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By one of the most important voices in contemporary world literature, a darkly comic novel about that most British of institutions, Oxford University.In All Souls, a visiting Spanish lecturer, viewing Oxford through a prismatic detachment, is alternately amused, puzzled, delighted, and disgusted by its vagaries of human vanity. A bit lonely, not always able to see his charming but very married mistress, he casts about for activity; he barely has to teach. Yet so much goes into simply "being" at Oxford: friendship, opinion-mongering, one-upmanship, finicky exchanges of favors, gossip, adultery, book-collecting, back-patting, backstabbing. Marías demonstrates a sweet tooth for eccentricity in this sly campus novel and love story.
The Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea gives us a brilliant, profoundly moving new novel about an actor in the twilight of his life and his career: a meditation on love and loss, and on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives.Is there any difference between memory and invention? That is the question that fuels this stunning novel, written with the depth of character, the clarifying lyricism and the sly humor that have marked all of John Banville's extraordinary works. And it is the question that haunts Alexander Cleave, an actor in the twilight of his career and of his life, as he plumbs the memories of his first--and perhaps only--love (he, fifteen years old, the woman more than twice his age, the mother of his best friend; the situation impossible, thrilling, devouring and finally devastating) . . . and of his daughter, lost to a kind of madness of mind and heart that Cleave can only fail to understand. When his dormant acting career is suddenly, inexplicably revived with a movie role portraying a man who may not be who he says he is, his young leading lady--famous and fragile--unwittingly gives him the opportunity to see with aching clarity the "chasm that yawns between the doing of a thing and the recollection of what was done." Ancient Light is a profoundly moving meditation on love and loss, on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives, on how invention shapes memory and memory shapes the man. It is a book of spellbinding power and pathos from one of the greatest masters of prose at work today.From the Hardcover edition.
From the internationally acclaimed author of The Book of Evidence and Ghosts comes a mesmerizing novel that is both a literary thriller and a love story as sumptuously perverse as Lolita. "A strange and dreamlike book . . . Banville has a breathtaking style."--Boston Globe.
I am therefore I think. So starts John Banville's 1973 novel Birchwood, a novel that centers around Gabriel Godkin and his return to his dilapidated family estate. After years away, Gabriel returns to a house filled with memories and despair. Delving deep into family secrets--a cold father, a tortured mother, an insane grandmother--Gabriel also recalls his first encounters with love and loss. At once a novel of a family, of isolation, and of a blighted Ireland, Birchwood is a remarkable and complex story about the end of innocence for one boy and his country, told in the brilliantly styled prose of one of our most essential writers..
John Banville's stunning powers of mimicry are brilliantly on display in this engrossing novel, the darkly compelling confession of an improbable murderer.Freddie Montgomery is a highly cultured man, a husband and father living the life of a dissolute exile on a Mediterranean island. When a debt comes due and his wife and child are held as collateral, he returns to Ireland to secure funds. That pursuit leads to murder. And here is his attempt to present evidence, not of his innocence, but of his life, of the events that lead to the murder he committed because he could. Like a hero out of Nabokov or Camus, Montgomery is a chillingly articulate, self-aware, and amoral being, whose humanity is painfully on display.
"Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."--Immanuel KantIsaiah Berlin was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century--an activist of the intellect who marshaled vast erudition and eloquence in defense of the endangered values of individual liberty and moral and political plurality. In The Crooked Timber of Humanity he exposes the links between the ideas of the past and the social and political cataclysms of our own time: between the Platonic belief in absolute truth and the lure of authoritarianism; between the eighteenth-century reactionary ideologue Joseph de Maistre and twentieth-century Fascism; between the romanticism of Schiller and Byron and the militant--and sometimes genocidal--nationalism that convulses the modern world.This new edition features a revised text that supplants all previous versions, a new foreword in which award-winning novelist John Banville discusses Berlin's life and ideas, particularly his defense of pluralism, and a substantial new appendix that provides rich context, including letters by Berlin and previously uncollected writings, most notably his virtuoso review of Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy.
