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About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of many highly acclaimed and prize-winning novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Booker Prize. He has been awarded the Franz Kafka Prize and a literary award from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Dublin.


Axel Vander is an elderly scholar, a survivor of the Holocaust, and a compulsive liar who stole his deceased childhood friend's identity to escape the Nazis. Living in California, the widowed Vander is contacted by a young woman named Cass Cleave, who forces him to meet her in Italy because she has discovered his true identity and threatens to expose him. The psychologically disturbed Cass, who appeared in Banville's Eclipse, literally "cleaves" to Axel, stimulating their peculiar love affair. In his 13th novel, Banville deftly wraps the reader in his dense and velvety prose, providing a satisfying reading experience despite a significantly inferior plot (it's just not that interesting). By shifting between the lovers' thoughts and flashbacks, Banville forges an enigmatic work about memory, one that is deeply rooted in deviant/manic thoughts and esoteric symbolism. Ultimately, this is an off-kilter romance, brutally astute in its raw imagery and epiphanic ending. Recommended for larger library collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/02.]-Colleen Lougen, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Alex Vander is a fraud, big-time. An elderly professor of literature and a scholarly writer with an international reputation, he has neither the education nor the petit bourgeois family in Antwerp that he has claimed. As the splenetic narrator of this searching novel by Banville (Eclipse), he admits early on that he has lied about everything in his life, including his identity, which he stole from a friend of his youth whose mysterious death will resonate as the narrator reflects on his past. Having fled Belgium during WWII, he established himself in Arcady, Calif., with his long-suffering wife, whose recent death has unleashed new waves of guilt in the curmudgeonly old man. Guilt and fear have long since turned Vander into a monster of rudeness, violent temper, ugly excess, alcoholism and self-destructiveness. His web of falsehoods has become an anguishing burden, and his sense of displacement ("I am myself and also someone else") threatens to unhinge him altogether. Then comes a letter from a young woman, Cass Cleave, who claims to know all the secrets of his past. Determined to destroy her, an infuriated Vander meets Cass in Turin and discovers she is slightly mad. Even so, he begins to hope that Cass, his nemesis, could be the instrument of his redemption. Banville's lyrical prose, taut with intelligence, explores the issues of identity and morality with which the novel reverberates. At the end, Vander understands that some people in his life had noble motives for keeping secrets, and their sacrifices make the enormity of his deception even more shameful. This bravura performance will stand as one of Banville's best works. (Mar. 10) Forecast: As literary editor of the Irish Times, Banville is better known in Europe than in the U.S. Discriminating readers are the market for his 13th novel, which should figure among the literary prizes for 2003. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

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