From the author of THE NEWTON LETTER and LONG LANKIN, the novel about the work of Nicolas Kopernigk, better known as Copernicus, whose work led to the formulation of the image of the solar system as we know it today.
In this astonishing work of historical imagination, John Banville, one of Ireland's foremost novelists, offers a vivid portrait of a man of painful reticence, haunted by a malevolent brother and baffled by the conspiracies that rage around him and his ideas. For in a world that is equal parts splendor and barbarism, an obscure cleric who seeks "the secret music of the universe" poses a most devastating secret. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Mr. Banville has at his command a wide scope of knowledge together with the talent to know when to put it to use. He places the thoughts of other noted thinkers within his story, so that they are seamless, as opposed to sound bite flourishes. The thoughts of Soren Kierkegaard, Albert Einstein, and Max Planck all join the writings of Dr. Copernicus, all assembled by Mr. Banville, as needed, appropriate, and without pretense.
Science is too often presented in a manner that the layperson is discouraged from pursuing the information. Historical fiction certainly should not be the only source for fact-finding, but when handled as well as this Author presents the material; it's accessible for anyone that is inquisitive. Copernicus's idea of Heliocentricity, the Elliptical Orbits of the Planets, which is dealt with humorously, and all the trials of defining new science are both readable and enjoyable. Particularly well presented was the whole concept of how theories, and published material was viewed by the Scientists in the 16th Century. Did Copernicus believe that his explanation was in fact a picture of reality, or that what he documented merely agreed with what he observed? Sounds a bit dry, but the writing is brilliant.
The last 19 pages entitled, "Magnum Miraculum", are some of the best writing I have had the privilege to read. Life, death, redemption, and a dozen other concepts are presented in a totally original manner, and with an irony that is painful and beautiful as well.
Somewhere else I read that this was the Writer that would bring back the Nobel Prize For Literature to Ireland. The Isle has already brought forth writers who have won the award that has Ireland in the top 10 Countries for the first 100 years of the prize. If the balance of his work is this good, the prediction will become fact.
My mistake! The author has no intention of actually _saying anything_. Rather, Banville wants to use a pathetic caricature of Nicolas Copernicus as a foil for his own semi-coherent philosophical agenda. By dismissing the search for the "thing in itself" (correctly identified by the author as one of the motivations of modern science), Banville has no pressing need to do justice to the "things" that characterize good historical literature. History? Who needs it? It is what I say about it that matters. Human nature? Just an illusion! I, the omnipotent author, can recreate man in my own image.
Because he can, that is precisely what John Banville does. And it isn't pretty. By using the loathesome Andreas as his true voice, John Banville gives the game away: "Yes! Yes! I will be revenged!" The reader is only left to guess for what pathetic grudges Andreas (and Banville) requires his revenge. If only he had not taken that revenge out on the readers of his pompous creation.