Read Ancient Light by John Banville Online

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The Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea gives us a brilliant, profoundly moving new novel about an actor in the twilight of his life and his career: a meditation on love and loss, and on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives.Is there any difference between memory and invention? That is the question that fuels this stunning novel, written with thThe Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea gives us a brilliant, profoundly moving new novel about an actor in the twilight of his life and his career: a meditation on love and loss, and on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives.Is there any difference between memory and invention? That is the question that fuels this stunning novel, written with the depth of character, the clarifying lyricism and the sly humor that have marked all of John Banville’s extraordinary works. And it is the question that haunts Alexander Cleave, an actor in the twilight of his career and of his life, as he plumbs the memories of his first—and perhaps only—love (he, fifteen years old, the woman more than twice his age, the mother of his best friend; the situation impossible, thrilling, devouring and finally devastating) . . . and of his daughter, lost to a kind of madness of mind and heart that Cleave can only fail to understand. When his dormant acting career is suddenly, inexplicably revived with a movie role portraying a man who may not be who he says he is, his young leading lady—famous and fragile—unwittingly gives him the opportunity to see with aching clarity the “chasm that yawns between the doing of a thing and the recollection of what was done.” Ancient Light is a profoundly moving meditation on love and loss, on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives, on how invention shapes memory and memory shapes the man. It is a book of spellbinding power and pathos from one of the greatest masters of prose at work today....

Title : Ancient Light
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780449013434
Format Type : Audio
Number of Pages : 408 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Ancient Light Reviews

  • Agnieszka
    2019-01-25 05:42

    Once for a while you meet an author who you read for writing craftsmanship, for masterly style and then storyline seems to recede into the background. It doesn’t matter then if plot is too draggy in parts, if protagonists not always are likeable, if action is sometimes flagging. John Banville is that kind of writer. I have just fallen under the spell of his prose because it never fails. Smooth, mellifluous, multidimensional, bursting with emotions. Those older ones, faded and distant, and these recent which any time couldn’t heal. Ancient Light , like other Banville's works I read so far concerns past and memory. Ones say that past it is today just anything further. Agreed. Others maintain thatpast is a foreign country: they do things differently . Agreed once again.Alexander Cleave, an ageing actor by whole hours seating in his retreat, is a guardian of memory. Memory of Mrs Gray, summer or rather spring goddes, it was April then, his youthful love. Memory of Cassie, his unhappy daughter, connoisseur of death and an expert of passing, who died by suicide ten years earlier.Evocation of bygone affair and mourning for daughter. These two threads interlace with present life of Alexander. And are pretext to journey, also this real one, deep into the past. Because, in fact, wherever we look, we look into the past. Trying to cope with death of his daughter Alex visits place where she died as if the view of rocks which destroyed her face, waters which mercifully washed her body could anything change or recoup. Attentively collects all shards and pieces, reliving over and over again his bereavement, not allowing the old wounds being healed.I guard my memories of my lost one jealously, keep them securely under wraps, like a folio of delicate watercolours that must be protected from the harsh light of day.Brooding about secret trysts and forbidden romance can see how this juvenescent infatuation coloured his subsequent life. But things we remember not always mirror what really happened and sometimes we have to face with imprecision of recollections. Everything is relative and memory, like distorting mirror, beguiles us with blurred images, deludes with false reflection. Madam Memory, this subtle dissembler , plays tricks on us, enhances some events, imparting to them glorious light and flavor while other deeds, faded and eclipsed are patiently waiting for awakening. Is it memory yet or maybe invention, reshaping the past ? Sometimes one can’t distinguish them.

