Stephen Durrant's Reviews > The Infinities

The Infinities by John Banville
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Mar 28, 2010

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Read in March, 2010

Does anyone write a richer more mellifluous prose than John Banville? Still, at times I find his style too oleagenous for my taste, to use one of his favorite words (moreover, his obsession with "f" alliteration can sometimes tires). This novel, very much in the Irish tradition, deals with a dysfunctional family--or, actually two, dysfunctional families, the second being the family of Greek gods who overlooks and at certain points interferes with the earthly family. The narrator is Hermes who has to watch his father Zeus's lustful behavior, even as he watches over a mortal family gathered at their father's deathbed. Mortals are sad beings. Everyone in the Irish family in question is in some way a loser, but ultimately the gods are a sadder lot, trapped as they are in their cold immortality. It is our human capacity to love and to die that makes us superior to the gods. Banville's novel is a work of great imagination, philosophical insight, and humor. Despite all its merits, "Infinities" is sometimes confusing, with the slippage between divine and human voices, which seems to be a critical aspect of the novel, not always easy to follow.
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Stephen Durrant Yeah, Banville loves that word . . . I guess "oily" would be too simple.

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