'Banville is superb . . . there are not many historical novels of which it can be said that they illuminate both the time that forms their subject matter and the time in which they are read: Doctor Copernicusis among the very best of them' The Economist The work of Nicholas Koppernigk, better known as Copernicus, shattered the medieval view of the universe and led to the formulation of the image of the solar system we know today. Here his life is powerfully evoked in a novel that offers a vivid portrait of a man of painful reticence, haunted by a malevolent brother and baffled by the conspiracies that rage around him and his ideas while he searches for the secret of life. 'Banville writes novels of complex patterning, with grace, precision and timing' Guardian 'With his fastidious wit and exquisite style, John Banville is the heir to Nabokov' Daily Telegraph 'A tour de force: a fictional evocation of the great astronomer which is exciting, beautifully written and astonishingly redolent of the late medieval world' The Times
In this deeply moving and original book, John Banville alloys mystery, fable, and ghost story with poignant psychological acuity to forge the riveting story of a man wary of the future, plagued by the past, and so uncertain in the present that he cannot discern the spectral from the real. When renowned actor Alexander Cleave was a boy living in a large house with his widowed mother and various itinerant lodgers, he encountered a strikingly vivid ghost of his father. Now that he's fifty and has returned to his boyhood home to recover from a nervous breakdown on stage, he is not surprised to find the place still haunted. He is surprised, however, at the presence of two new lodgers who have covertly settled into his old roost. And he is soon overwhelmed by how they, coupled with an onslaught of disturbing memories, compel him to confront the clutter that has become his life: ruined career, tenuous marriage, and troubled relationship with an estranged daughter destined for doom.
In this brilliantly haunting new novel, John Banville forges an unforgettable amalgam of enchantment and menace that suggests both The Tempest and his own acclaimed The Book of Evidence. "A surreal and exquisitely lyrical new novel by one of the great stylists writing in English today."--Boston Globe.
One long, languid midsummer's day, the Godleys gather at the family home of Arden to attend their father's bedside. Adam, the elder child, and Petra, only nineteen, find that relations with their mother, Ursula, and their dying father, old Adam, are as strained as ever. Adam's relationship with his wife, Helen, seems too on the brink of collapse and Petra, fragile and deeply troubled, finds deepest relief in her own pain. The gods, those mischievous spirits, watch silently, flitting through this dark ménage. Unable to resist intervening in the mortals' lives, they spy, tease and seduce, all the while looking upon the antics of their playthings with a mixture of mild bafflement and occasional envy. Old Adam - husband, father and esteemed mathematician - has made his name grappling with the concept of the infinite. His own time on earth seems to be running out, and his mind runs to disquieting memories. Little does he realize, as he lies mute but alert in the Sky room, that the gods are capable of interposing themselves in the action, and even changing time itself when it pleases them. Overflowing with a bawdy humour, and a deep and refreshing clarity of insight, The Infinities is at once a gloriously earthy romp and a delicately poised, infinitely wise look at the terrible and wonderful plight of being human. In electrifying prose, Banville captures the aching intensity, the magic and enchantment, of a single midsummer's day in Arden.
'Superbly illuminates the man, the time, and the everlasting quest for knowledge' Observer Johannes Kepler, born in 1571 in south Germany, was one of the world's greatest mathematicians and astronomers. This novel brilliantly recreates his life and his incredible drive to chart the orbits of the planets and the geometry of the universe while being driven from exile to exile by religious and domestic strife. At the same time it illuminates the harsh realities of the Renaissance world; rich in imaginative daring but rooted in poverty, squalor and the tyrannical power of emperors. 'Narrative art at a positively symphonic level' Guardian 'One knows one is in the presence of a writer extraordinary. Wearing his vast research lightly, Mr Banville not only summons Kepler and his company of vivid souls but leads us into the small dark rooms' Sunday Telegraph 'This very distinguished novel . . . is done with very considerable skill; it suggests that this is what such a life must indeed have been like and the result is a wonderfully human figure, rife with feelings, principles, regrets and courage' Sunday Times 'An outstandingly good novel . . . a novel that dramatizes and celebrates intellectual passion. Which makes it a very rare novel indeed' Irish Press
A collection of short stories from the early years of Man Booker Prize-winning author John Banville's career, Long Lankin explores the passionate emotions--fear, jealousy, desire--that course beneath the surface of everyday life. From a couple at risk of being torn apart by the allure of wealth to an old man's descent into nature, the tales in this collection showcase the talents that launched Banville onto the literary scene. Offering a unique insight into the mind of "one of the great living masters of English-language prose" (Los Angeles Times), these nine haunting sketches stand alone as canny observations on the turbulence of the human condition.