  • Cecily
    2019-01-30 04:53

    The picture is of a work by Andy Goldsworthy. For me, it symbolises the opposing meanings of the narrator’s surname, Cleave, and also my feelings about him.This is a beautiful, troubling book about blurred boundaries, blurred memories, identity, and layers of truth and lies. Sixty five year old Alex Cleave is a narcissistic raconteur who looks back on his fifteen year old self’s passionate summer with the mother of his best friend. This is interspersed with reflections on grief over his daughter’s death a decade ago, and the current state of his memory, marriage and acting career. The mystery over his daughter’s death is explored, but although the circumstances and reason become clear to the reader, Alex does not explicitly join the dots in his narration (or his mind?). Fitting the title, the light shone on Alex’s past is weak and murky.NOTE: Not all spoilers are spoilers. Only two instances contain genuine plot spoilers, and I’ve prefaced them with “SPOILER” in capitals. Memory and Truth“I cannot tell whether they are memories or inventions. Not that there is much difference between the two.”As he tells his story, Alex repeatedly points out the gaps and uncertainties. Even as a teen, memory could be elusive, as when he tried to fix the details of their first liaison, assuming it to be a one-off. These discrepancies are often highlighted by conflicts of season (see Shifting Seasons). It’s thus entirely appropriate that Alex should become an actor and eventually star in a literary biopic called “The Invention of the Past”.(view spoiler)[Alex’s memories of his daughter are treated entirely differently, though: “I guard my memories… securely under wraps, like a folio of delicate watercolour that must be protected from the harsh light of day.”“Time and memory are a fussy firm of interior decorators, though, always shifting the furniture about and redesigning and even reassigning rooms.”(hide spoiler)]Acting: Identity and Layers of RealityPerhaps the muddled relationship with Mrs Gray, and the need to act innocent, set Alex up for his acting career.Until part way through his narration, Alex has always been a stage actor. Film is “another insubstantial link in the chain of impersonation and deceit”. In that context, honesty is not necessarily the same as truth.The blurring of reality is multi-layered for an actor, like Alex, let alone when he’s playing the part of someone who used a false identity. Russian matryoshka dolls come to mind. (view spoiler)[ “It’s a strange business, movie-making… the necessarily disjointed, fragmentary nature of the process… I feel that not only my actor self but my self self is made into a thing of fragments and disjointure… even when I have stepped out of my role… and reassumed my real, my supposedly real, identity… This experience before the camera… this sense of being not one but many.”As a stage actor, Alex didn’t remember dreams, the stage perhaps fulfilling that need. But when filming, he dreams of drying up on stage. “A film set does have… something of the airless intensity of the shrine of a Sybil… in a cave of hot light… and the crew fixed on us from the shadows like a circle of hushed supplicants.”(hide spoiler)]Parent, Child, Lover – Who is Abusing or Exploiting Who?“I did not deserve her… I did not love her enough.”“After the initial gloss had gone dull, I did not think of her at all, but took her, however gratefully, for granted.”Alex is very clear that he enjoyed their affair and does not feel abused or damaged by it, either at the time, or with hindsight. Well, most of the time. (view spoiler)[Few things in Alex’s memory are certain, so there is occasional equivocation. Looking back on Mrs Gray’s first invitation to be kissed, he describes a “mixture of anticipation and alarm” and notes that there “lingered an odd sense of disengagement”. However, on the same page, he also says “after that kiss my formerly passive intentions had moved on to the stage of active intent… It was a confusion between the categories of the verb to know.” Their first sexual encounter is more muddled: Alex thinks she was saying “no” in his ear, even as she offered herself to him. Later, “she would resist me for as long as she was able” and “she was never so desirable to me as in such moments of reluctant surrender”.Later, he was simultaneously happy, but always angry because “she was too much for me… in my heart I wanted to be a boy again”. And yet, “She spoiled most other