his dark twin, Benjamin Black’ in The Guardian (22 July 2011) [‘The force of the idea was such that I drew the car to the side of the road and stopped and, for some reason, laughed’ - available online].
  • Declan Burke, interview with Banville, in Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century, ed. Burke (Dublin: Liberties Press 2011) [see extract].
  • Arminta Wallace, ‘I’m at last beginning to learn how to write, and I can let the writing mind dream’: interview with Banville, in The Irish Times (30 June 2012), Weekend Review, p.7 [see extract].
  • Karl Miller, “So Here’s To You, Mrs. Gray”, review of Ancient Light, by John Banville, in The Irish Times (7 July 2012), Weekend Review, p.11 [see extract].
  • Christopher Benfey, “Doubling Back”, review of Ancient Light, by John Banville, in The New York Times (9 Nov. 2012), “Books” [see extract].
See num. reviews not listed here as extracts under Commentary, infra.

See Rüdiger Imhof, ed., Contemporary Irish Novelists (Tübingen: Gunther Narr 1990); Vera Kreilkamp, Anglo-Irish Novel and the Big House (Syracuse UP 1998; Eurospan 1999), et al.; also Eve Patten on the British Council’s Contemporary Writers website [link].

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References

Try these ....
  • Tim Conley on Banville (Modern Word Scriptorium) [online; accessed in 2007]
  • Eve Patten on Banville (Contemporary Writers) [online; accessed in 2007]

Kate O’Brien Weekend (2009) - notice on Banville [adapted]: Literary Editor of the Irish Times, 1988-99, he first issued Long Lankin (1970), short stories, followed by Nightspawn (1971) and Birchwood (1973), both novels, and next published a series of fictional portraits of eminent scientists beginning with the 15th-century Polish astronomer Dr Copernicus (1976), winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, followed by a novel about the 16th-century German astronomer Kepler (1981), which took the Guardian Fiction Prize, and -finally - The Newton Letter: An Interlude (1982), the story of an academic writing a book on Sir Isaac Newton which was was adapted as a C4 TV film. His next novel, Mefisto (1986), is a reworking of Dr Faustus and an exploration of the world of numbers. His next novel, The Book of Evidence (1989), which is narrated by Freddie Montgomery, a character based on the contemporary case of Malcolm Macarthur, won the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Ghosts (1993) and Athena (1995) are sequels dealing with the same character after release. Victor Maskell, the central character of his next novel, The Untouchable (1997), is based on the upper-crust Engliah art-historian and Soviet spy Anthony Blunt - the eponymous ‘third man’. Eclipse (2000) is narrated by Alexander Cleave, an actor who has withdrawn to the house where he passed his childhood; Shroud (2002), continues his story. The Sea (2005), beingthe narrative of an elderly art historian who loses his wife to cancer and feels compelled to revisit the seaside villa where he spent family holidays in childhood, took the 2005 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Prague Pictures: Portrait of a City (2003), is a personal evocation of that city.

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Anthologies
Peter Fallon & Seán Golden, eds., Soft Day: A Miscellany of Contemporary Irish Writing (Dublin: Wolfhound Press; US: Notre Dame 1980), contains ‘Fragment from a Novel in Progress [Kepler ]’, pp.170-76.

Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1980), contains extract from Kepler ; incls. photo-portrait.

Peter Ellis (Cat. 20) lists Long Lankin (London: Martin Secker & Warburg 1970), 189pp., first novel; £450 [in 2004]; Eclipse (2000) [£20].

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Notes
Birchwood (1873); the novel centres around Gabriel Godkin and his return to the dilapidated family estate after years of absence. Delving deep into a family legacy of memories and despair embodied by the house itself, he reveals to the reader the tortuous experience of Irish history - strangely delivered in an anachronistic tale of conquest and plantation, famine and Land War, all embodied in the interlocking characters of a cold father, a tortured mother and an insane grandmother. Gabriel personal progress from innocence to experience, involving a hallucinatory journey with a troupe of circus players, matches sexual intimacies with political violence in a plot the ends cataclysmically with the burning of the house itself. The whole is conveyed in an intensely stylised prose whcih suggests the manner of magic realism, reaching beyond the naturalistic into the domain of symbol and correspondence without lapsing into mere fantasy or pastiche. (See www.goodreads.com online - accessed 24.07.2011.)

