The Book of Evidence

ISBN: 5553887828
ISBN 13: 9785553887827
By: John Banville

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About this book

Frederick Montgomery, irlandese, trentottenne, senza problemi né pensieri, persegue insieme a una moglie bella e sconveniente il sogno di un'eterna infanzia panica e assolata in qualche isola del Mediterraneo. Ma all'improvviso un prestito che aveva richiesto quasi per gioco, e che non è in grado di restituire, lo costringe a tornare in patria per procurarsi il denaro. É questa l'occasione che mette in moto l'inesorabile macchina narrativa della Spiegazione dei fatti: le tappe del ritorno a casa diventano le stazioni di un viaggio nel ricordo, e interi periodi del passato del protagonista tornano in vita grazie all'attraversamento di una strada, a un incontro nel pub, al soggiorno nella casa dell'infanzia, alla visita di una dimora patrizia. La blanda odissea di Frederick scivola inesorabile verso la catastrofe, che si manifesta sotto le spoglie gentili di un quadro olandese del Seicento, Ritratto di donna con guanti. Frederick lo scorge nella villa palladiana di un amico di famiglia, e ne resta folgorato. Ma l'apparizione lo conduce, per ragioni imperscrutabili eppure misteriosamente conseguenti,-fino al delitto che costituisce il punto focale del libro. Perché La spiegazione dei fatti è la deposizione che Frederick scrive in carcere nell'attesa del processo./p>

Reader's Thoughts

Melanie Garrett

The writing is sublime and stands in such stark contrast to the squalidness of the tale itself that it actually makes it more difficult to read. A very dark, exquisitely written, novel, that I hope for your sake you will give a miss. But then, there is the prose, which is astoundingly good...oh, I don't know, you decide...

Clodagh

This book is so believable I became throughly depressed reading it. The self justification of the main character and self absorbed sociopath tendencies he displays were really quite upsetting. I believed him, I was engaged, pulled in and wanted to do nothing more than to pull him out of the book and shake him until he could learn to feel emotions for other people, and to feel remorse. The writing is amazing, Banville is a genius. This is one of the best books I've read, but also one of the hardest - the writing is fluid, the plot pulls you in but I had to take a few sanity breaks to stop myself hurling into a whirlwind of thoughts about the evils people can do.

Josh Friedlander

Is John Banville the best prose stylist of our generation?

Sue Pelman

As soon as I read the last word of the book, I went back to the beginning to start again. John Banville's writing is so dense and powerful. It's more than just the story, which I found intriguing, it's the words he uses and the way he puts them together. That's certainly an unliterary explanation of pretty sophisticated litearture. Patrick McGrath's (not sure who he is) book jacket blurb does a much better job: "The book is beautifully constructed and impeccably paced: its blackly comic surface only gradually opens to expose the full dimensions of the sad sick soul within."

Kyra

Montgomery, the murderer, the protagonist of this narrative, strikes me as he tells his tale to be the foremost unreliable narrator. He is guilty, of course, of course, but of what? Some sort of existential botch to hear him tell it. Not murder where a person with a soul is taken forcably. Oh no. Montgomery is much to delicate for that. He shirks duties and agrees with himself on every pleasure he takes, and regards himself first as a man deserving of enjoyment; a connoisseur of pleasure that he curates like the Dutch paintings that in the end so inflamed him. But, alas, he's not a hard worker at his pleasures. He is entitled to them, a taker of them, a thief of pleasures earned and kept by others. After duping a hustler of his own ill gotten gains, he is forced to leave his wife and child in some unnamed demi-paradise and hustle home to Ireland to try and get the money he needs to return them. There is so little urgency in this task and at times it seems he has forgotten it altogether. The first sin he permits of himself is laziness, a profound laziness that first drives his cynicism and ultimately engenders his murderous rage. This book is told by a lazy man who gradually becomes sinister because of his failure to create over a lifetime anything of value, and so in the end, he decides that it is the murder itself that will be his creation, indeed he has really no idea why he's done it. He wants you to know that he's guilty, and he wants you to know that he's smart and aesthetically sensitive about it. What emerges from his narrative of his acts is the portrait of a sociopath who is startled by other's humanity. It's a brief, incisive read, that harkens to Nabokov. First of a trilogy the second volume of which has sat on my shelf for 25 years unread. I guess I'll manage to choke the second volume Ghosts down now and put it to rest, if you pardon the pun. Banville is a cold writer. His sentences maintain tension, are smooth and round and don't call attention to themselves. There is a clinical feel to this writing that I appreciate, but not all readers will, I expect. Still, the craftsman will admire it. Well done.

