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My Own Ghost

Adam Phillips: John Banville’s Great Unanswerables, 4 August 2005

The Sea 
by John Banville.
Picador, 264 pp., £16.99, June 2005, 0 330 48328 5
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... with ideas, they suffer in style. ‘Everything,’ writes Axel Vander, the sly hero-narrator of John Banville’s Shroud, ‘has to be qualified.’ And style is the way the writer qualifies himself, or whatever it is he feels is in need of qualification. The question Banville has always asked in his novels is: what ...

Gossip

Frank Kermode, 5 June 1997

The Untouchable 
by John Banville.
Picador, 405 pp., £15.99, May 1997, 0 330 33931 1
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... Poussin-dominated series of novels and also, at moments, that writer’s earlier work. Yet Banville’s own style is distinctive, especially at those epiphanic time-stopped moments (there is a cluster of them in an episode describing the hero’s visit to his father’s house in Northern Ireland) and the prose is usually fresh, though a ‘glans-brown ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 3 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... men than me have meant less.’ So it’s possible to see how commissioning a Marlowe novel from John Banville, whose agent represents the Chandler estate too, might have struck all the parties involved as an inspired piece of stunt casting. A disciple of Proust, Nabokov and Beckett, an admirer of German Romanticism and 17th-century painting, a ...

Liza Jarrett’s Hard Life

Paul Driver, 4 December 1986

The Death of the Body 
by C.K. Stead.
Collins, 192 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 00 223067 4
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Kramer’s Goats 
by Rudolf Nassauer.
Peter Owen, 188 pp., £10.50, August 1986, 0 7206 0659 4
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Mefisto 
by John Banville.
Secker, 234 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780436032660
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The Century’s Daughter 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 284 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780860686064
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Love Unknown 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 202 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 241 11922 7
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... inventive faculty is always glad of a reality-principle, no matter how earthy or matter-of-fact. (John Ashbery’s poem, ‘My Erotic Double’, is an interesting variant of this theme.) The Death of the Body ends with a telegram informing Uta of the fate of two of the characters – and it is striking how little we suddenly find we care about any of ...

Overdoing the Synge-song

Terry Eagleton: Sebastian Barry, 22 September 2011

On Canaan’s Side 
by Sebastian Barry.
Faber, 256 pp., £16.99, August 2011, 978 0 571 22653 5
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... Colm Tóibín is too costive with words, Barry is too spendthrift. In contemporary Irish fiction, John Banville strikes just the right balance between opulence and discipline. Even so, Barry’s verbal extravagance makes for an intriguing, typically Irish tension between bleakness of content and richness of form, a contrast equally notable in ...

The View from the Passenger Seat

Lorna Sage: Gilbert Adair, 1 January 1998

The Key of the Tower 
by Gilbert Adair.
Secker, 190 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 436 20429 0
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... hearing it spoken with his un-English, un-American accent, and reinvented as an estrangement. John Updike is a self-confessed fan, but Joyce Carol Oates, who is not, has also conducted a wonderfully ingenious argument with Nabokov in several novels including The Childwold in 1976 and her Chappaquiddick novella, Black Water, in 1992, where the question of ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: In Guy Vaes’s Footsteps, 21 May 2020

... on the telephone, that he will very soon have to ‘disappear’. The discovery of authors such as John Cowper Powys, about whom Vaes knows nothing, is paralleled in his reinvention of London districts such as Kensal Rise, Shadwell and Fulham. Remaining in Belgium, he finds another London with which he is comfortable: a ‘malleable’ capital with more appeal ...

On (Not) Saying What You Mean

Colm Tóibín, 30 November 1995

... represented a headache for Charles Stewart Parnell. History was Daniel O’Connell, Parnell and John Redmond, who led the Irish Parliamentary Party in Westminster after Parnell. My grandfather had been interned after the 1916 Rising, and sometimes when the older generation in my family gathered they talked about the Fenians and evictions, Black and Tan ...

