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Lolita purports to be a book written by Humbert Humbert in order for him to eternalise his love and externalise his pain, his dolores, Lolita's real first name. Yet, the Lolita he writes about is not a real person, never was one for Humbert, like the maid is for Freddie. Lolita is only a figment, a product of Humbert's imagination whose consummation he undertook for aesthetic purposes: to satisfy his sense of beauty. The act of love, for Humbert, equals an act of satisfying his sense of beauty. Humbert is an aesthete, in spite of his character, vide his fancy prose style.

But his is an inhuman kind of aesthetic attitude, at least for the most part. Freddie is Humbert's kith and kin in this respect too. The last part of the novel offers aimless pursuit, dead ends. Humbert comes to realise that his life has been a waste of time. He knows he will be judged not on what he has done so much as what he tells of himself and on how he tells it, hence his narrative procedure. His narrative method, alliterative and allusive, is a manifestation of supreme aestheticism, like Lolita's way of playing tennis cf.

Humbert's kind of aestheticism turns Lolita into an object ; it is dehumanising in the same way as Freddie's is. In writing his account as well as in pursuing nymphets, Humbert constructs a private world according to exclusively aesthetic criteria. His story records the consequences of trying to live in such a world — a world as cold and ashen as Freddie's. Lolita could be read as a lesson in the potential inhumanity of the kind of aesthetic attitude that fails to have moral commitment.

This is also the way in which The Book of Evidence could, or rather can, be read. In the end, Humbert comes to acknowledge that such commitment is of the essence. The last scenes showing Humbert and Lolita together make this point by evincing how closely Lolita is committed to her husband and her child.

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Lastly, there is the persona of Clare Quilty, who dogs Humbert's steps and whom Humbert tries to kill. In both cases, the double represents a way of isolating evil in a fundamentally narcissistic manner. Freddie most certainly does not think of aurochs, but he very much thinks of the secret of durable pigments and the refuge of art. For in a way, he too longs for immortality. Freddie's mirror is art. The first sections of the book, describing his life on the Mediterranean island and, more especially, in the U.

Even Bunter, the alter ego, is seen in terms of literature — Billy Bunter, the glutton of boys-literature fame. Oedipus Rex p. Ulysses is alluded to, specifically the relationship between Bloom and Stephen, in order to suggest how Freddie and Charlie stand towards one another.

The Book of Evidence Summary & Study Guide

After the deed, he is affected, Lady Macbeth fashion, by a drop of blood on his hand p. That world, however, is not only bounded by literature.

For there are, moreover, a great number of references and allusions to artists, pieces of art and films. Vincent Van Gogh's case offers an extremely pertinent clue to The Book of Evidence , which, in a manner of speaking, is about self-disfigurement for love — love of a piece of art. The names of Bonington p. As for films, prison-life is described in terms of prison movies. There seem to be allusions to the films Blue Velvet pp. Not only does Freddie cage his world in art, he himself possesses the sensibility of an artist.

There is, for instance, the manner in which he sees his fellow-prisoners :.


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They stand gazing off, with a blank, preoccupied expression, the way that injured animals look away from us, mutely, as if we were mere phantoms to them, whose pain is taking place in a different world from ours p. Or take his appreciation of Daphne's body:. Additionally, Freddie has an exceptional eye for painterly details ; for. Generally, what is most striking perhaps is his use of colour descriptions. He employs colours that one finds only on an artist's palette, and uses differentiating terms familiar only to painters and art critics.

Lastly, Freddie betrays an artist's sensibility towards the commonplace. For instance, he is overcome by the beauty of the mundane, the ordinary phenomena in nature. They strike him as extraordinary. Such moments, he insists, may have value, but they do not mean anything p. Perhaps Freddie is right, and then again perhaps they possess meaning in that they help account for the manner in which Montgomery appreciates life.

There is another such moment when he arrives at Holyhead :. The sunset, for instance, how lavishly it was laid on, the clouds, the light on the sea, that heartbreaking, blue-green distance, laid on, all of it, as if to console some lost, suffering wayfarer p. On another occasion, he is once more fascinated by the sky, which at first is overcast, but then the sun asserts itself and the light becomes a tender, pearl-grey, and he, like the Newton biographer and von Hofmannsthal's Lord Chandos, is struck by the recognition that the familiar is always such a surprise p.

It is always the colours, or the combinations of colours from which the effect emanates upon Freddie. He is, like Humbert Humbert, a dyed-in-the-wool aesthete, one for whom the reality of art is the only genuine reality; the reality of ordinary life can, for him, only be used in double quotes, and it is for this reason that the familiar is always such a surprise. And where do all the foregoing considerations lead to? Freddie Montgomery is, like almost all of Banville' s protagonists, an artist figure.