females for me”. The normal caring maternal/paternal aspects of a relationship are more exaggerated and complex for Alex and Mrs Gray. She nags him to brush his teeth and do his homework; she has sex with him, but won’t let him smoke; they play house like children, in a ruined cottage where they go for sex - but worst of all, one time he calls her “mother” during sex. A complex dynamic, “certain of her affections and yet always in fear of forfeiting them; to be in some sort of control of this passionate woman and yet also at her mercy.” “I never knew what was going on in her head… and hardly bothered to try.” It’s hard enough to know the heart and mind and motives of another, especially when you’re unsure of your own. No wonder Alex is unsure. As a reader, I’m even less clear.(hide spoiler)]A court would certainly class Mrs Gray as criminal, but should it? And how different would it be if the sexes were reversed? (See Notes on a Scandal and Lolita, my reviews HERE and HERE, respectively).As if that were not generational muddle enough, SPOILER (view spoiler)[Alex’s co-star, Dawn Devonport, is a similar age to what his daughter, Cass, would be, and reminds him of his own “lost girl” (though that could also mean Mrs Gray). She has recently lost her father. Offscreen, Alex’s relationship with Dawn is primarily paternal, but onscreen, they’re lovers (hide spoiler)].Cherry Ripe?The cherry trees in the square outside the Grays’ home are often mentioned. One might take that as an unsubtle metaphor for Alex losing his virginity, and some of his subsequent feelings and experiences, but I think it’s more than that: Mrs Gray’s actions are just as significant and irreversible a milestone.• Before: “The cherry trees were shivering in the wind and sinuous streels of cherry blossom were rolling along the pavements like so many pale-pink feather boas.”• After: “The wetted boughs of the cherry trees outside glistening blackly and the bedraggled blossoms falling.”Shifting Seasons“How I love the archaic sunlight of these late autumn afternoons.”The story revolves around beginnings and endings, echoing life and death, and much of the focus and confusion is on and between spring and autumn – and it is a frequent confusion. For instance, Alex will assert something happened in April, but then remember he had hazelnuts in his pocket. Windows, Doors, Mirrors, and Ancient LightMrs Gray likes trivia, hence she knows “a householder’s right to ancient light – the sky must be visible at the top of a window viewed from the base of the opposite wall.” (view spoiler)[The phrase also crops up when adult Alex meets a mysterious man in a hotel bar, who talks about astronomy, gods, and “the ancient light of galaxies”, and tells him to take care of his co-star, though it’s possible the whole scene was a dream or invention.(hide spoiler)]There is a recurring motif of windows admitting light (“timeless, pallid sunlight was streaming in”) and sometimes a breeze to make the curtains billow with passion and change. (view spoiler)[Windows occur in dreams, and window light provides solace, too. Alex’s favourite memory of Mrs Gray is of the sun falling on her through a hole in the roof, and ultimately, radiant dawn light, advancing through a window, provides the grace he needs.(hide spoiler)]Mirrors are windows onto another world, or another view of the world, hence another layer of reality. Alex’s first definite memory of Mrs Gray is seeing a disassembled tryptic of reflections of her naked, as he walked past her open bedroom door.Which expose more of the truth: windows or mirrors?Grief and BereavementWe see the immediate physical manifestations of grief in a 15 year old, and the slow-burn grief of a middle-aged father and of a thirty-something daughter.• “My world yesterday with Mrs Gray in it had the lightness and glossy tension of a freshly inflated party balloon; now, today, with her gone, everything was suddenly slack, and tacky to the touch. Anguish, this constant anguish, made me tired, terribly tired, yet I did not know how I might rest… My eyes ached and even my fingernails pained me” and although it was still summer, looking back, he sees “my suffering self facing into a bitter wind portending the onset of winter.”• “I was afraid of my own grief, the weight of it.”• “In those echoless caverns of empty time, being unobserved, unnoticed, I became increasingly detached from myself, increasingly disembodied.”