Ian Kilroy


AS A NOVELIST AND JOURNALIST, John Banville (1945–) straddles two worlds. A former chief-sub-editor with the Irish Press, as well as former literary editor of the Irish Times (O’Toole 1989: 25), his narrative practice draws on the principals and paradigms of both fictional and journalistic composition. Indeed, it is only with commercial success as a novelist in recent years that Banville has left day-to-day professional journalism behind him, although he still does regularly contribute to newspapers and magazines. His employment of journalistic methodologies in his professional life is related to his concerns as a novelist. Journalism’s search for an objective, verifiable proof is related to the scientific method. It is the impossibility of achieving this truth that has long obsessed Banville as a creative artist, particularly in The Revolutions Trilogy of novels: Doctor Copernicus (1976), Kepler (1981) and The Newton Letter (1982). So, while Banville draws on journalism and history to produce some of his fictions, he does not suggest that the novel can offer any kind of mirror of reality (Molloy 1981: 29). He is sceptical of the claims that journalism makes, while simultaneously practicing journalistic discourse. In a way, he is a quintessentially postmodern writer, in that he uses language to interrogate the limitations and shortcomings of language.

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