Monday, October 10, 2005


HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS to Irish novelist John Banville on winning the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction for his 13th novel, The Sea (2005), a poignant story of death, loss and regret, and where dark childhood memories return to haunt us in the present. A prose stylist, Banville published his first book, Long Lankin, a collection of short fiction, in 1970, and has gone from strength to strength. The Sea is an excellent choice of a representative of all that is best in literary fiction this year. In a melancholy, lyrical voice narrated by a middle-aged art historian whose wife has recently died, who returns to the Irish seaside town where he spent his boyhood summers and confronts the ghosts of a traumatic childhood summer.

BANVILLE John [1945-] Novelist. Born in Wexford, Ireland. NOVELS The Sea (2005: winner of the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction); Shroud (2002); Eclipse (2000); The Untouchable (1997: shortlisted for the 1997 Whitbread Novel Award for Fiction); Athena (1995); Ghosts (1993); The Book of Evidence (1989: shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize for Fiction); Mefisto (1986); The Newton Letter: An Interlude (1982); Kepler (1981: winner of the 1981 Guardian Prize for Fiction); Doctor Copernicus (1976: winner of the 1976 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction); Birchwood (1973); Nightspawn (1971) STORIES Long Lankin (1970) PLAYS God's Gift (2000); The Broken Jug (1994) TRAVEL Prague Pictures: Portrait of a City (2003)

“Chloe and I turned our heads simultaneously and, devout as holy drinkers, dipped our faces toward each other until our mouths met. We could see nothing, which intensified all sensations. I felt as if we were flying, without effort, dream-slowly, through the dense, powdery darkness. The clamour around us was immensely far off now, the mere rumour of a distant uproar. Chloe's lips were cool and dry. I tasted her urgent breath. When at last with a strange little whistling sigh she drew her face away from mine a shimmer passed along my spine, as if something hot inside it had suddenly liquefied and run down its hollow length ... Happiness was different in childhood. It was so much then a matter simply of accumulation, of taking things - new experiences, new emotions - and applying them like so many polished tiles to what would someday be the marvellously finished pavilion of the self ...

“As I walked behind her amid the trudging crowd, I touched a fingertip to my lips, the lips that had kissed hers, half expecting to find them changed in some infinitely subtle but momentous way ... like the day itself, that had been sombre and wet and hung with big-bellied clouds when we were going into the picture-house and now at evening was all tawny sunlight and raked shadows.”

From The Sea, by John Banville (Picador, 2005)


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