'Shroud will not be easily surpassed for its combination of wit, moral complexity and compassion. It is hard to see what more a novel could do' Irish Times Axel Vander, distinguished intellectual and elderly academic, is not the man he seems. When a letter arrives out of the blue, threatening to unveil his secrets -- and carefully concealed ...
'Shroud will not be easily surpassed for its combination of wit, moral complexity and compassion. It is hard to see what more a novel could do' Irish Times Axel Vander, distinguished intellectual and elderly academic, is not the man he seems. When a letter arrives out of the blue, threatening to unveil his secrets -- and carefully concealed identity -- Vander travels to Turin to meet its author. There, muddled by age and alcohol, unable always to distinguish fact from fiction, Vander comes face to face with the woman who has the knowledge to unmask him, Cass Cleave. However, her sense of reality is as unreliable as his, and the two are quickly drawn together, their relationship dark, disturbed and doomed to disaster from its very start. 'In beautiful, lucid prose John Banville describes a tragedy so strongly rooted in history and character that, like all real tragedies, it could not happen otherwise' The Times 'Banville is merciless in the details ...he has a gift for enigmatic clarity' Daily Telegraph 'The narrative frequently takes on the qualities of a dream, writhing with pursuits and escapes, peopled by shape-shifters and avatars, subject to its own climatic and topographical realities' Guardian 'A moving and shockingly intimate record of life lost and found again' Time Out
Publishers Weekly, 2003-01-27 Alex Vander is a fraud, big-time. An elderly professor of literature and a scholarly writer with an international reputation, he has neither the education nor the petit bourgeois family in Antwerp that he has claimed. As the splenetic narrator of this searching novel by Banville (Eclipse), he admits early on that he has lied about everything in his life, including his identity, which he stole from a friend of his youth whose mysterious death will resonate as the narrator reflects on his past. Having fled Belgium during WWII, he established himself in Arcady, Calif., with his long-suffering wife, whose recent death has unleashed new waves of guilt in the curmudgeonly old man. Guilt and fear have long since turned Vander into a monster of rudeness, violent temper, ugly excess, alcoholism and self-destructiveness. His web of falsehoods has become an anguishing burden, and his sense of displacement ("I am myself and also someone else") threatens to unhinge him altogether. Then comes a letter from a young woman, Cass Cleave, who claims to know all the secrets of his past. Determined to destroy her, an infuriated Vander meets Cass in Turin and discovers she is slightly mad. Even so, he begins to hope that Cass, his nemesis, could be the instrument of his redemption. Banville's lyrical prose, taut with intelligence, explores the issues of identity and morality with which the novel reverberates. At the end, Vander understands that some people in his life had noble motives for keeping secrets, and their sacrifices make the enormity of his deception even more shameful. This bravura performance will stand as one of Banville's best works. (Mar. 10) Forecast: As literary editor of the Irish Times, Banville is better known in Europe than in the U.S. Discriminating readers are the market for his 13th novel, which should figure among the literary prizes for 2003. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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