Hugo von Hoffmannsthal made his mark as a poet, as a playwright, and as the librettist for Richard Strauss's greatest operas, but he was no less accomplished as a writer of short, strangely evocative prose works. The atmospheric stories and sketches collected here--fin-de-siècle fairy tales from the Vienna of Klimt and Freud, a number of them never before translated into English--propel the reader into a shadowy world of uncanny fates and secret desires. An aristocrat from Paris in the plague years shares a single night of passion with an unknown woman; a cavalry sergeant meets his double on the battlefield; an orphaned man withdraws from the world with his four servants, each of whom has a mysterious power over his destiny.The most influential of all of Hofmannsthal's writings is the title story, a fictional letter to the English philosopher Francis Bacon in which Lord Chandos explains why he is no longer able to write. The "Letter" not only symbolized Hofmannsthal's own turn away from poetry, it captured the psychological crisis of faith and language which was to define the twentieth century.
Age has done everything except mellow the characters in Kingsley Amis's The Old Devils, which turns its humane and ironic gaze on a group of Welsh married couples who have been spending their golden years--when "all of a sudden the evening starts starting after breakfast"--nattering, complaining, reminiscing, and, above all, drinking. This more or less orderly social world is thrown off-kilter, however, when two old friends unexpectedly return from England: Alun Weaver, now a celebrated man of Welsh letters, and his entrancing wife, Rhiannon. Long-dormant rivalries and romances are rudely awakened, as life at the Bible and Crown, the local pub, is changed irrevocably. Considered by Martin Amis to be Kingsley Amis's greatest achievement--a book that "stands comparison with any English novel of the [twentieth] century"--The Old Devils confronts the attrition of ageing with rare candor, sympathy, and moral intelligence.t and bile with an altogether less characteristic warmth. Few novels have described the physical and emotional attrition of ageing with the candor, sympathy, and moral intelligence that Amis brings to bear on his old devils.
Soon after his wife dies, a middle-aged Irishman goes to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child.
Axel Vander is an old man, in ill health, recently widowed, a scholar renowned for both his unquestionable authority and the ferocity and violence that often mark his conduct. He is known to be Belgian by birth, to have had a privileged upbringing, to have made a perilous escape from World War II-torn Europe--his blind eye and dead leg are indelible reminders of that time. But Vander is also a master liar ("I lied to lie"), his true identity shrouded under countless layers of intricately connected falsehoods. Now a young woman he doesn't know, and whom he has dubbed "Miss Nemesis," has threatened to expose the most fundamental and damaging of these lies. Vander has agreed to travel from California to meet her in Italy--in Turin, city of the most mysterious shroud--believing that he will have no difficulty rendering her harmless. But he is wrong. This woman--at once mad and brilliant, generous and demanding--will be the catalyst for Vander's reluctant journey through his past toward the truths he has hidden, and toward others even he will be shocked to discover. InShroud--as in all of his acclaimed previous novels--John Banville gives us an emotionally resonant tale, exceptionally rich in language and image, dazzling in its narrative invention. It is a work of uncommon power.
One of the most dazzling and adventurous writers now working in English takes on the enigma of the Cambridge spies in a novel of exquisite menace, biting social comedy, and vertiginous moral complexity. The narrator is the elderly Victor Maskell, formerly of British intelligence, for many years art expert to the Queen. Now he has been unmasked as a Russian agent and subjected to a disgrace that is almost a kind of death. But at whose instigation? As Maskell retraces his tortuous path from his recruitment at Cambridge to the airless upper regions of the establishment, we discover a figure of manifold doubleness: Irishman and Englishman; husband, father, and lover of men; betrayer and dupe. Beautifully written, filled with convincing fictional portraits of Maskell's co-conspirators, and vibrant with the mysteries of loyalty and identity,The Untouchableplaces John Banville in the select company of both Conrad and le Carre. Winner of the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction "Contemporary fiction gets no better than this. . . Banville's books teem with life and humor. " - Patrick McGrath,The New York Times Book Review "Victor Maskell is one of the great characters in recent fiction. . . The Untouchableis the best work of art in any medium on [its] subject. " -Washington Post Book World "As remarkable a literary voice as any to come out of Ireland; Joyce and Beckett notwithstanding. " -San Francisco Chronicle
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