From the internationally acclaimed Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea comes "a delicious memoir" (New York Times) that unfolds around the author's recollections, experiences, and imaginings of Dublin.
As much about the life of the city as it is about a life lived, sometimes, in the city, John Banville's "quasi-memoir" is as layered, emotionally rich, witty, and unexpected as any of his novels. Born and bred in a small town a train ride away from Dublin, Banville saw the city as a place of enchantment when he was a child, a birthday treat, the place where his beloved, eccentric aunt lived. And though, when he came of age and took up residence there, and the city became a frequent backdrop for his dissatisfactions (not playing an identifiable role in his work until the Quirke mystery series, penned as Benjamin Black), it remained in some part of his memory as fascinating as it had been to his seven-year-old self. And as he guides us around the city, delighting in its cultural, architectural, political, and social history, he interweaves the memories that are attached to particular places and moments. The result is both a wonderfully idiosyncratic tour of Dublin, and a tender yet powerful ode to a formative time and place for the artist as a young man.
In this subtle, elegant memoir, Irish novelist and screenwriter Banville (Mrs. Osmond) explores three overlapping Dublins: the contemporary city, the city of history, and the city he remembers. Despite spending centuries as a provincial backwater in the British Empire, Dublin produced a pantheon of great artists, among them Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, Jonathan Swift, Orson Welles (who made his stage debut in Dublin's Gate Theatre), Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats. As a bookish youth in Wexford, Banville viewed Dublin as the locus of all sophistication, excitement, and meaning. In 1964 at age 18, he moved there and found his place in the bohemian milieu he'd admired from afar. In Banville's survey of 21st-century Dublin, every shift in perspective triggers meditations on the myriad ways the city has shaped his long life. The real unity of the narrative rests in the remarkable interplay between text and image (preceding a two-page photo of the Shelbourne Hotel's Horseshoe Bar, Banville describes it "as dimly lit and pleasingly louche today as it was then"). For much of the journey, a mysterious friend named Cicero accompanies Banville, a conceit adding yet another layer to a quietly remarkable work. Yet despite this intricate structure, Banville's wit and humor make this book pass far too quickly. Dublin could not have asked for a more perceptive observer, or a more enchanting portrait.