John Banville is an Irish writer, born in Wexford in 1945. He lives in Dublin, and is literary editor of The Irish Times. His most famous novel is probably The Book of Evidence, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989, but his other books have also won him several literary awards, including the Guardian Prize for Fiction (for Kepler, 1981) and the James Tait Black Memorial Award (for Doctor Copernicus, 1976). He is considered by many Ireland's greatest living novelist, and his works have already found their way onto the reading lists of english literature courses in several universities.
Banville's books often tread a fine line between fact and fiction. Between 1976 and 1982 he wrote a trio of biographical novels featuring long-dead scientists: these are Doctor Copernicus, Kepler and The Newton Letter (this last was filmed for television by Channel 4). The Book of Evidence was inspired by the infamous case of the murderer Malcolm MacArthur, who caused a scandal in Ireland in the early 1980s when he was arrested while staying with a friend who happened to be the state's Attorney General. Perhaps the most controversial was Banville's most recent book The Untouchable, which is a fictionalised version of the case of Anthony Blunt, the "Fourth Man" in the spy ring which involved Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.
Many of Banville's narratives are delivered in the first person by the amoral central character, which leads many to find them cold and even disturbing. Banville's narrators are untrustworthy, but generally quite revealing with regard to their own motivations and obsessions. The Book of Evidence has been compared to Lolita, in that the narrator fabricates an obsession (in this case with a painting) to somehow mask or justify his casual evil (in this case the murder of a house maid). We learn as much about the narrator's character in what he chooses not to say, as we do in the details he does reveal. Banville certainly seems to be interested in the nature of evil, and specifically betrayal. In Doctor Copernicus, he focuses on Copernicus's betrayal of his own work, never revealing his findings out of fear and doubt.
Banville has written two plays: The Broken Jug (1987), which was perfomed by the National Theatre Society in the Abbey Theatre, and God's Gift (2000), a version of Heinrich von Kleist's Amphitryon, with the action transposed to Ireland during the 1798 rebellion. This last was performed by Barabbas... The Company, a celebrated Irish physical theatre troupe (and featured ryano's brother!). He is a member of Aosdána, an elite circle of Irish artists.