• The bereaved “feels she has not so much lost as been eluded by a loved one”.CatholicismThe book is topped and tailed by the church. Alex thinks his first vision of Mrs Gray was her cycling past the church, with her coat billowing out like angels’ wings. There are analogies with Eden, Golgotha, the Prodigal Son, and issues around confession. Then, like so much else, that is almost forgotten in the heat of a passionate summer, until, appropriately, a final reckoning.What’s in a Name?Names have a certain power, as anyone who has chosen a name for a child, or has strong feelings about their own name knows (both apply to me).Banville seems to play games with names in multiple ways, but I’m not quite sure what or why.I’m open to suggestions: (view spoiler)[• Early on, he uses descriptive nicknames: Madam Memory, The Lady of the Bicycle, Venus Domestica, but then they dry up.• Several characters have the “wrong” name: on first meeting his wife, he misheard her name as Lydia (instead of Leah) and called her that ever after; Celia Gray “doesn’t sound quite right”, and her son Billy is really Wilfred Florence(!). In contrast, Billy’s sister, Kitty, is suitable feline.• The biopic Alex is to star in is of a controversial literary figure, Axel Vander, and Alex notes the near anagram of their names. The director shares initials with John Banville, and is known as JB.• Most of the characters in the film world have alliterative names: Dawn Devonport, Stella Stebbings, Toby Taggart, Marcy Meriwether, Trevor the Trinity man, Pauline Powers, Ambrose Abbott, and even Pentagram Pictures.• The cast of this novel is not large, but two key characters have a name that sounds the same: Billy and Billie – one for each end of the story.(hide spoiler)]Misogyny“When I looked at her it was me that I saw first, reflected in the glorious mirror that I made of her.”Yes, it’s all about Alex. And of his past loves, “I think of them all as mine still”.(view spoiler)[A teenage boy who feasts his eyes and judges by appearance is one thing, but one of the less savoury aspects of adult Alex is the way he enumerates the physical flaws of women he meets. Sometimes, this is tender, affectionate, even sensual (as when describing the wrinkles around Mrs Gray’s waist where her slip had been), but often it’s just mean. Sometimes he starts of adulatory, “She seemed not to walk but to waft, borne along in the bubble of her inviolable beauty” before going on to criticise weight, skin, shoes, hands, and more.Billie Stryker was “of a remarkable shape, and might have been assembled from a collection of cardboard boxes… left out in the rain and then piled soggily any old way… She has a special and slovenly way of inhabiting a chair, seeming to sag from it rather than sit in it.” Worse still, “she seems to derive a vengeful satisfaction from cultivating her unloveliness”. He’s no kinder about his wife.(hide spoiler)]Alex is a rounded and believable character, and I have deep sympathy for some of the tragedies he’s endured, but I don’t like him – and I doubt he’d like me. After all, he feels a “definite, concerted and yet seemingly aimless conspiracy run by women” and has “always fancied myself a bit of a cad… an actress in distress… I could never resist”. Ugh."A Stain of Nastiness"This is a brilliant book, but “a stain of nastiness runs throughout the work”, as Alex says of the biography of Axel Vander. In fact his analysis of the writing style seems to be Banville pre-empting possible criticism of his own work: (view spoiler)[ “Is it an affectation…? Rhetorical in the extreme, dramatically elaborated, wholly unnatural, synthetic and clotted, it is a style such as might be forged… by a minor court official at Byzantium… Our author is widely but unsystematically read, and uses the rich tidbits that he gathered from all those books to cover up for the lack of an education… although the effect is quite the opposite, for in every gorgeous image and convoluted metaphor, every instance of cod learning and mock scholarship, he unmistakably shows himself up for the avid autodiact he indubitably is. Behind the gloss, the studied elegance, the dandified swagger, this is a man racked by fears, anxieties, sour resentments, yet possessed too of an occasional mordant with and an eye for what one might call the under-belly of beauty.”