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Copernicus (1976): The novel, which is filled with a sense of the historical reality of the period, follows the astronomer’s life from childhood to death in four distinct parts. The first part, “Orbitas lumenque” is a narrative of childhood and education in Prussia and Italy. The second part deals with Copernicus’s traumatic relationship with his brother; the third part, using Banville’s technique of mixing time and characters, gives us version of events by his disciple Rheticus who finally secured publication of Copernicus’s work but became completely cynical and morally exhausted in the process; the final part, “Magnum miraculum”, hands the novel back to the narrator andf gives us Banville’s interpretation of Faustian myth in relating the mental and physical decline of the astronomer. (See Nataliya Stokes, ‘The Concept of Harmony in Selected Works of John Banville’, BA Hons. Dissertation, UUC 2005.)

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Athena (1995): third in a trilogy which follows the protagonist, Mr. Morrow, a man of contradictory sensibility yearning equally for gothic monsters and pristine world of artistic perfection as he wanders through the realm of art and the criminal underworld. The novel opens with a homage to his love, A. and an account of the ominous house where he meets a sinister pair one of whom (Morden) proposes that he catalogue eight Flemish paintings in his possession. For the rest of the novel, the narrative chapters are interspliced with others analysing the eight paintings. On his second trip through the neighborhood, Morrow is invited by striking woman into her room at the same house and begins a steamy romance with her. Later, Morden takes him to meet a man called “the Da”, a master-criminal and the major force behind the theft and the cataloging of the paintings. In a minor plot, Morrow’s elderly cousin Aunt Corky leaves her her estate to him after long illness. When Detective Hackett, a police inspector, arrives in quest of the stolen paintings Morrow confesses that they are hidden in the house, and later it is discovered that all but one are forgeries. When the Da, Morden, and A. all disappear, Detective Hackett informs Morrow that Morden and A. are the Da’s children, leading Morrow to understand that his involvement with A was contrived to draw him into the crime. Morrow embarks on a search for A and an examination of his experiences related in the novel. The whole revisits and develops the themes of identity and authenticity, order, intelligibility and mythology in the modern life. (BS: see www.endnotes.com online; accessed 24.07.2011.)

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God’s Gift (2000) is a bawdy tale based on Heinreich Von Kleist’s 1807 version of the myth of Prince Amphitryon whose wife is seduced by Jupiter, now set in Ireland following the 1798 Rebellion with General Ashburningham’s Minna, with a subplot concern Jupiter’s interference with the General’s servant Souse and his wife Kitty; produced by Barabbas (dir. Veronica Coburn). See Irish Emigrant Arts Review (Dec. 2000).

Seachange (Autumn 1994), his first TV drama, appeared in RTÉ “Two Lives” series; produced by Focus Th. along with Michael Harding, Kiss [see Irish Times, 19 Nov. 1994].

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The Sea (2005): a man who has recently lost his wife returns to the seaside village of his childhood, mixing memories of marriage with those of a childhood infatuation; a novel of love and time, and the influence of the past. It begins: ‘They depart, the gods, on the day of the strange tide.’

Christine Black (2006): In the Pathology Department it was always night. This was one of the things Quirke liked about his job ... it was restful, cosy, one might almost say, down in these depths nearly two floors beneath the city’s busy pavements. There was too a sense here of being part of the continuance of ancient practices, secret skills, of work too dark to be carried on up in the light. But one night, late after a party, Quirke stumbles across a body that shouldn’t have been there...and his brother-in-law, eminent paediatrician Malachy Griffin - a rare sight in Quirke’s gloomy domain - altering a file to cover up the corpse’s cause of death. It is the first time Quirke encounters Christine Falls, but the investigation he decides to lead into the way she lived - and the reason she died - disturbs a dark secret that has been festering at the core of Dublin’s high Catholic society, a secret ready to destabilize the very heart and soul of Quirke’s own family ... [see COPAC online; accessed 31.07.08]

