John Banville: ‘There Was a Creepy Regression to Childhood’ | John Banville

John BanvilleAt 76 years old, he is the author of 26 books, including seven crime novels under the name Benjamin Black. His new novel singularitieswhich takes place in a parallel reality supervised by a Greek god, is a sequel to infinities (2009) and includes a host of characters from his earlier books, not least Freddy Montgomery, the killer told in 1989 Evidence book. When Banville, born in Wexford, won the Booker Prize the sea In 2005, a year considered one of the strongest in the award’s history, he said it “was nice to see a work of art win”. Speaking to me via Zoom from his home in Howth, just outside Dublin, he explained that “he was just enjoying myself and trying to annoy people – and it worked”.

What prompted you to reconsider your previous novels in singularities?
As the book went on, I was more aware that it was a summary. I am sure it will be the last book of its kind that I will write. Practically all of my novels are referred to there; Many of the writers I’ve loved over the years are [referenced] There is, too. It ends with the words “full stop” and I can’t see myself starting another project like it. I mean, it took me five or six years and I’m pretty old now. I will continue to write my crime book—they take four or five months—but I will not write another book with this intensity and allusion, or evasiveness, I suppose.

What makes it so difficult to write your own non-crime novels?
One has a lot of props with crime fiction: the crime itself, the characters, the motives, the dialogue, and the plot. These are things that don’t interest me in my non-crime books, which will likely be bundled together into one huge volume – I guess it’s really just one book, which I’ve been trying to get right all these years. I try to give a sense of what the surface of the world looks, feels, tastes and smells like. I’m not interested in writing about things; I am trying to write the same. Each novel has some musical ideas or moments where I think: Yes, the project was useful for this. But in general all I see are errors. Revisiting my books makes me almost sick physically; I hate that.

after in singularities You just do it.
Yes, but I haven’t read any of it! I remember when I was making a sequel to one of my crime books, I had to go back to the first book and couldn’t stand it, until I thought of listening to it as an audiobook. Because I suffer from insomnia, I was listening late at night in the dark, this voice speaking to me. This allowed me to take an objective stand, which is why I killed Benjamin Black. I thought: This book isn’t bad at all. Why do I hide behind a pseudonym?

What attracts you to words like “matutinal “and”Truth“?
English is beautiful. It is very rich and untidy with many influences from other cultures, and I am very proud of it. People tell me they have to go to the dictionary. Is this a big problem? A dictionary is one of the most valuable things you have in your home. You should thank me for the excuse to go to him. I tell them, “I bet when you went looking for any word, you came across four or five new words. That’s how I won! I did you a favor!”

How has literary culture changed since it began in the 1970s?
Old programmers always say this, but there seems to be a creepy regression to childhood. When you were middle-aged, you had a relatively large group of people with whom your novel was new Iris Murdoch Or a new book of poems Robert Lowell It was an event we eagerly anticipate. We don’t want hard books now. A friend said to me, “You see supposedly adults on the train who read shamelessly. Harry Potter books. They should read adult books, not children’s books! “When I started reading as a young kid, of course I wanted to escape from the small town I was living in. But what I discovered is that the escape you get from art is not far from the world but inside Introduce limitless – to life.

How do you view the younger generation of Irish novelists?
When I was young I remember arguing with George Steiner About an article in which he said that old people do not read novels. Well, I’m an old man and I don’t read a lot of fairy tales; Whatever fantasy offers you, I don’t seem to need it anymore. It now appears that fiction writers in Ireland are writing about their immediate lives and the lives of their friends. This was not the point of my generation at all. We were interested in what people are, not what they do. In my non-criminal books I don’t care who does what; I am investigating the poetic possibilities of language and trying to address the question of being.

You know, someone said to me recently, “John, I suppose you’re going to write your own Covid novel?” I said, “I certainly won’t, and I hope no one else will.” Fantasy Art is not to comment on the events of that time. She might, but that is not her goal, which is to imagine the world; It is not intended to be a factual record. A friend asked me that day: “In singularities There’s this guy who just got out of jail, but in your previous books, wasn’t he out of jail already? I said, “It’s imagination! I can do what I love! “

What have you been reading recently?
Post-mortem papers for the Manuscript Club by Christopher D. Hamel; Nice book about manuscripts. He’s a very serious scientist but he writes superbly and in a very immediate way.

What was the first book that inspired you to write?
My sister gave me James Joyce Dublin When I was about 13 years old. Suddenly I found out that fiction could be about the very essence of life: it wasn’t a spinner from the Wild West, it wasn’t a detective story, it wasn’t about English schoolchildren waking up to the Japanese. I wrote a gruesome imitation of her stories throughout my adolescence. I think it is Joyce’s best book: for a young man to write with such poise, clarity, elegance, and wisdom is extraordinary. There is a wonderful anecdote about an old friend from Dublin who visits him in Paris towards the end of his life and says, You know Jimmy, I tried Ulysses And that Venegans Week thing, but your best book is DublinJoyce says, “I agree.” Whether that happens or not, I like it.

singularities Posted by Knopf (£14.99). to support guardian And the observer Request your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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