(hide spoiler)] Narcissism or insecurity?The EndingAlex reminded me very much of Tony, the narrator of Julian Barnes’ The Sense of An Ending: another not very likeable or admirable man, looking back at youthful indiscretions, relishing his role as raconteur, and quite open about the fact his memories may not be quite accurate.The ending of this was similarly surprising. I was left wondering SPOILER (view spoiler)[how much of the affair was true. Certainly Kitty had seen them once, in the laundry room, and knew her mother was fond of him, but she stops short of confirming that it was more than that. (hide spoiler)]. I like wondering, so that’s no criticism.QuotesHidden for brevity. (view spoiler)[• “These soft pale days at the lapsing of the year” – or of life?• April “That sense of liquid rushing and the wind taking blue scoops out of the air and the birds beside themselves in the budding tree.”• Guest house residents “did not so much lodge in the place as haunt it, like anxious ghosts”.• “The wan sunlight of early spring was gilding the cherry trees and making the black, arthritic tips of their branches glisten.”• “The hall furniture stood dimly in the gloom like choked and speechless attendants.”• “She granted me full freedom of her body, that opulent pleasure garden where I sipped and sucked, dazed as a bumble-bee in full-blown sun.”• “There is something in the rhythm and aimlessness of being out for a stroll that I find soothing” and in daytime there’s the “tepid satisfaction” of being out when others are at work. “The streets… have an air of definite yet unfulfilled purpose, as if something important had forgotten to happen in them.”• “His bloodshot eyes swimming with unshed tears.”• “One of those knobbly sausage rolls that looks pre-eaten.”• “He had about him permanently an air of troubled inadequacy.”• “He at the end of some vital resource that only the greatest effort would replenish, and she anxiously eager to aid him but at a loss to know how.”• “The strip of unconvinced grass.”• “A smile that kept trying to achieve itself but never quite succeeded.”• “A lifelong dabbler in death… a connoisseur… a ghost-in-waiting.”• Hospital “where cheated death lingers rancorously”.• “Quarrelling, for us, was intimacy.”• “His grin is more like a snarl… the things his eyes fall on seem to quail under his tainting glance.”• “The night bounded in like an animal, agile and eager, with cold air trapped in its fur.”• Bats wings “making a tiny sound like that of tissue paper being surreptitiously folded”.• “The street-light outside was still shedding a soiled glow in the window and the snow was still steadily falling.”• “Sleep… a nightly dress rehearsal for being dead.”• “The sea was high and vehemently blue.”• A hotel lounge “with its vague but indispensable air of ill-content”.• A fight “goes on bleeding unseen, under its brittle cicatrice”.• “On the ice a crazed glare reflected warmthless sunlight.” (hide spoiler)]The Cleave TrilogyThe ancient light of the past illuminates the present and future. The publication order of the Alex and Cass Cleave father/daughter trilogy is Eclipse, then Shroud, and finally, Ancient Light. However, there’s no need to read them in sequence, as they all have a current storyline intertwined with reflections of earlier events. (My reading order was 3, 1, 2.) The middle one is more about Cass, and the other two focus on Alex. Hidden for brevity. (view spoiler)[Read the additional spoilers below only if you have read the book and want to jog your memory. Links are to my reviews, where any further spoilers are hidden.• Eclipse, 5*: The main narrative is set in 1999, when Alex, the narrator, is ~50, and returns to his abandoned childhood home, after a catastrophic episode of stage-fright. The reminiscences are of his childhood, and that of his daughter, Cass, who has blackouts and hears voices. (view spoiler)[ He develops a friendship with the caretaker’s teen daughter that hints beyond the mere paternal. It ends shortly after Cass’s death. (hide spoiler)]• Shroud, 3*: The main narrative is set over a few months in 1999, narrated by literature professor, Axel Vander (in his late 70s), who meets adult Cass in Turin. Aspects of her story are told in the third person, probably by Vander, though with implausible omniscience. (view spoiler)[ Vander wrote a famous essay about the play which was her father’s most successful role. She is now an amateur researcher who has discovered secrets about Vander’s past, so the reminiscences are primarily about his teen and young adult years. Vander and Cass have a brief and disturbing relationship, and the book ends shortly after her death in 1999. (hide spoiler)]• Ancient Light, 5*: The main narrative is set around 2009, when Alex, narrating again, is ~60. The reminiscences are of his teen relationship with his best friend’s mother, of Cass’s teen years, and the aftermath of (view spoiler)[ her death a decade ago. Things are muddied when he takes on the role of Axel Vander (Cass’s lover in Shroud) in a biopic. The woman playing Cass has recently lost her father. She and Alex become close: another father/daughter relationship, with sexual undertones. (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)]Oedipus, meet Humbert.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Dolors
