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The Untouchable

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,252 Ratings  ·  243 Reviews
One of the most dazzling and adventurous writers now working in English takes on the enigma of the Cambridge spies in a novel of exquisite menace, biting social comedy, and vertiginous moral complexity. The narrator is the elderly Victor Maskell, formerly of British intelligence, for many years art expert to the Queen. Now he has been unmasked as a Russian agent and subjec ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published February 19th 2009 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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It took a while for the magic of this to work on me. Initially I thought Banville’s prose had the quality of bracken on a forest floor – the light picks out some beautiful tones and textures but there was a pervading sense of brittle lifelessness. I felt he wrote like someone who never leaves his study - or perhaps never leaves his head. But, then, all of a sudden, just before world war two arrives, it jumped into life and I very much doubt if I’ll read a more beautifully written novel this year ...more
Sep 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading something written so well, it’s a disappointment having only my own less eloquent words available to praise it. Maybe it’s better to let Banville’s passages sell themselves. I’ll get to those soon, but first a bit of context. The book, I learned only today, is a Roman a clef -- more or less a true account of the infamous Cambridge spies disguised as a novel. The focus is on Victor Maskell, a composite figure based primarily on real-life Anthony Blunt. It’s structured as a memoir by ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye

Part I ("My Other Secret Life")

I first encountered the Judge, professionally, in Court.

Early in my career, I appeared in the Family Court 400 times over two years. 50 or so appearances would have been before him.

He was a precise and impatient judge. He had little tolerance for fools or the lazy or the unprepared. My reputation, some of which he would have contributed to, was that I anticipated what a judge wanted and I gave it to him. I use the masculine pronoun, be
Victor Maskell started spying as
"...a flight from ennui and a search for diversion".

A marvellously bleak and cynical tale.
As readers we have all experienced or come across books that either make a siren call to us, which we can’t ignore, or speak to us in a way that makes us drown within its pages, or even sing to us, a beautiful melody that soothes our spirit and enthralls us in a way nothing else does. This book had a combination of all those whilst also painting vivid pictures that would definitely give artists around the world a run for their money. Honestly, I am not exaggerating when I say this, as it was my ...more
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Queer Marxist Soviet double-agents, people who like snoozy literary fiction
This is my second try with John Banville. Once again, he impresses me with his ability to write nearly perfect prose and characters who are as flesh and blood and flawed as any who ever breathed, while completely boring me. That's strike two, Mr. Banville, and two is all most authors get from me.

Banville is a serious Literary Dude, and this is a serious Literary Dude's novel. The Untouchable is written as a memoir by one Victor Maskell, who is based on real-life Cambridge spy Anthony Blunt; alth
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been spending the last month reading novels written by John Banville. It's fun with authors that have multiple works to stick with them one after another for a while to glimpse their depth and soak their craft. If at all possible the author should be wise and a good artist so that you see a little better where you are and maybe, if you are so inclined, refine your own attempts at expression through the absorption of their rhythms, their vocabulary. I started off with The Sea and then read T ...more
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Недосегаемият" е от онези книги, които те поглъщат, не искаш да свършват и за които благородно завиждаш на онези, които са в началото на удоволствието. Книга, след която се страхуваш да започнеш друга, за да не налетиш на подобие на литература.
Трябва да се чете бавно, за да бъде по-дълга насладата от интересните, пълнокръвни образи, от езика и стила на писане, хумора и иронията, които Банвил ни поднася. Омесва банални, преексплоатирани теми като война, двойни агенти, английска аристокрация, нес
Lewis Weinstein
It seems like I have been reading this forever. The story is confusing, but the writing is glorious. Reading Banville is like reading a text book for writers. But you have to read slowly, savoring the word choices and images. It's best to read on kindle, with dictionary at hand.
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What forces a person to betray his country? Where do all the spies come from? What makes them ticking? Some true espionage stories are much stranger than fiction, especially when the tale is told by such master as John Banville.
“To take possession of a city of which you are not a native you must first fall in love there.”
To achieve our own ideals we are ready to betray any ideals of the others.
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Anyone reading The Untouchable? 7 25 May 12, 2015 03:03AM  
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Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage and died when Banville was in his early thirties; his mother was a housewife. He is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence as well as his own. His sister Vonnie Banville-Evans has written both a children's novel and a reminiscence of growing up ...more
More about John Banville...
“To take possession of a city of which you are not a native you must first fall in love there.” 14 likes
“How deceptively light they are, the truly decisive steps we take in life.” 9 likes
More quotes…