Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Banville, John

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(1945-    ) Irish writer and journalist. Long Lankin (coll of linked stories 1970 UK; with 2 stories omitted and 1 story added rev 1984), though nonfantasy, displays features that persist through JB's later fiction: a governing (usually eponymous) metaphor drawn from supernatural lore; a broodingly Gothic manner; and a persistent tendency towards imagery that evokes the Fantastic. Nightspawn (1971 US), Birchwood (1973 UK) and Mefisto (1986 UK) similarly employ emblems and images of fantasy to tell interior dramas.

Doctor Copernicus (1976 UK) and Kepler (1981 UK) dramatize the psyches of the eponymous scientists in the anguish of seeing their discoveries displace models of the Universe that had afforded a sense of spiritual place; the contemporary short novel The Newton Letter (1982 UK) – whose protagonist is writing a monograph on Isaac Newton – deals (at one remove) with similar matters. In Ghosts (1993 UK) the unnamed narrator – who is plainly the protagonist of The Book of Evidence (1989 UK), now released from prison – is a man unmoored from ontological or moral benchmarks; he is in a sense the inheritor of the legacy created by JB's earlier scientist protagonists. The Ghosts of the title are simply the hauntings of his past life; JB has throughout abjured actual fantasy. Athena (1995 UK) is a sequel, in which the Hauntings continue, and deepen. [GF]

John Banville


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.