And like the other artist figures in Banville — from Ben White to Gabriel Swan — he is shown to fail in his attempt to make sense of the world, to come to grips with life. Montgomery fails because he, like every artist, is doomed to fail in his efforts to transfix the essence of things. He permitted the reader to peer over the artist's shoulder, as it were, while that wizard with words was chiselling away at his mellifluous cadences.

Ben White was shown in the Beckettian predicament where he experienced that he could not go on, yet urged himself to go on trying to express it all. For various reasons, these genres and conventions turned out to be of no avail to him. In the end, he was constrained to admit that there is no form, no order, only echoes and coincidences, sleight of hand, dark laughter, knowing that whereof he cannot speak thereof he must be silent.

Gabriel Swan was likewise observed in an attempt at saying. First he sought to make the chaos of life manageable by compartmentalising it through walls of figures ; later he found the solution to the chance nature of reality in mirror- symmetrical patterns as well as in the principle of eternal recurrence.

Copernicus and Kepler, who would at first seem to be exceptions but upon close scrutiny are just the same artist figures in that the scientific process is likened to the creative process of artists — Copernicus and Kepler were also described as doing things ; they betrayed no doubts as to the validity of their discoveries, what they lacked was the means to express them. The interest has been shifted to an exploration of the process of perception. The Book of Evidence asks: What is there to express when life is apprehended through a particular kind of poetic imagination, and not : How can one express what one perceives.

The novel also offers an investigation into how a specific kind of imagination is able, or unable, to come to grips with reality. Whereas Gabriel Swan's imagination, or perception, was dominated by numbers or Kepler's by geometry, Freddie's is guided by art. Everything gets mythologised, fictionalised or romanticised by Freddie. Both Anna Behrens and his wife, Daphne, the two important women in his life, are closely associated with the woman in the painting p. Freddie's idiosyncratic way of perceiving everyday reality is reflected in the curious position he finds himself occupying in life.

A man, then, who does not belong, curiously misplaced, a puzzled outsider. He has remained an outsider because his imagination is tainted by a monstrous deficiency which makes it impossible for him to relate to living things. In that, he is a monster, in spite of whatever Nietzsche may have said about good and evil. This desire to give life is ironically coloured by the prospect of Freddie's probable sentence — life. The idea informing this creative urge seems to be this : Freddie names his essential sin as a failure of imagination.

Freddie killed Josie because he could kill her, and he could kill her because for him she was not alive.

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His task now, he pre-eminently feels, is. I am not sure what that means, but it strikes me with the force of an unavoidable imperative. How am I to make it come about, this act of parturition? The answer is that Freddie effects this act of parturition by caging Josie in a work of art, by capturing part of her life and his own involvement in it, but even more so her death in a full-fledged narrative : a book of evidence, a work of art, thus — as for example Shakespeare and his fellow-Elizabethans knew — conquering devouring time He develops from his former ignorance to an understanding of the schism between the real and the imaginary and accepts the despair inherent in this equation In a way, all of Banville's novels to date are a celebration of the beauty of our brief lives.

Every so often Freddie is unexpectedly struck by that beauty, which he inevitably discovers in the commonplace. In that sense, even in Freddie — as Banville has suggested 25 — there is such a celebration, if only in that he, Freddie, succeeds in bringing forth a supreme fiction in a creative process that may put one in mind of Rilke' s description of how an artist creates, in Malte Laurids Brigge:.

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But one must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in a room with open windows and fitful noises. And still it is not yet enough to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many and one must have immense patience to wait until they come again. For it is the memories themselves that matter. Only when they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves - only then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them Well, all of it.

Only the shame.

The edition quoted from parenthetically in the text is The Book of Evidence. A Critical Study. Dublin : Gill and Macmillan, , p. There is no need to hunt down the painting or its author : I take the picture to be a fiction [ Maybe there is no need to hunt down the painting or its author, but McMinn is certainly wrong in considering the picture a fiction. As a matter of superfluous interest, the painting has been variously attributed, not to Rembrandt and Frans Hals, but to Vermeer, de Groot and Valentiner, and it hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

This is a fact that McMinn, had he researched more fastidiously, whould have discovered. MacArthur, recently released from prison, was in the audience. Banville left as soon as the interview was done; MacArthur attended the drinks reception.

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The awarding of the GPA Award was mired by controversy. Graham Greene was part of the jury, though it was not noticed by the award organisers that he had included a clause in his contract that allowed him to overrule the decision of the other jury members.