Author:
• Thursday, June 17th, 2010

John Banville was born in 1945 in Wexford, Ireland, from a father who worked in a garage and a housewife mother. He is the youngest of three siblings, his older brother and sister are also novelists.

He started his education in a Christian Brothers primary School followed by St Peter’s College secondary school in Wexford.

After leaving school John Banville worked for Aer Lingus in Dublin as a clerk, which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively. He moved on and has worked in journalism since 1969. He was a member of the Irish Arts Council from 1984 to 1988 and literary editor for The Irish Times from 1988 to 1999.

He lives today in Dublin with his American wife whom he married in 1969 and their two adult sons.

John Banville wrote several novels, short stories and plays. His best-known novel The Sea, which is his fourteenth, was published in 2005 and won the Man Booker Prize the same year.

List of John Banville’s novels:
Nightspawn, 1971
Birchwood, 1973
Dr Copernicus, 1976
Kepler, 1981
The Newton Letter: An Interlude, 1982
Mefisto,1986
The Book of Evidence,1989
Ghosts, 1993
Athena,1995
The Ark, 1996
The Untouchable, 1997
Eclipse, 2000
Shroud, 2002
Prague Pictures: Portrait of a city, 2003
The Sea, 2005
The Infinities, 2009

The Sea is about Max Morden, a retired Irish art historian and a newly bereaved husband in his sixties. Arriving at a crossroads in his existence, he sought some comfort and escapism by returning to live in the same summer house on the Irish coast, where the Grace family once lived many years ago with their twin-children, Chloe and Myles. They became his friends in that memorable summer of his childhood, when they were all in their early teens.

Max Morden, aware of his old age, his mortal vulnerability and obsessed by death, reminisces about the past and lives in a state of constant reverie tinted with melancholic black humour. He is constantly reviewing his previous life and the time he had spent with his late wife Anna who died of cancer. He also dwells on the unforgettable summer spent with the wealthy and attractive Grace family that changed his life.

As if his recent bereavement rekindled the loss of Chloe and Myles, buried in the sea by drowning a long time ago, their deaths made him aware early in his life about the meaning of love and death, an experience which was thrust upon him as a young boy and continued to haunt him as an old man.

After his wife’s death, Max Morden decides to go back to the same Irish seaside resort of his childhood, but this time at the end of his journey, as an old man, in order to seek some solace for his meaningless existence.

The main themes of this short, subtle, remarkable, deep and powerful novel are love, loss and sad memories. Max Morden’s nostalgic thoughts of the past drift swiftly from one period to another, like the high and low tides of the sea or the waxing and waning of the moon.

The Sea has hardly a plot and no suspense, save the twist at the end, when the reader discovers that Miss Vavasour, the Cedars’ tenant, is the one and same Rose, who was Chloe’s and Myles’ governess some fifty years earlier.

The strength and beauty of the novel lies in its eloquence, intense emotions, elegant, lyrical and poetic prose, which makes it a refined work of art, that compels readers to commence their own meditation.

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