    2019-01-30 04:44

    It was a scorching afternoon. Wait. Or was it an evening? Ah, the flimsy line between erratic memories and induced imagination! What I distinctly remember is my spontaneous decision to take a bath in the unruly ocean of Alexander Cleave’s consciousness. Wait. Or was it Banville’s?A game of mirrors where truth and identity play a silent role in the undulating waves of painfully selected words composing the swaying tide of androgynous prose that wash the shores of beguiling poetry.Words. Those inaccurate pieces of shattered letters that can’t convey the wholeness of meaning when glued back together unless some virtuous sorcerer casts a spell upon them, infusing them with their original essence. Banville shakes his magic wand and brings the Ireland of the fifties back to life using the magnifying prism of Alex’s unreliable recollections of an affair between his fifteen year old self and his best friend’s mother, the Aphrodite Mrs. Gray.Still mourning for the loss of his daughter Cass and struggling to delineate his missing identity after years of putting an act on the stages, Alex subsists locked in his hermit’s mind where he swims against the current of his memories flowing down the riverbanks of invention only to disembogue in the steely sea of reality. Love.“The truth is I did't love her enough.” Banville treads the mental paths of Alex’s flashbacks to outline the significance of an amorphous word that has been perverted by overuse. Love can’t be framed into a static condition because it transcends time through its constant reshaping. Even after the object of Alex’s adoration has dissolved into nothingness, an idealized image of tantalizing Mrs. Gray remains, polluting his present disemboweled existence with her ageless presence and ruining the rest of women for him.Loss.“What is life but a gradual shipwreck?” As Alex courses the river of the fragmented reminiscences of his youth, he confronts the disquieting revelation of having gone adrift by mourning the lost versions of himself imprinted on his beloved ones rather than the fact of their tragic deaths. If one’s true image is reflected in the mirror of others, what is left of that self when the others are gone?Time. There is no such thing as present, for every second lived, every light refracted in the pupils of our eyes belongs to the past. Future is a chimera and present is an infinitesimal reality that goes stale in merciless instantaneity, "alive to Alex yet lost, except in the frail after world of his words."Memory. Tricky. Selective. Subjective. Untrustworthy snapshots that come and go unpredictably like the rocking motion of waves carrying exact and impossible details of Alex’s past to compound his nebulous present. What is memory and what is figment? What is fallacy and what is self-preservation? "The things we retain, memory’s worthless coin."Identity. Banville relentlessly teases the reader providing not a reflection of Alexander Cleave, but a reflection of his reflection through a translucent labyrinth of distorting mirrors, where not everything means something and identity expands and contracts like elusive time. Fiction and reality mix and blend creating a continuum of sumptuous prose that soars with uncanny lyricism and natural imagery and stimulates with suggestive eroticism and overwhelming emotion. As frustrating as an unfocused narrator and a slippery plotline can be, one can’t help but luxuriate in Banville’s mellifluous long digressions disguised as literary delicatessen and bask in his evocative voice, which intones a melodious ode to a past overshadowed by oblivion yet illuminated by an everlasting Ancient Light. Allow yourself to be swirled away by the stirring waters of Banville’s stream of consciousness and to go astray in the puzzle of memory where the crucial pieces are missing and only luminous words will prevail.

