William John Banville, recognised for his precise, cold, forensic prose style, Nabokovian inventiveness, and for the dark humour of his generally arch narrators, Banville is considered to be "one of the most imaginative literary novelists writing in the English language today." Banville is considered by critics as a master stylist of English, and his writing has been described as perfectly crafted, beautiful, dazzling.
William John Banville was born to Agnes (née Doran) and Martin Banville, a garage clerk, in Wexford, Ireland. He is the youngest of three siblings. His older brother Vincent is also a novelist. His sister Anne Veronica "Vonnie" Banville-Evans has written both a children's novel and a memoir of growing up in Wexford.
Despite having intended to be a painter and an architect he did not attend university. Banville has described this as "A great mistake. I should have gone. I regret not taking that four years of getting drunk and falling in love".
Banville says that he started writing novels at the age of 12. His early attempts were "dreadful imitations" of Joyce's Dubliners; the opening line of one was, "The white May blossom swooned slowly into the open mouth of the grave".
Nightspawn, Birchwood, The Revolutions Trilogy, Mefisto, The Book of Evidence,Ghosts , Athena, The Ark, The Untouchable, Eclipse, Shroud, The Sea, The Infinities, Ancient Light
The Broken Jug,Seachange,Dublin 1742,God's Gift,Love in the Wars,Love in the Wars
short story collection
He is essentially a religious type. In his teens he gave up Catholicism, and at the same time he started writing. Writing keeps him at his desk, constantly trying to write a perfect sentence. It is a great privilege to make one’s living from writing sentences. The sentence is the greatest invention of civilization. To sit all day long assembling these extraordinary strings of words is a marvelous thing. He couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s as near to godliness as he can get.
His political views are clearly seen in his works.
The novelist Tibor Fischer summed up the general view on Banville's influences when he said, "You can sense the volumes of Joyce, Beckett and Nabokov on Banville's shelves." Banville himself has acknowledged that all Irish writers are followers of either Joyce or Beckett - and he places himself in the Beckett camp. A less obvious influence, which comes through most particularly in Banville's defence of his work as art, would be the Nobel laureate Harold Pinter. Banville's memories of his childhood in Ireland are also a source of inspiration in his later work, particularly in The Sea. "Even though I am now on the brink of old age, childhood is still a source of material," he has commented.
“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it.”
“In order really to write one has to sink deep into the self and become lost there.”
"My traumas were Wexford, Ireland, the fifties, and especially the Catholic Church. The first thing the Catholic Church does to a child is instill guilt in his little soul, and guilt is a good thing for an artist."
“Given the world that he created, it would be an impiety against God to believe in him.”
Regarded as the most stylistically elaborate Irish writer of his generation, John Banville is a philosophical novelist concerned with the nature of perception, the conflict between imagination and reality, and the existential isolation of the individual.
Heinrich von Kleist
Ill Seen Ill Said, Samuel Beckett
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Historical Essays, Hugh Trevor-Roper
Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke
Ulysses, James Joyce
Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson
Die fröliche Wissenschaft (‘The Gay Science’), Friedrich Nietzsche
The Tower, William Butler Yeats
The Greeks and the Irrational, E. R. Dodds
Dirty Snow, Georges Simenon
Banville married American textile artist Janet Dunham, and their two sons are now adults. They met during his visit to San Francisco in 1968 where she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. Dunham described him during the writing process as being like "a murderer who's just come back from a particularly bloody killing". They have separated.
Banville lives with Patricia Quinn, former head of the Arts Council of Ireland. They have two daughters together.
Among the awards John Banville's novels have woAmong the awards John Banville's novels have won are the Allied Irish Banks fiction prize, the American-Irish Foundation award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 1989 The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was awarded the first Guinness Peat Aviation Award; in Italian, as La Spiegazione dei Fatti, the book was awarded the 1991 Premio Ennio Flaiano. Ghosts was shortlisted for the Whitbread Fiction Prize 1993, The Untouchable for the same prize in 1997. In 2003 he was awarded the Premio Nonino. He has also received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation in the United States He won the Man Booker Prize 2005 for The Sea.
Booker Prize, 2005
Banville won the Booker Prize in 2005, after haBanville won the Booker Prize in 2005, after having been on the short list in 1989. His later work was contending with novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Julian Barnes, Ali Smith, Sebastian Barry and Zadie Smith. The judges vote was split between Banville and Ishiguro, and Chairman of Judges John Sutherland cast the winning vote in favour of Banville.
Earlier that year Sutherland had written approvingly of Ian McEwan's novel Saturday. Banville strongly criticized the work in the The New York Review of Books. Banville later admitted that, upon reading Sutherland's letter in response to his review, he had thought: "[W]ell, I can kiss the Booker goodbye. I have not been the most popular person in London literary circles over the past half-year. And I think it was very large of Sutherland to cast the winning vote in my favour."
Banville was noted for having written a letter in 1981 to The Guardian requesting that the Booker Prize, for which he was "runner-up to the shortlist of contenders", be given to him so that he could use the money to buy every copy of the longlisted books in Ireland and donate them to libraries, "thus ensuring that the books not only are bought but also read — surely a unique occurrence."
When his The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize, Banville said a friend, whom he described as "a gentleman of the turf", instructed him "to bet on the other five shortlistees, saying it was a sure thing, since if I won the prize I would have the prize-money, and if I lost one of the others would win . . .But the thing baffled me and I never placed the bets. I doubt I'll be visiting Ladbrokes any time soon".
Kafka Prize, 2011
In 2011, Banville was awarded the Franz Kafka PIn 2011, Banville was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize. Marcel Reich-Ranicki and John Calder featured on the jury. Banville described the award as "one of the ones one really wants to get. It's an old style prize and as an old codger it's perfect for me ... I've been wrestling with Kafka since I was an adolescent" and said his bronze statuette trophy "will glare at me from the mantelpiece".