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Thursday, August 03, 2006

On The Phone With Banville

Now that his Booker-winning The Sea has been translated into Hebrew, Israeli daily Haaretz interviews John Banville over the phone:

On his refusal to read reviews of his work: "I spent years writing my book. Why should I want to read someone who spent half a week finding something to say about the book? It doesn't interest me. And if we're being honest - it's self-defense. I prefer to read nothing - not the good critique or the bad - to avoid being influenced by the opinions of others. I am the only individual who knows what the book should be, for good or bad, success or failure. I am the worst judge of my books."

On identity: "We all imagine that we are absolute individuals. But when we begin to look for where this individuality resides, it's very difficult to find. There's no specific person inside me who is the absolute John Banville. There are serial selves we present to the world. We all have the experience of waking up in the morning and meeting a man who is our worst enemy - presenting one aspect of oneself to him and then going to meeting one's lover and presenting an entirely different aspect. When you look closely at your life, you realize that you're doing this with everybody that you meet in every situation: You present a different self. If that's the case, where is the essential self? Where is the common denominator of all this? I don't think there is one...I am probably something of a Buddhist. I think we are a collection of selves, a collection of attitudes - of emotions. They are all aspects - not essence."

On Irish and English: "We lost the Irish language about 150 years ago. We turned from the Irish language to English. The Irish language is a completely different language. It is very indirect, very evasive. You cannot simply say, 'I am a man.' You must say, 'I am in my manhood.' English is the opposite of that. It is a language of declarations, of narrative, designed like Latin, a language of commands. And when the two languages met, the sensitivity of the Irish language with basic English, the result was a clash of languages that continues to the present day...I do not feel at home in English. Even though my parents did not speak the Irish language, I still have that sensitivity of the Irish language. We approached English with a certain sense of foreignness. We diluted it and designed it and created an amazing literary tool. Irish writers like double-meaning. British writers try to be as clear as possible. And I admire British writers - Graham Greene, for example. The English language is certainly the biggest language in the world. I like it, I like to remember the right word to describe a specific thing. There is a special word in English which describes the situation in which you wake up in the morning and stretch your arms. Isn't it amazing that the language has a word to describe a thing like that? I do not try to impress people with big words. I merely try to be precise."

Fascinating stuff. Wonder what that "special word", above, is.


  • Thanks for the link. Fascinating stuff, indeed.

    Perhaps that 'special word' can be found by looking up 'angdaai' in a Hindi-English dictionary . . .


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 PM  

  • that special word is 'pandiculation'

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:07 PM  

  • Wonderful. Thanks!

    By Blogger PrufrockTwo, at 4:13 PM  

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