  • Fionnuala
    2019-02-13 02:36

    There are no certainties in Ancient Light, just wisps, shadows and fragments. It is as if John Banville has written the entire novel from odd scraps and shreds of possibilities. The reader feels the breath of these possibilities on his cheek but cannot distinguish their exact shape. We feel there may be connections between the events recounted in the present time of the novel and those of the past, between the ‘real’ characters and the ‘absent’ ones, but rarely are our suppositions confirmed. Out of all this vagueness, out of this ancient light, John Banville, who is a character in his own book, has extracted something quite beautiful but which can also be ever so slightly annoying. I have read and enjoyed several of his books, The Sea being my favourite, and I've always found his style faultless so I had to ask myself why I found this one annoying. Was it because the narrator’s voice is too fussy, too particular? Was it because there were just too many undeveloped threads, too much going on under the skin of this delicate novel? Was it because the different threads, although in need of development, were instead padded out with odd reflections about life in general as if JB allowed himself to veer away completely from his characters from time to time just for the hell of it? You might say, why not? Why not indeed. The digressions on various aspects of life are interesting and the language is always just right. But these asides are disorientating, distancing us from the issues confronting the characters so that finally, we don’t care very much what happens to them; some of the scenes deserve to be charged with great emotion but I didn’t feel emotionally involved until the final page. Interestingly, one of the characters, Dawn Devonport, is like a physical embodiment of the novel itself: beautiful, ethereal, fragmented, damaged, frustrating and ultimately cold.…………………………………………………………………Tailpiece: relating to the Mrs Grey section, and containing spoilers although I have tried to be as vague as the narrator himself:While reading Ancient Light, I wondered about the reliability of the narrator's memories of his teenage affair with Mrs Grey, a theme which I didn't mention in my review but which gets most of the focus in the other reviews I've looked at since. Alex, as the narrator is called, is sometimes very vague when recalling that summer. He's unsure about what season it really was so that it sometimes seems as if he is creating the scenario rather than recreating it, although at other times he is very precise about colours and smells and textures. When he meets a key figure in that episode at the end of the novel, and we finally get some 'facts' about the events of that year, I began to do wonder if the entire affair had been limited to that one occasion in the laundry room, when Mrs Grey was simply giving him a change of clothes while herself wearing nothing but an oversized dressing gown. Such an episode, in which Mrs Grey seemed to embody the female figure from the Kayser stocking poster seen in the window of the Ladies Outfitters in the town, one of his few fetish objects, could easily have been magnified in an over active teenage mind into a series of romantic encounters, oddly never witnessed by anyone else except a few other young boys (wishful thinking perhaps?) even though Alex lived in a small town where, as we know from life and literature, everyone knows everyone's business. This theory might explain how he managed to 'forget' the eventual outcome of Mrs Grey's life: maybe he was only aware of her as a stimulus for his adolescent desire. His adding a phantom character to the scene in the laundry room is significant too and further proof that he made something major out of something relatively ordinary, i.e. the mother of a friend offering him a change of clothes after they had both been drenched to the skin during a thunderstorm. Although I didn't read Banville's earlier novel, Eclipse, I gather that it takes place in the same town as Ancient Light where the adult Alex is spending time recuperating from a trauma. According to reviews of that book, he fails to mention Mrs Grey even once during the action of the earlier novel. And, yes, I know I am writing as if Alex himself were not a fiction...

  • BlackOxford
    2019-02-16 03:55

    The Mysteries of the KitchenA young man's sexual fantasy about an affair with a married woman becomes, if he lives long enough, an old man's nostalgic reminiscence of first love. Or is it an unacknowledged trauma which crippled him emotionally and created an entirely mis-recalled scandal? Ancient Light isn't telling with complete certainty. In any case, as Banville's male protagonist has it, "...what is life but a gradual shipwreck?"There are several connected stories hung on the memories of adolescent adultery, all continuations of themes used in Banville's previous novels, The Shroud and Eclipse: betrayal, suicide, and family trauma among them. The common thread in all three volumes is identity - how it is constructed, maintained, and eroded. In Ancient Light identity is explored as it is created through the traces of the past that, like light from distant stars, reaches us blurred and distorted in memory.What Banville reveals is not what one might expect, at least not entirely, about male identity. He makes it quite clear that men, or at least his man Alex Cleave, remember primarily the sex and the threatened deprivation