‘They took everything from me. Everything.’
So says the central character of Nightspawn, John Banville’s elusive, first novel, in which the author rehearses now familiar attributes: his humour, ironies, and brilliant knowing. In the arid setting of the Aegean, Ben White indulges in an obsessive quest to assemble his ‘story’ and to untangle his relationships with a cast of improbable figures.
Banville’s subversive, Beckettian fiction embraces themes of freedom and betrayal, and toys with an implausible plot, the stuff of an ordinary ‘thriller’ shadowed by political intrigue.
In this elaborate artifact, Banville’s characters ‘sometimes lose the meaning of things, and everything is just . . . funny’. There begins their search for ‘the magic to combat any force’.