Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Infinities by John Banville

The Infinities by John Banville (2009, 300 pages)

After finishing Irish Short Story Week I wanted to read a few contemporary Irish novels by still new to me writers.    I went to my local book store to buy The Sea by John Banville (1945-Ireland), winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize.    They did not have that but they did have his The Infinities.    We have all seen posts of novels that say the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, well in this case the whole is less than the sum of the parts.  Parts of  The Infinities are very well done, some of the prose was both beautiful and brilliant.   It is about 24 hours in the life of a brilliant mathematician who is suffering a fatal illness.    Running parallel to this we have the Greek Gods making comments on events.  Clever and first but became trite.   Banville is no Salman Rushdie.

Parts of the novel are very good, Banville can write wonderful prose but The Infinities  did not work for me.   I am sorry I bought this book and would say to other readers try to get a library copy of the book if you want to try it.    After reading the book, I checked to see of I was way out of line with other readers opinion of the book.   About 40% of raters said things like, boring and pretentious.   20 percent said it was OK, and 20 percent liked and endorsed it.    The characters were uninteresting.

Almost never do I give a book a negative review but I would say whatever else you do refrain from buying it at near $20.00-899PHP-   If I had read the reviews on Goodreads before buying I think I would have not bought this book.   Where I live there are no libraries so to read a new book  I normally must buy.

Has anyone read The Sea?   

Mel u


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up. Actually I've bought The Sea from the annual book sale in our city, where I haul back boxes of bargain every time. I got it for $1, like new. However, I've to say, after two years, it's still in the box. I sure like to know what people think of it. Do you plan to read it?

Mel u said...

rippleeffects-I will not buy The Sea-just to many book competing for my dollars- but if I found it as you did really cheap I might buy it just to try it as it won the Man Booker-

Mel said...

I remember there was alot of hpye around this book. I have not read it and will certainly not, now. Thanks for review, and I hope you have a lovely weekend. I know it is only Thursday, but I am getting in early :)

JoAnn said...

Banville's The Sea was one of my favorites a few years ago, but this one just doesn't interest me. Sounds like I won't be missing anything...

Banville also writes mysteries under the name of Benjamin Black. The first two (Christine Falls and The Silver Swan) were very good. Will get to the third eventually.

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

I've read all but a couple of Banville's novels (not The Infinities).

Banville's art works at the sentence level. Most of his books are less than the sum of the parts. His happeist readers are connoisseurs of the parts. That strange Booker has led many readers to Banville who will not be happy with him. Prizes baffle me.

Some exceptions:

Birchwood, an extremely Irish novel, a sort of parody of earlier Irish fiction, sort of a landmark for younger Irish writers, apparently.

Doctor Copernicus and Kepler, surprisingly straightforward, non-tricky fictional biographies of the title scientists.

The Book of Evidence, Banville as Nabokov, and I think his best book.

The Untouchable, another surprisingly straightforward one, a LeCarre-like spy novel based on the Cambridge Five.

The Gods-among-men precursor in The Infinities is actually Heinrich von Kleist, with whom Banville ie mildly obsessed, and his 1807 play Amphitryon.

Anonymous said...

One more thing. I've had a reading exp. just like yours here, not too long ago, and that's Emma Donoghue's Room. It's so highly praised that I couldn't wait for the long hold in the library, I think there were over 200 ppl. in line for it. I went out and bought it and wished I hadn't. Just my personal opinion. If you haven't read it, I suggest borrow it from the library, even if you have to wait.

Mel u said...

Amateur Reader-thanks as always for your very insightful comments and your comments on his other works

rippleeffects-somehow the subject matter of Room did not make me want to run out and read it-I will not buy it thanks-sadly no libraries here in Manila-

Em said...

I have a few of Banville's books on my shelves waiting to be read because I really enjoyed The Newton Letter. As amateur reader says, Banville is probably not for everyone. I personally think that he is a breath of fresh air in Irish literature, although my judgement is only based on one book.
Em (

Mel u said...

Em-maybe I was just in the wrong sort of mood