John Banville Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The first book that John Banville (BAN-vihl) published was a collection of short stories, Long Lankin (1970), and he has written a small amount of uncollected short fiction. He has also written two plays and has collaborated in writing television adaptations of his novels The Newton Letter and Birchwood.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

John Banville is one of the most original and successful Irish novelists of his generation. His work has received numerous awards, including the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the American-Irish Foundation Award, the GPA Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. Reviewers have treated each of Banville’s new works with increasing respect for the author’s ambition, verbal felicity, and individuality, and Banville has inspired a sizable amount of critical commentary. The development of his career coincides with a period of restlessness and experimentation in Irish fiction.

Not the least significant of Banville’s achievements is that he has availed himself of the artistic example of such postwar masters of fiction as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, and Italo Calvino. By admitting such influences, as well as those of the great Irish modernists James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, Banville’s fiction has embodied a new range of options for the Irish novel and has provided an international dimension to an often provincial literary culture.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

As readers we are primed to believe everything the narrator tells us. Consider whether the first-person narrator in John Banville’s The Book of Evidence is reliable. Can we believe his story?

Banville’s The Book of Evidence has been compared to Fyodor Dostoevski’s Prestupleniye i nakazaniye (1866; Crime and Punishment, 1886). Compare Freddie Montgomery to Raskolnikov in their mental anguish, moral dilemma, and descent into madness following their crimes.

How does self-doubt enter into the minds of narrator-protagonists Freddie Montgomery in The Book of Evidence and Max Morden in The Sea?

Banville’s first-person narrators have difficulty recollecting past events with precision. Discuss the idea of remembering versus creating.

What, if any, are the similarities between Max Morden, the protagonist of The Sea, and Freddie Montgomery, the protagonist of The Book of Evidence?

To what effect does Banville use literary and philosophical allusions?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Banville, John. “Q. & A. with John Banville.” Irish Literary Supplement, Spring, 1987, 13. A rare interview with the media-shy author.

Booker, M. Keith. “Cultural Crisis Then and Now: Science, Literature, and Religion in John Banville’s Doctor Copernicus and Kepler.” Critique 39, no. 2 (Winter, 1998): 176-192. Examines how Banville uses the complex parallels between science and literature as a way of exploring and representing reality in his renderings of the lives of the scientists in the two novels.

Deane, Seamus. “’Be Assured I Am Inventing’: The Fiction of John Banville.” In The Irish Novel in Our Time, edited by Patrick Rafroidi and Maurice Harmon. Lille, France: Publications de l’Université de Lille, 1975. Presents an excellent discussion of Banville’s first three works of fiction. Deane, one of Ireland’s leading critics, is particularly insightful concerning the reflexive elements in Long Lankin, Nightspawn, and Birchwood. Concludes with a challenging critique of the cultural significance of Banville’s work.

D’Haen, Theo. “Irish Regionalism, Magic Realism, and Postmodernism.” In International Aspects of Irish Literature, edited by Toshi Furomoto et al. Gerrards Cross, England: Smythe, 1996. Compares Banville’s Birchwood and Desmond Hogan’s A Curious Street to demonstrate the postmodern and Magical Realist qualities of each. Such...

(The entire section is 658 words.)