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The Book of Evidence
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About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He has been the recipient of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1976), the Guardian Fiction Prize (1981), the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award (1989), and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction (1997). He has been both shortlisted for the Booker Prize (1989) and awarded the Man Booker Prize (2005) as well as nominated for the Man Booker International Prize (2007). Other awards include the Franz Kafka Prize (2011), the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2013), and the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature (2014). He lives in Dublin.

Reviews

Freddie Montgomery is a schizophrenic 38-year-old ex-scientist haunting dingy pubs who, nonetheless, ponders life and his illness via this superb novelized murder trial ``confession.'' After study in America, Freddie returns to Ireland to find that his disowning mother has sold what he believes is part of his inheritance from his late father, some paintings that include an old Dutch master of a woman he thinks regards him with caring, benevolent authority. As he steals it, he murders a maid who catches him in the act. His lawyer advises him to plead manslaughter to quash evidence. Instead, the brooding, contradictory Freddie writes the ``book of evidence'' that we read. How much of it is true, how much sick fancy? Freddie makes us think, too.-- Kenneth Mintz, formerly with Bayonne P.L., N.J.

Comparisons with Camus's The Stranger and Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment are not lightly made, but spring irresistibly to mind after finishing Banville's dazzling novel, which was short-listed for Britain's Booker Award and won Ireland's very rich Guinness Peat Aviation Award, adjudicated by Graham Greene. Banville, who has written three previous books but is not widely known here, is literary editor of the Irish Times. His protagonist and first-person narrator is Frederick Montgomery, a former scientist who has taken to drifting aimlessly through life, keenly self-conscious, a brilliant observer of himself and his surroundings, but with no coherent moral center. In the course of a pathetically absurd robbery attempt--he is trying to steal a painting, with which he has become obsessed, from a neighbor of his mother--he brutally and pointlessly kills a maidservant. He tells his story as he sits in jail awaiting his trial, imagining it as a courtroom statement. But is his account--hallucinatory, spellbinding, full of the poetry and pity of life--true? In response to that question from a police inspector, the novel's last chilling line: ``All of it. None of it. Only the shame.'' Banville's style, which is spare yet richly eloquent, and his extraordinary psychological penetration, are what lift his novel to a level of comparison with the greatest writers of crime and guilt. It is difficult to imagine a reader who would not find The Book of Evidence both terrifying and moving. (Apr . )

"Here is an astonishing, disturbing little novel that might have been coughed up from hell."-The New York Times Book Review

"Ireland's finest contemporary novelist."-The Economist

"The Book of Evidence is a major new work of fiction in which every suave moment calmly detonates to show the murderous gleam within."-Don DeLillo

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