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The clank of Irish bones

John Banville ignores the skeleton cupboard of Irish literature, preferring art and style to the nightmare of history. And that also makes him Irish

By Fintan O'Toole   June 2005

The Sea by John Banville (Picador, £16.99)

Walter Pater claimed that all art aspires to the condition of music, but John Banville’s later novels aspire to the condition of painting. The Untouchable is a playful version of the life of the art historian and spy Anthony Blunt. In The Book of Evidence, the narrator Freddie Montgomery becomes obsessed with an old Dutch portrait of a woman, and in a botched attempt to steal it murders a chambermaid. In Ghosts, the same narrator serves as amanuensis to an art scholar and spends his time “with my catalogues and my detailed reproductions,…

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