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The Silver Swan (2007): Time has moved on for Quirke, the world-weary Dublin pathologist first encountered in Christine Falls. It is the middle of the 1950s, that low, dishonourable decade; a woman he loved has died, a man whom he once admired is dying, while the daughter he for so long denied is still finding it hard to accept him as her father. When Billy Hunt, an acquaintance from college days, approaches him about his wife’s apparent suicide, Quirke recognises trouble but, as always, trouble is something he cannot resist. Slowly he is drawn into a twilight world of drug addiction, sexual obsession, blackmail and murder, a world in which even the redoubtable Inspector Hackett can offer him few directions. [See COPAC online; accessed 31.07.08]

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Elegy for April (2010): set in 1950s Ireland; newly returned from a drying-out hospital, is set to investigate the disappearance of the young woman in the title whose friend Phoebe Griffin, haunted by the horrors of her past, calls on Quirke’s daughter’s help. Assisted by Inspector Hackett, Quirke discovers that the missing girl’s family is anxious to suppress the scandal associated with her disappearance. More seems to lie behind the missing girl’s habitual secrecy than meets the eye. Quirke is led astray - and back to drinking - by a beautiful young actress while Phoebe watches on helplessly as April’s family hush up her disappearance. Only the unthinkable seems to explain her disappearance; and when Quirke makes a disturbing discovery he begins to unravel the complex web of love, lies, jealousy and dark secrets out of which April’s life was spun. (See COPAC online; accessed 30.07.2011.)

Elegy for April (2010) features Dublin pathologist Dr Quirke, Banville’s uncompromising sleuth; opens in 1950s Dublin with the city shrouded in a “muffled silence” of fog where it “seemed bewildered, like a man whose sight has suddenly failed”, and sustains the imagery of inclement weather throughout the novel in the form of an acutely apposite metaphor for a society held tightly in the grip of reactionary individuals and cabals hiding behind self-serving facades of respectability. We first meet Quirke drying out in St John of God’s; struggling with “the daily unblurred confrontation with a self he heartily wished to avoid”; when he lapses the whiskey gives him “the feeling of it spreading through his chest made him think of a small, many-branched tree bursting slowly into hot, bright flames”; obliged by the programme to expose his failures to a “designated fellow-sufferer”, one Harkness, a Christian Brother who represents the institutionalised world in which Quirke spent his maimed childhood, but Harkness is only able to “release reluctant resistant nuggets of information, as if he were spitting out the seeds of a sour fruit”. Quirke is visited by his daughter Phoebe who whom he previously gave away after the death of her mother; she confides her concerns about a missing friend April Latimer, the estranged daughter of the powerful Latimer family who do their best to frustrate his search by means of “the velvet word, the silken threat”. Other characters incl. the thin lipped (warm-hearted) Inspector Hackett, and Isabel Galloway, an actress and Quirke’s love interest whose “vivid lips, sharply curved and glistening, [...] looked as if a rare and exotic butterfly had settled on her mouth and clung there, twitching and throbbing”. David Park, reviewing, remarks on the numerous Dickensian echoes and allusions, and concludes: “Ultimately, Elegy for April is a novel that transcends any limitation of genre or categorisation, stands supremely confident in its achievement and, to this reader at least, reveals itself as good enough to take its place with anything John Banville has ever written.”’ (The Irish Times, 16 Oct. 2010, Weekend, p.10.)

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The Lemur (2008) John Glass, an Irishman in New York who is married to the daughter of Big Bill Muholland, a successful businessman in the cable business and former CIA agent, is required to undertake the biography of his father-in-law. He recruits a young researcher called Dylan Reilly [var. Riley], whom he nicknames “The Lemur”, and who is subsequently murdered - but not before he rings Glass with news of a secret which he claims entitles him to half the fee that Mulholland is paying Glass. Glass fears that Riley has turned up the secret of his own affair with the painter Alison O’Keeffe. In reality he’s discovered the secret of the Mulholland family which puts Glass’s pecadillo in the shade. Meanwhile, Captain Ambrose of the NYPD has identified Glass as the last man Riley rang before he was shot. (See COPAC > Kirkus Review - online; accessed 30.07.2011.)

