John Banville (born 8 December 1945) is an Irish novelist and journalist.
His novel, The Book of Evidence (1989), was shortlisted for the
Booker Prize, and won the Guinness Peat Aviation Award. His eighteenth
novel, The Sea, won the Man Booker Prize in 2005.
Banville is known for his precise—some would say cold—prose
style, Nabokovian in inventiveness, and for the dark humour of his
generally arch narrators. Banville's stated ambition is to give
his prose "the kind of denseness and thickness that poetry
Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage
and died when John was in his early thirties; his mother was a housewife.
Banville is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent
is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence
as well as his own.
Educated at a Christian Brothers' school and at St Peter's College
in Wexford, he did not attend university. After school he worked
as a clerk at Aer Lingus which allowed him to travel at deeply-discounted
rates. He lived in the United States in 1968-9. On his return to
Ireland he became a sub-editor at the Irish Press, rising eventually
to the position of chief sub-editor. His first book, Long Lankin,
appeared in 1970.
After the Irish Press collapsed in 1995, he became a sub-editor
at the Irish Times. He was appointed literary editor in 1998. The
Irish Times, too, suffered severe financial problems, and Banville
was offered the choice of taking a redundancy package or working
as a features department sub-editor. He left. Banville has been
a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books since 1990.
In 1984, he was elected to Aosdána, but resigned in 2001,
so that some other artist might be allowed to receive the cnuas.
He also writes under the pen name Benjamin Black. His first novel
under this pen name was Christine Falls, which is rumored to be
the first in a series.
He has two adult sons by his wife, the American textile artist Janet
Dunham. They met during his visit to San Francisco in 1968 where
she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. His
wife described him during the writing process as being like "a
murderer who's just come back from a particularly bloody killing."
Banville has two daughters aged 10 and 17 from a relationship with
Patricia Quinn, former head of the Arts Council of Ireland. He lives
in central Dublin.
John Banville is considered by critics as a master stylist of the
English language, and his writing has been described as perfectly-crafted,
beautiful, dazzling. David Mehegan of the Boston Globe calls Banville
"one of the great stylists writing in English today;"
Don DeLillo calls his work "dangerous and clear-running prose;"
and the UK Observer described his 1989 work, The Book of Evidence,
as "flawlessly flowing prose whose lyricism, patrician irony
and aching sense of loss are reminiscent of Lolita."
He is also known for his dark humour, and sharp wit.