Bruce

A witty and satirical narrative by a murderer, very reminiscent of Nabokov's Lolita. Like that novel, the protagonist's moral degeneracy is intermingled with superbly ironic and satirical observations. In Lolita Humbert Humbert remarks, "You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style" and Banville's narrator, Freddie, like Humbert, also has a delightful prose style, with metaphors to die for.The story is, however, more poignant because Freddie struggles with his guilt far more seriously than Humbert.This is the first book of a trilogy, called variously the art or the frame trilogy, which contines with Ghosts and Athena. There is not, however, much of a continuous plot, and it's not necessary to read the other two. They are very different in character.

Oscar

Definitivamente, la literatura es diferente a la pintura. Un buen pintor es capaz de crear una obra maestra (o al menos un buen cuadro) utilizando cualquier motivo. Desde una batalla multitudinaria, hasta un simple bodegón, pasando por un anodino paisaje. El buen pintor es lo bastante hábil para plasmar en su obra todo eso en lo que nuestro ojo no se había fijado, pero que ahora, a través de su pintura, sí vemos. Con la literatura no sucede ésto. Un buen escritor también necesita algo importante sobre lo que escribir. Por supuesto, existen excepciones; esos grandes genios (todos tenemos alguno en mente) que son capaces de encandilar escribiendo sobre la cosa más nimia. Pero éstos son los menos, esta genialidad estaba (¿está?) al alcance de muy pocos.John Banville lo tiene casi todo. Su prosa es muy buena, es elegante, inteligente, bella en algunos momentos, pero sólo es eficiente cuando cuenta una historia interesante. 'El libro de las pruebas' se queda en un intento de buen libro. Es una de sus primeras novelas y tal vez habría que achacarlo a ello. O quizá esta idea en manos de otro escritor hubiese dado más de sí. Lo que está claro es que el libro apenas me ha gustado.La historia está narrada en primera persona por Frederick Montgomery, un personaje de buena familia que se encuentra en la cárcel por un crimen que ha cometido. (Habría que escarmentar a los que escriben las sinopsis de algunos libros, porque en éste en concreto cuentan demasiado, hechos que suceden pasada la mitad del libro, o sea, un spoiler en toda regla.) Y desde la cárcel, Frederick escribe su particular libro de las pruebas, su pequeño libro de memorias, haciendo como que se dirige al juez y al jurado. Pero toda visión o versión personal suele ser también parcial, o al menos muy poco objetiva. De la historia no querría contar demasiado, así que sólo diré que todo comienza cuando Freddie está de viaje con su familia en una isla del Mediterráneo, en la que se meterá en un buen lío.Como digo, la novela está muy bien escrita, pero no me ha enganchado en ningún momento, no sé si porque el personaje no me ha seducido, o porque Banville no ha sabido atraparme. El único interés radica en saber cómo le van yendo las cosas al personaje, esperando encontrar de vez en cuando buenas frases y párrafos. Aun siendo una de las novelas más flojas de Banville, a este escritor irlandés hay que seguirle la pista por su indiscutible calidad.

Becky

Well, the whole world has turned upside down for me this week! I really didn't enjoy Saramago that much, but this was a fascinating piece of work from Banville. I'm usually turned off by his poetic turn of phrase, but this was a very different book to the other pieces I've read. Freddie Montgomery is on trial for doing something nasty, and the Book of Evidence is his self prepared defence. Except it's not really a defence, because he has no remorse. In fact, the whole story is pretty logical, until you step back and remind yourself of the crime at it's centre. As you might expect, it's a rather dark but fascinating look into the psychology of a man who was offered everything, but drifted down quite the wrong path. An excellent (and short) read.

Laura

Just arrived from Australia through BM. A magnificent book!!

Mary

The poet in our book club selected this book for us to read. Banville's writing is beautiful and occasionally caused me to pick up my dictionary. It was the subject matter that caused me to give it a two star rating. Readers spend their time inside the mind of a murderer. Not a calculating serial killer. who might be interesting, but a slob who is a disorganized failure in life. Frederick does not value things as most people do. His wife and son seem of very little importance to him. In fact, he never reports to readers that he misses them even though he spends most of the novel away.like he does a drink of gin. Despite Banville's elegant writing, I found the book hard to pick up because the story line was so boring. Frederick is a man who needs money to pay a debt. The novel is his quest to find a way to get the money. Banville keeps readers in suspense for a good part of the novel as to the identity of Frederick's victim but that did not peak my interest much. His choice of victim reflects his skewed sense of values. A very depressing read.