Extremes

Seamus Deane, 7 February 1985

Children of the Dead End: The Rat-Pit 
by Patrick MacGill.
Caliban, 305 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 904573 36 2
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The Red Horizon The Great Push: An Episode of the Great War 
by Patrick MacGill.
Caliban, 306 pp., £9, October 1984, 0 904573 90 7
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The Navy Poet: The Collected Poetry of Patrick MacGill 
Caliban, 407 pp., £12, October 1984, 0 904573 99 0Show More
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... strange forms which 20th-century Irish novels display from Joyce to Beckett to Flann O’Brien and John Banville. When the lack of freedom is viewed, on the other hand, as a structural defect, based on economic forces, then the novel tends to be much more dependent for its appeal upon the verisimilitude with which the social formation is registered. Even ...

An Octopus at the Window

Terry Eagleton: Dermot Healy, 19 May 2011

Long Time, No See 
by Dermot Healy.
Faber, 438 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 0 571 21074 9
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... the dog, and an empty spud bag to take up the shite’ remind us that we are not in the world of John Banville. The odd reference to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the fact that there are immigrants around and a young woman, saying, ‘I was just like Oh my God,’ alert the reader with a mild shock that the novel is set in 2006, not 1906. As frequently ...

Nothing but the Worst

Michael Wood: Paul de Man, 8 January 2015

The Paul de Man Notebooks 
edited by Martin McQuillan.
Edinburgh, 357 pp., £80, April 2014, 978 0 7486 4104 8
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The Double Life of Paul de Man 
by Evelyn Barish.
Norton, 534 pp., £25, September 2014, 978 0 87140 326 1
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... How often in my life have I said those words, and yet?’ John Banville, Shroud ‘I had jumped​ ,’ Conrad’s Jim says of his abandonment of his ship, adding a moment later: ‘It seems.’ Marlow, the narrator of the novel who is listening to Jim’s story, says: ‘Looks like it.’ This is one of many instances where Marlow’s language is drier and tougher than his thought, which is unwilling to condone Jim’s act but very sympathetic to the difficulty of living with the memory of it ...

Zanchevsky, Zakrevsky or Zakovsky?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Julian Barnes, 18 February 2016

The Noise of Time 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 184 pp., £14.99, January 2016, 978 1 910702 60 4
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... before with The Porcupine, based on the trial of the Bulgarian communist leader Todor Zhivkov. John Banville did it in a roman à clef about Anthony Blunt in The Untouchable; and the Russian writer Olga Trifonova presented her persuasive and well-researched portrayal of Stalin’s wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, in the form of a novel. All these ...

Playboys of the GPO

Colm Tóibín, 18 April 1996

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation 
by Declan Kiberd.
Cape, 719 pp., £20, November 1995, 0 224 04197 5
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... you feel, so that Kiberd could play his game with them. It is tempting to think that Shaw wrote John Bull’s Other Island and Brian Friel wrote Translations with Kiberd watching over them, egging them on. Both plays are full of the paradoxes proposed by England in Ireland and Ireland in England. The drama comes from the identity games which colonised and ...

The Iron Rule

Jacqueline Rose: Bernhard Schlink’s Guilt, 31 July 2008

Homecoming 
by Bernhard Schlink, translated by Michael Henry Heim.
Weidenfeld, 260 pp., £14.99, January 2008, 978 0 297 84468 6
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... ideologue called Volker Vonlanden, who faked his own death and escaped to the US, where he is now John de Baur, a successful academic who teaches deconstruction and its relation to the law and who delights in experimenting on the mental and physical endurance of his students under the cover of scholarly retreats: ‘He had studied under Leo Strauss and Paul ...

Back to the Ironing-Board

Theo Tait: Weber and Norman, 15 April 1999

The Music Lesson 
by Katharine Weber.
Phoenix House, 161 pp., £12.99, January 1999, 1 86159 118 7
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The Museum Guard 
by Howard Norman.
Picador, 310 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780330370097
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... In his unfortunate account of a Ter Borch brothel scene, Goethe earnestly identifies the leering john as a ‘noble, knightly father’ admonishing his wayward but honourable daughter (the prostitute). The pale mother, he explains, is sipping a glass of wine because she is delicate, and wishes to hide her slight embarrassment: she is, in fact, the procuress, depicted so as to suggest alcoholism and possibly a touch of syphilis ...

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