The Infinities by John Banville
(Borzoi Books)

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Synopsis

On a languid midsummer’s day in the countryside, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress; his nineteen-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their mother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; and Petra’s “young man”—very likely more interested in the father than the daughter—who has arrived for a superbly ill-timed visit.

But the Godley family is not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a family of mischievous immortals—among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adam’s wife; Pan, who has taken the doughy, perspiring form of an old unwelcome acquaintance; and Hermes, who is the genial and omniscient narrator: “We too are petty and vindictive,” he tells us, “just like you, when we are put to it.” As old Adam’s days on earth run down, these unearthly beings start to stir up trouble, to sometimes wildly unintended effect. . . .

Blissfully inventive and playful, rich in psychological insight and sensual detail, The Infinities is at once a gloriously earthy romp and a wise look at the terrible, wonderful plight of being human—a dazzling novel from one of the most widely admired and acclaimed writers at work today.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About John Banville

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John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. His first book, Long Lankin, was published in 1970. His other books are Nightspawn, Birchwood, Doctor Copernicus, Kepler, The Newton Letter, Mefisto, The Book of Evidence (which was shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize), Ghosts, Athena, The Untouchable, and Eclipse. He lives in Dublin.
 
Published February 17, 2010 by Vintage. 290 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Infinities

Kirkus Reviews

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Their somewhat dreary lives are…well, enlivened by the presence of the Greek gods themselves, whose interrelations with humans (notably, the randy Zeus’s, with Helen) are recounted to us in accents of unimpeachable archness by Hermes, messenger to the gods, son of Zeus, and patron of assorted sca...

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The New York Times

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“As she sat and gazed at him,” Mr. Banville/Black writes, “he felt like a slow old moose caught in the crosshairs of a polished and very powerful rifle.” Set in the 1950s, when a fashionable woman may show up in a mink coat and “a little hat the size and blackness of a bat,” the Quirke books m...

Apr 04 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

The New York Times

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In John Banville’s novel, a crew of Greek deities attends a mathematician’s deathbed.

Mar 07 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

The Guardian

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Sometimes the style approaches verse of a slightly annoying kind – "Fine gods we are, that we must muster to a mortal must" – but more often stays on the right side of it: "The water, coiling from the tap like running metal, shatters on her knuckles in silvery streels."

Oct 04 2009 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

The Guardian

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(Banville doesn't stint on heavily symbolic nomenclature.) Ursula, old Adam's second wife, has been driven to drink and vagueness by her husband's remoteness and eye for the girls, and the Godley children are scarcely in better shape.

Sep 26 2009 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

BC Books

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For one thing, it’s narrated by Hermes, sort of, although as you might expect of a god, Hermes is omniscient, and flicks in and out of the consciousness of Adam Sr, his children Adam Jr, and 19-year-old Petra, Adam Jr’s beautiful wife – Helen of course — a strange visitor named Benny Grace, and A...

Dec 08 2009 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

NPR

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He's the heart of the novel because the novel is essentially a series of commentaries on The Big Questions — love, death, faith — and Hermes generates most of that philosophical patter.

Mar 08 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

New York Journal of Books

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Since the early seventies, Banville has been recognized as a rare talent, winning the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) in 1976 for Dr. Copernicus, the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1981 for Kepler, being short listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989 for The Book of Evidence, and ...

Feb 23 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

Book Reporter

In an infinity of worlds all possibilities are fulfilled.” At the end, a touching scene has Old Adam Godley temporarily alert, facing the world through open windows in the Sky Room.

Apr 28 2011 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

The Globe and Mail

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In John Banville's artful new novel, the Greek deities make sport of the mortals below

Feb 25 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

AV Club

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In his monologue, Hermes weighs his guilt about being complicit in the adultery (and witnessing some of it from outside the house) and his yearning, shared by all the gods, to share in the mortal love they created without understanding it.

Feb 25 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

Entertainment Weekly

John Banville's first novel under his own name since winning the Man Booker Prize in 2005 takes place in an alternate universe in which classical Greek deities flit about English manors playing gleeful and lustful tricks on the inhabitants.

Feb 24 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

The Washington Post

What does that highly odd visitor want, what role did he play in Adam's life and is he really, as Hermes suggests, the god Pan in disguise?

Mar 06 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

The Telegraph

Breaking every rule in the book, Banville has chosen as the chronicler of this impending bereavement the Greek god Hermes, the son of Zeus.

Sep 27 2009 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

The Telegraph

(John Banville is especially good on smell and taste: his description of a gin and tonic makes you feel as if you’re trying one for the first time.) Above all, it finds a way of making abstract ideas real.

Sep 19 2009 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Of the superior novelists with their eyes on the horizons of the English language, surely John Banville possesses one of the most mischievous professional dispositions.

Feb 24 2010 | Read Full Review of The Infinities (Borzoi Books)

London Review of Books

Usually some cerebral equivalent of love – fascination, curiosity, memory, an interest close to disgust – makes the novelist want to keep the character going and makes the reader want to read on, and usually some kind of aspiration to understand people or the world, or just to carry on performing...

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