Jeff

The unreliable narrator is a favorite of contemporary novelists, and the question of how much can one trust the narrator is just as popular with literary analysts. The appeal of The Book of Evidence, then, is easy to understand. For me, however, the salient reason to pick up this little novel is the prose, which is almost as fun and rich as Nabokov's (with whom John Banville has been compared to the point of it now being a cliche).A blurb on the back of this edition states that those reading the book as a thriller will enjoy it as equally as those who are reading it as a serious work of literature. I disagree. As a murder tale, it is wholly unsatisfying when viewed under the expectant light of that particular genre. This is not a bad thing. For me, though, it seems that even when reading it as a "serious" novel, which is an absurd but somewhat useful concept, I can't help but feel as though I'm missing something. I'd love to go through it again someday, reading the fruitful and poetic language aloud and paying closer attention to theme and subtext. In the meantime, I'll definitely consider reading another book in Banville's oeuvre.

Soumen Daschoudhury

Read the complete review on my blog: http://mysundrywritings.blogspot.hk/2... Freddie Montgomery, the protagonist, is a happy-go-lucky kind of person who cares less about relationships, cares less about anything and everything. An unrehearsed disturbance in his mind leads him to execute one fraud after another and then there is no looking back. He feels no more when he fools people and when he gets into the real act of having stolen the painting, the watching of the chamber maid of his doings sets in an ire he cannot control. He conveniently thinks that the world is up against him and won’t leave him alone to do anything. What was supposed to be a simple bargain with the Behrens leads to a heinous crime with the murder of the maid by Freddie. What is disturbing is that he doesn’t feel much on smashing her head by the hammer again and again and again while she begs for her life. He says he did it because he could possibly do it. Why he did it, is a confusion he has no straight answer for. The book is Freddie’s confession of his life, of his crimes, of his unsuccessful relationships. The language is superb and I was hooked to the book from the initial pages itself. It is remarkable writing as should be. The plot is heinous, the characters lucid and the flow is immaculate bending, twisting and turning among the past and present.

Bruce

These are the confessions from prison of a first person unreliable narrator who does not believe in free will, is convinced that the self is illusory, finds cause and effect problematical, and becomes a gifted scientist who finds reality probabilistic. He admits to feeling intimidated by other people who seem so sure of themselves, and he sees himself as being easily influenced by the arguments of others, or at least prone to agree with them so as to feel good about himself or at least accepted. The narrative seems to be plea or apologia that Freddie is writing to the judge for his future trial. It is unclear what is true, what Freddie thinks is true, and what he relates disingenuously. Having apparently long since given up on a scientific career or even any gainful employment, Freddie has roamed around Europe for ten years with his wife Daphne and their child, sponging off tourists in Mediterranean resort towns until he is forced to leave his wife and child as sort of hostages with an ominous creditor, returning himself to his childhood home and mother in Ireland to try to scrape up the money necessary to pay his debts. Arriving at his home he is awash with memories, his reminiscences serving to flesh out the history of his life to this point. Freddie’s descriptions of places and persons and also of his own feelings are often uncannily evocative of the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, occasionally even of Dostoevsky, equally macabre and delivered in a similarly wry and even somewhat flippant tone. He muses on the very concept of badness, questioning whether it has any substance or existential reality. At times he seems to be claiming a split personality. Is he really convinced of this or is it all an elaborate put-on, an act that he is playing for the judge? Freddie seems curiously and constantly to be convinced of his lack of responsibility for his actions, his crimes seeming to have occurred without his active volition and therefore without his personal responsibility. The course of events is presented as being both inevitable and unintended, tragic and banal, almost trivial. Is there in this world any place for free will? If not, what defines evil? This apparent amorality is unsettling and raises important questions about how we attribute responsibility and therefore accountability to our actions. Is our cultural system of ethics and our penal paradigm based on something that is arbitrary or even illogical? While not a greatly memorable book, Banville’s novel is intriguing and raises important questions and issues that deserve pondering. One question that might be asked is what Banville’s own view is, if he has one. Is he being critical of what he sees as moral relativity or lack of moral compass? Or is he demonstrating the flaws in traditional views of evil? Like any good novel, this one does not make that clear. The novel was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

Liz

John Banville's hypnotic and engaging prose strikes again. DAMN! but the man can write!**spoiler alert**Never have I read a book about such a thoroughly unlikeable character and been so glad that he was in jail (this you know from the first chapter, the first page, even)--Banville takes you inside the head of this complete lout, and you see all of his despicable, selfish actions through the self-pitying eyes of the perpetrator. Not the sort of book I usually enjoy or read, but once I'd started it, I couldn't put it down!

Katie Grainger

The Book of Evidence was quite an interesting concept. Freddie Montgomery is the unreliable narrator for this tale of criminal activity. Freddie is an intelligent but aimless drifter who is in the Mediterranean with this wife and child when he runs foul of a loan shark. He heads back to Ireland to try and get some money from his family. When he returns he finds the family fortune gone and the paintings he was relying on sold. What follows is a descent into crime and the consequences. Banville is a master of words and there are some fantastic passages of prose in this novel. However I found it quite hard going- it was really difficult to get into the story, probably because Freddie is not an easy character to like.

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