The Untouchable by John Banville

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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 subjected to a disgrace that is almost a kind of death. But at whose instigation?

As Maskell retraces his tortuous path from his recruitment at Cambridge to the airless upper regions of the establishment, we discover a figure of manifold doubleness: Irishman and Englishman; husband, father, and lover of men; betrayer and dupe. Beautifully written, filled with convincing fictional portraits of Maskell's co-conspirators, and vibrant with the mysteries of loyalty and identity, The Untouchable places John Banville in the select company of both Conrad and le Carre.

Winner of the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction

"Contemporary fiction gets no better than this... Banville's books teem with life and humor." - Patrick McGrath, The New York Times Book Review
"Victor Maskell is one of the great characters in recent fiction... The Untouchable is the best work of art in any medium on [its] subject." -Washington Post Book World
"As remarkable a literary voice as any to come out of Ireland; Joyce and Beckett notwithstanding." -San Francisco Chronicle

From the Trade Paperback 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 19, 2009 by Vintage. 385 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure, Biographies & Memoirs, Horror. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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(Banville, to his credit, is clearly not interested in making him a particularly sympathetic one.) He is a perpetual outsider: An Irish Protestant, far less self-assured than his elegant Cambridge classmates, ambiguous about his sexuality, and more interested in art history than in the contempora...

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Publishers Weekly

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Banville (The Book of Evidence; Athena; Ghosts) has always been a highly stylish writer whose prose is almost tactile in its loving delineation of lights and weathers. He sees as an artist does, but t

Mar 31 1997 | Read Full Review of The Untouchable

Publishers Weekly

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Maskell's raffish friends, his in-laws, his wife, his Russian handlers and his male lovers (later in life, he realizes he is basically homosexual) are often figures of fun who then reveal sudden, appalling depths of feeling.

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BC Books

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Not until the very end of The Untouchable does its author, John Banville, tell us that “…many books have been written about the Cambridge spies.” Had that comment appeared as a prelude, it may have deterred many a reader, and that would have been a shame.

May 14 2009 | Read Full Review of The Untouchable

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