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Juggery-pokery: There is another version of von Kleist’s De Zerbrochen Krug trans. by Blake Morrison as The Cracked Pot played at Skipton Auction Mart using copious amounts of recorded Yorkshire dialect of 1911 (see Times Literary Supplement, 22 March 1996, p.20.)

What the Dickens!: In Birchwood (1973) Banville introduces a travelling circus, much as Dickens does in Hard Times while the term “whelp” is shared by both texts. If intentional, the borrowed trope and term are among very many intertextual elements in the novel including an echo of Joyce’s Dubliners in the naming of the protagonists Gabriel and Michael. (Note on Dickens and Joyce provided by Ryan Horner, UG Essay, UUC 2003.)

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Aosdána (1): Anthony Cronin, “John Banville and Aosdana”, letter to The Irish Times (20 Dec. 2001), argues that Banville is mistaken about ‘the nature and purposes of Aosdána’ in supposing that it is for the support of ‘what he calls “hungry” people’. Cronin goes on to express surprise at his [Banville’s] ‘crusading zeal’, arguing that the most members of Aosdána [do not] ‘enjoy, like him, a degree of financial success [and enjoins him to] understand that membership is also an expression of identity of interest with others who have made the same difficult and often dangerous vocational choice as they have themselves but may not have the same good fortune.’

Aosdána (2): John Banville, letter to The Irish Times (10 Jan. 2002), answers Cronin’s letter on his ‘crusading zeal’. Banville explains: ‘The reason for my resignation was simple. I had for some years taken no active part in the proceedings of Aosdána, not because I disapproved of those proceedings, but because I was busy elsewhere, frequently out of the country, &c. It seemed, therefore, that the right and mannerly thing to do would be to resign.’ He also speaks of his proposal that emeritus status be created to facilitate new entrants and makes it clear that he has not received the cnuas since the mid-1980s.

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Alan Gilsenan, dir., stage-version of Banville’s Book of Evidence as a dramatic monologue for the Royal Shakespeare Company [RSC], 2000.

QUB/English Society hosts reading and discussion by John Banville on 4 Dec. 2003 (Lanyon North, QUB, Belfast).

The play’s the thing: Fiach Mac Conghail, appt. Director of the Abbey Theatre in Feb. 2005, previously produced films for Paul Mercier, Marina Carr’s Ariel at the Abbey, and The Book of Evidence, a play about Malcolm Macarthur, with Kilkenny Arts Festival, as well as Dorothy & Tom Cross’s Medusa and The Silver Bridge by Jaki Irvine. (Irish Times, 2 Feb. 2005.)

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A Novel Choice” [Irish Times /James Joyce Centre lect. series]: John Banville selects Ulysses by James Joyce [‘First, and obviously, Ulysses, even though it may not be exactly what Tolstoy or George Eliot would have recognised as a proper novel’]; Molloy by Samuel Beckett [‘Molloy is Samuel Beckett’s prose masterpiece - although if the list were longer I would want to include Ill Seen Ill Said, a masterpiece of his old age’]; The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen [‘Elizabeth Bowen wrote The Last September when she was still in her 20s, but it is her finest achievement - and, incidentally, her own favourite among her novels’]. (See The Irish Times, 27 Sept. 2003, announcing a lecture series based on the 10 most voted for novels on a list provided by the commissioned lecturers to be hosted by the James Joyce Centre, 23 Oct. - 27 Nov. 2003.)

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Malcolm Macarthur [often err. MacArthur; occas. McArthur] (1): b. 17 April 1945 [var. 1946]; arrested 4 Aug. 1982 and convicted of murdering Bridie Gargan - though not tried for the killing of Co. Offaly farmer Donal [var. Noel] Dunne, widely assumed to be his doing also - was sentenced to a life term of imprisonment and served as the model for the character Freddie Montgomery in The Book of Evidence . He was moved from Mountjoy to an Shelton Abbey, an open prison, on 6 May 2003 [with a view to assessing his suitability for early release]. In January 2005 Macarthur challenged his further detention as one of the the longest held prisoner in the state, and sought a High Court declaration that it is in contravention of the the Constitution and the European Human Rights Convention on the basis that a minister cannot perform a judicial function in over-riding the recommendation of the parole board, as well as damages from the Irish State. (see The Irish Times, 27 Jan 2005.)

