John Banville: the infinite variety of Infinities

Enrico Reggiani, Il Quotidiano approfondito, Tuesday March 27 2012

John Banville is one of the leading names in the global publishing market, which, to be clear, is made up both by people who read in the original language and those who approach this Irish writer who said he had long exceeded “his love story with the identity” of his country, in translation. The national-community identity is not the only one that the novelist of Wexford (1945 -) seems to have left behind: he also appears to reserve the same treatment to the representation (with the associated conception, experience, research, et al.) of “personal identity” – whether, for example, that of the writer/author/narrator (as evidenced also by his decision to adopt, since around 2006, the pen name Benjamin Black for some of his valuable mystery/noir literary labors), or that which one breathes in the narrative and narratological statute of his characters, whose features have long been subjected to daring manipulations that, however, make them – alas, not uncommon – literally blurred, anthropologically indefinite, programmatically unresolved and culturally sterile.

In this sense, the story that Banville told during his appearance in the 2009 edition of Milanesiana, a cultural festival in Milan, is emblematic. He said, “a few years ago, the RTE, the Irish national television network, commissioned a documentary about me and my work, emphasizing, at my insistence, the work. The program director, himself an auteur, was sharp and insightful, and the program that came out from him was excellent, deserving much acclaim. The first question put to me, on the first day of shooting, was, ‘Who is John Banville?’. I appear on the screen hesitating for a long moment before providing what suddenly seemed like the only possible answer. ‘Well, you see,’ I replied, ‘there is no John Banville'” (La Repubblica, June 23, 2009, p. 42).

It is no surprise that this is the anthropological and literary dimension of The Infinities, his latest novel, published in 2009 and recently translated into Italian. Here the writer of this article would like to ask for forgiveness for the “little impertinence” that he is about to enjoy and that is of the same family of that – so to speak, “off record” and for good, ça va sans dire – for which Cardinal Scola apologized recently during the annual press briefing (Jan. 28, 2012). Here it is verbatim: “We hope that with this [the new Sunday cultural inserts] the rate of the critics grows, whether literary or not – in the noble sense, and not only in our country – because the reviews have often become a favor that one friend does for the other, without reading the book. They are a little preface, then for four/fifths of a column they speak about the subject in general, citing a sentence and the desire to read or not read the book is not transmitted, but this is a bit of an impertinence, permit me… “.

In the footsteps of such an authoritative precedent, even the modest pen of this writer can find the courage to commit such an impertinence,… [click here to read the rest of the article e qui per leggerlo in italiano.  © Riproduzione riservata]


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