By John Banville
Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307272799, 288pp.
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
List Price: $25.95*
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On a languid midsummer’s day in the countryside, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress; his nineteen-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their mother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; and Petra’s “young man”—very likely more interested in the father than the daughter—who has arrived for a superbly ill-timed visit.
But the Godley family is not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a family of mischievous immortals—among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adam’s wife; Pan, who has taken the doughy, perspiring form of an old unwelcome acquaintance; and Hermes, who is the genial and omniscient narrator: “We too are petty and vindictive,” he tells us, “just like you, when we are put to it.” As old Adam’s days on earth run down, these unearthly beings start to stir up trouble, to sometimes wildly unintended effect. . . .
Blissfully inventive and playful, rich in psychological insight and sensual detail, The Infinities is at once a gloriously earthy romp and a wise look at the terrible, wonderful plight of being human—a dazzling novel from one of the most widely admired and acclaimed writers at work today.
“Banville is, without question, one of the great living masters of English-language prose. The Infinities is a dazzling example of that mastery, as well as of the formal daring and slyly erudite humor that makes his novels among the most rewarding available to readers today . . . The Infinities surely will delight his many well-deserved admirers.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Outstanding . . . It may be one of the 12 best books of the decade, or even several decades . . . This is unequivocally a work of brilliance.”
“Reading The Infinities, I fell under some kind of spell, mesmerized by its shimmering language, overflow of ideas and heady illusions to metaphysics, Greek mythology, Shakespeare, and even quantum mechanics . . . A gloriously rich and strange novel, as ambitious in its reach as it is delightful to read. This god has outdone himself.”
“Banville is frequently compared to such masters as Beckett and Nabokov, and for years his books have been among the most haunting, beautiful and downright strange in contemporary literature . . . If Banville is capable of writing an unmemorable sentence, he has successfully concealed the evidence . . . The real subject of this unforgettable, beautifully written book is nothing less than the enigma of mortal existence.”
“Composing his scenes like painterly tableaux shot through with emotion and possibility, Banville achieves real depth in this alternately grave and bawdy exploration of the nature of time, the legacy of grief, and the costs and sources of inspiration . . . Entrancing.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Banville’s best and brightest work . . . Masterful.”
“There’s a cast of supporting characters worthy of a modern-day Shakespeare; bathetic descriptions of using the lavatory that would have had Beckett smiling; and the gods’ playful pursuit of women that could be lifted straight from Ovid’s The Art of Love. Banville, already esteemed for the brilliance of his language, proves in this novel to have a mastery, too, of these many colliding universes.”
—Independent on Sunday (UK)
“John Banville seems incapable of writing an inelegant sentence . . . A Midsummer Night’s Dream of a story . . . Pure pleasure.”
“The Infinities is a Beethoven string quartet of a novel. It deals with huge ideas—plenty of them—and in doing so, breaks new ground in its own medium . . . A masterpiece of a book.”
—Daily Telegraph (UK)
“The Infinities is rife with mischief, as well as godly/authorial omniscience, irony and wordplay, but what warms and anchors it is its humanity.”
“A narrative of almost discomfiting lushness and awe-inspiring powers of observation . . . And yet the brilliance of Banville’s writing rests in something other than its sophisticated intellect or its narrative poetry. What keeps us reading is this magical writer’s superlative gift for limning the essence of our own humanity in all its ungodly imperfection.”
“This new book, The Infinities, borders on the divine—mysterious, warm-hearted, and elegant, with traces of such literary gods as Vladimir Nabokov and fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde . . . The gods, they must be happy with Mr. Banville.”
“A beautiful, immersive read, Banville’s latest novel is as smart and satisfying as ever . . . A return to what Banville does best.”
—Sunday Business Post (Ireland)
“A funny book—and one written in such saturatedly beautiful, luminous prose that every page delights, startles, and uplifts.”
—The Times (London)
“Banville has produced a magical book. Read it and be dazzled and purified . . . To call it a bolt from the blue is actually and absolutely accurate for once.”
“Banville reminds the world that he is one of the best prose stylists at work today . . . He here puts his writing prowess on full display.”
—Library Journal (starred)
“The Booker Prize winner retains his standing as one of the world’s most exquisite stylistics in this sublimely acerbic and mischievous tale about he timeless mysterious of love and death . . . Banville creates a bewitching world in which to ponder what it is to be human . . . [He is] a writer of protean powers.”
The latest novel from John Banville throws a handful of Greek gods into the household of a glum human family to explore sex, love, faith and mortality. Reviewer Maureen Corrigan says The Infinities puts Banville's literary gifts on prominent display. More at NPR.org
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