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John Banville

Prince of Asturias Award for Literature 2014

John Banville, Wexford, Ireland, 1945). After finishing school, he began working in the airline Aer Lingus. He lived in the United States between 1968 and 1969. On his return to Ireland, he worked at The Irish Press until the newspaper closed in 1995. He was then appointed sub-editor at The Irish Times, where he also served as literary editor until 1999. He has been a regular contributor to The New York Times Review of Books since 1990.

As a writer, he has received numerous accolades throughout his career and even George Steiner, 2001 Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, called him “the most intelligent and stylish novelist currently at work in English”. His first book, Long Lankin, a collection of short stories, appeared in 1970, followed by his first novels, Nightspawn (1971) and Birchwood (1973). Considered by some critics as Nabokov’s “heir”, his style is appreciated for its precise prose and use of black humour in the mouth of the narrator. With Doctor Copernicus (1976), a fictionalized biography of the Polish astronomer that earned him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction from the University of Edinburgh, he began a series of books about the lives of eminent scientists and their ideas. Kepler (1981), on the German astronomer, won him The Guardian Fiction Prize. He completed the series with The Newton Letter: An Interlude (1982), which tells the story of a scholar who writes a book about Isaac Newton and which was adapted for television by Channel 4 TV, and Mefisto (1986), which explores the world of numbers in a reread of Doctor Faustus. He published The Book of Evidence in 1989, which won him the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award, beginning a trilogy that continued with Ghosts (1993) and Athena (1995) in which the narrator of the stories was a convicted murderer. The Untouchable (1997), Eclipse (2000), Shroud (2002), Prague Pictures: Portrait of a City (2003), The Sea (2005), The Infinities (2009) and Ancient Light (2012) comprise his latest works. Moreover, in 2006 he began to publish a series of thrillers –under the pseudonym Benjamin Black– featuring the forensic pathologist Quirke, starting with Christine Falls. This has been followed by The Silver Swan (2007), The Lemur (2008), Elegy for April (2011), Death in Summer (2012), Vengeance (2013) and Holy Orders (2013). Benjamin Black has also published The Black-Eyed Blonde (2014), in which he brings Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe back to life.

The Sea earned John Banville his highest award, the 2005 Man Booker Prize, the most coveted literary award granted in the UK, which he had been short-listed for with The Book of Evidence in 1989. In addition to those already mentioned, other awards he has received throughout his career include the Allied Irish Banks’ Prize (1973), the Arts Council Macaulay Fellowship (Ireland, 1973) and the Lannan Literary Award (USA, 1997). 

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