An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Friday, October 03, 2008

Book Review : The Untouchable by John Banville.

I finished this book almost a week ago - so why has it taken me so long to write the review? A good question and one I have been asking myself in all that time. Maybe this following digression will help explain things.

Some few years ago I was having a heated discussion with a very good friend, Charles Unwin, who is a very clever guy and a great reader. We were talking about Martin Amiss, must have been about the time that Money came out, and I opined that while Martin was clearly very talented compared to his father Kingsley he had yet to produce a novel anywhere near as good as anything his father had produced. On this we kind of agreed and Charles suggested that the father's lack of natural. immanent talent had made of him a hard working writer who had thus produced some very good work by dint of hard work and application. The fact that Martin writes extremely well and obviously knows his history of the novel he has yet, in my opinion, to produce a very good let alone a great novel. I fear i fact that his publishing deal will stop him from ever so doing. And in some ways I think that this is my problem with Banville.

Banville is a great writer who has yet to write a great novel and yet ... And yet ... I still feel he might. HIs writing continues to improve but none of his subject matter matches his talent.  And so I keep reading him. And his novels are good ... not very good ... and a long way from great ... but his writing shines through. One day he may do it.

The Untouchable is a loosely disguised contemplation on the Blunt, Burgess, Maclean betrayal of the UK. Banville's  Maskell (Blunt) is well drawn and beautifully mannered but where I was expecting an essay on the nature of betrayal I received instead a classic lesson in UK class structures that came nowhere close to the insight that Genet brings to this fascinating subject. Banville lets the real notion encompassed in his topic escape him.  Maskell comes out as slight and simply egotistical (as do his co-conspirators) and this is a travesty entertaining though his take on the whole thing is.

The traitor and betrayal are wonderful topics and Banville sadly manages to betray them.  What, I wonder, will bring out his greatness? I shall continue to read him and would recommend yo to do the same.

One day. One day.


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