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Archive by tag: John BanvilleReturn
Sep 02, 2021
The story sounds almost too good to be true. Its ingredients are a boxful of old letters stored in the attic of his house by a bookish and kindly uncle, his sudden death, and a niece who inherits the epistolary bounty. Elizabeth Bowen herself would have hesitated to use something so improbable as the plot […]
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Jul 16, 2021
“The Irish Assassins,” by Julie Kavanagh, recounts the birth of a violent Irish nationalist movement through a fresh history of the famous Phoenix Park killings in 1882.
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May 06, 2021
To the Editors: It has been pointed out to me that I was mistaken when I wrote in my review of Vincent van Gogh: A Life in Letters [NYR, May 13] that in his lifetime the painter never sold a single picture. In fact, in 1890 Anna Boch, the painter sister of the Belgian artist […]
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Apr 22, 2021
If ever an artist needed a degree of protection against his public, surely it is Vincent van Gogh. Reproductions of his most emblematic paintings, especially the gyrating nightscapes and the blazing series of sunflower studies made in his late years, adorn countless bedrooms, living rooms, and bathrooms all across what used to be known as […]
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Dec 14, 2020

Margaret Atwood, John Banville, Tom Stoppard, Ralph Fiennes, John Boorman and more pay tribute to a master who transcended the limits of spy fiction

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Oct 03, 2020

The novelist, who won the 2005 Booker prize for this novel, recalls the childhood holidays that inspired him

At what moment can the composition of a novel be said to have begun? Nabokov claimed he felt the first tingling caress of Lolita when he read a newspaper report of a captive ape that after much coaxing had produced a drawing of – what else? – the bars of its cage. Joyce’s first date with Nora Barnacle fixed Ulysses in Dublin on 16 June 1904 in perpetuity. And there was a real-life model for the Tadzio of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, spotted by the author one evening in the summer of 1911 in the dining room of the Grand Hotel des Bains on the Lido and lovingly, adoringly, remembered, for ever. Or so they say.

For my part, any novel that I am working on seems to have had no beginning, but to have been always somehow under way; perhaps there is only one novel, of which every so often I publish a segment. Yet in the case of The Sea I do seem to recall an initiating moment. I say “seem”, because it’s possible I imagined it; in art, origination myths are common, and enduring.

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Sep 09, 2020

An extraordinary ‘nonfiction novel’ weaves a web of associations between the founders of quantum mechanics and the evils of two world wars

God does not play dice with the world, Albert Einstein famously declared, to which Benjamín Labatut would surely retort: perhaps not – but the devil does. In fact, Einstein himself had a lifelong niggle of doubt about mathematics, the discipline that we suppose keeps the Lord away from the gaming tables. How is it, he wondered, that an intellectual tool invented by humans can comprehend, account for and even manipulate so much of objective reality? That the physical world should be amenable to something we made up seemed to him suspect.

Is it perhaps that we register only as much of the world as our figurings can encompass? Wittgenstein had already conjectured that the limits of our language are the limits of our knowledge; could this be the case also, but more radically, with mathematics and the branches of science on which it is based? We see only that which we are capable of seeing: how much is beyond us?

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