Malcolm Macarthur - (2): Note that Macarthur’s son, a PhD student at TCD in 2005, was offered as an example of journalists’ intrusions of privacy in an Irish Times article by Fintan O’Toole (“Private lives, public eyes”, 5 Feb. 2005).

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Malcolm Macarthur - (3): A full account of events leading up to and following on Macarthur's murder of Bridie Gargan, a nurse who was sun-batheing in the Phoenix Park when he crossed her path, is given in an Irish Times article by Conor Lally of 18 June 2011 [online - and conserved at the Irish Free Press website [online - accessed 20.07.2011]. The article relates his killing of Gargan with a lump hammer and Donal Dunne with a shotgun in Co. Offaly days later, before hiding up in Pilot View, Dalkey - the home of Peter Connolly, then chief govt. legal adviser [Attorney General] - giving rise to Conor Cruise O’Brien’s coinage “gubu” to reflect the Taoiseach Charles Haughey’s explanatory phrase, “grotesque, unprecedented, bizarre and unbelievable”. It concludes by reflectig on the unlikelihood of Macarthur’s being released from prison ‘any time soon’.

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Malcolm Macarthur (4): The Sunday Independent (1 Sept 2002) carried a banner, “Was Macarthur [sic] about to reveal child sex ring? - Garda believe killer had ‘sensational’ information.” See also earlier article by Ralph Riegel in the Irish Independent (26 April 2002), covering allegations made by Phil Hogan (Fine Gael TD for Carlow/Kilkenny) that McArthur [sic] is a paedophile associated with another paedophile in a position of authority in the SE Health Board and that he had sex with an unnamed inmate of an Irish care facility in the bailiwick of the Ministry of Education. The relevant article from the Independent is conserved on the Free Speech website [online] - a website edited by Jim Cairns, author of a work on ‘disappeared’ young persons. The site page referring to Macarthur is titled “SRA Missing Persons and Satanism” and reflects an obsession with the idea of a ‘Jesuit-Vatican’ plot to rule the world. The report concerning Macarthur reports actual exchanges in Dail Eireann involving Michael Woods, Minister of Education (Fianna Fáil) in which the latter undertakes to investigate the allegations.

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Malcolm Macarthur (5): As the District judge before whom Malcolm Macarthur was arraigned, Mary Kotsonouris [...] provides a disturbing personal observation on the Macarthur case, writing: ‘There was no way that anyone standing as far away as the road could see him in the gap, but through the barred windows, I heard a sound that was neither human nor animal, a low but thunderous swelling of noise that was as inchoate as it was meaningless. It is a sound I hope never to hear again – the baying of the crowd. Five minutes later, [Macarthur] was charged with two murders.’ In her book she refers to “McArthur”; the rather than Macarthur - an error pointed out by the reviewer. (See John McBratney, review of Kotsonouris, “’Tis All Lies, Your Worship”, Tales from the District Court, in Irish Times, 23 July 2011, Weekend, p.11.)

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Beckett’s Last Words”: Banville delivered a public lecture with this title in Theatre P, Newman [Arts] Building, Belfield, on on 20 Feb. 2008, at 7pm.

Valuations of Banville’s first book in the first edition: Long Lankin (Martin Secker & Warburg 1970): Peter Ellis (London) - £450; Simon Finch Rare Books (London, UK) - US$1562.62; Hemingway’s Books (Sumas, WA, USA.) - US$800 [all in 2004].

Which book? Asked by the paper which single book he - among 10 other writers - would give as a gift, Banville answered: A dictionary (‘free to ever citizen of the land at birth’). See Irish Times (5 March 2011), Weekend, p.7.

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