of sex in their youthful past. That and the incessant emotional demands - singular attentiveness, immediate empathy, motherly tenderness - they make on the object of their affections. It appears that it is the acquiescence to these demands that constitute the primary reason for Alex's 'loving' memories. In a word, Alex is selfish. And he is not noticeably less selfish at age 65 than he was at age 15. Alex's mature reveries about his teenage exploits with the 35-year-old Mrs Gray, for example, never provoke the slightest serious thought about why such a woman, the mother of his best friend, might take the enormous risk of an affair with a pimply-faced, whinging youth. The best he can come up with is a projection, "Perhaps that's what she accomplished for herself through me, a return to childhood..." Not anywhere near the truth of course. He merely presumes, even in his maturity, that she had the same motivations as his own. To this extent, then, Alex's identity seems constant; or is a 'fixed' a better term?Another symptom of male selfishness is Alex's contemplation of an 'alternative universe'. "How would it have been," he muses, " if Mrs Gray and not Lydia had been my daughter's mother?" This is the Lydia to whom he has been married for almost 40 years, with whom he has had a handicapped daughter who committed suicide a decade previously in mysterious circumstances, and who sleep-walks the house at night in search of her lost daughter. Yet he calmly fantasises about the life he might have had, implicitly comparing it to the one he has. Just thinking about it causes him to exclaim, "Lord, I feel 15 again." Bastard. Banville also suggests that - probably because of their intrinsic selfishness - men are entirely incapable of understanding, much less entering into the kind of relationships women routinely have with one another. His symbol for this male alienation is the kitchen, a room in which male presence is not encouraged and within which women speak with each other of mysterious matters incomprehensible to men. The relationships among women, including those who are virtual strangers to one another, are entirely opaque and inexplicable to Alex. Even the relationships between living and dead women, such as between his wife and daughter, do not compute in his experience. Learning, it seems, is not part of Alex's identity.Problematic maleness pervades the narrative otherwise with frequent references to the man, Vander, a character appearing in the first two Cleave novels, who is the likely cause of Alex's daughter's suicide. Ancient Light has a little twist of the post-modern, probably ironic, in that Alex, an actor, plays a biographical film-role of Vander, thus implicating him, at least in a literary way, with his daughter's death.In sum then, male identity doesn't come off well here. It is certainly an inept and bumbling misogyny that Alex demonstrates on every opportunity he has. But it is misogyny nonetheless. This begs the question of course: Who taught him, or failed to teach him, about appropriate relationships with women other than the women with whom he has had relationships? Could his shipwreck of a life have been avoided through a little feminine instruction in sex, life and the universe? Or is the X-Y genetic profile merely a curse?

  • Cheryl
    2019-01-26 05:52

    There are moments, infrequent though marked, when it seems that by some tiny shift or lapse in time I have become misplaced, have outstripped or lagged behind myself...And for that moment I am helpless, so much so that I imagine I will not be able to move on to the next place, or go back to the place where I was before--that I will not be able to stir at all, but will have to remain there, sunk in perplexity, mired in this incomprehensible fermata. So it was, that I basked in the marvel that is Banville's prose, even if it meant taking a stroll alongside the unreliable narrator, Alexander Cleave, as he takes a retrospective look at his life. "Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother," is the first line that lured me. Yet this is not all this book is about, for it also centers around the loss of a child to suicide, the strain of a marriage, the stress of creative work, and the effects of sadness on one's physical and mental; it is a lyrical bombardment of the emotional and psychological. What really propelled me to read this book was the theme of memory, as memory is a theme I find alluring in most books. And Banville did not disappoint me here, for he veered seamlessly between time, place, and tense, at times toying with my own sense of time, and even trying my reader's patience: Yet how can I account for all these anomalies, these improbabilities? I cannot. What I have described is what appears in my memory's eye, and I must say what I see.The parallel stories within this present and past maneuver reminded me of Olsson's The Memory of Love, where a woman revisits her childhood from a seaside town. Unlike that story, which ended in a crescendo to explain intentional forgetfulness stemming from trauma, this story has a more linear arc that features a narrator on an intentional quest to reconcile his past. Was he really in love with his best friend's mother? And why would she get involved with a fifteen-year old in the first place? What did he not know about her? What did he not know about his daughter? His wife? As he works on a movie and meets a woman whose depressive state reminds him of his daughter's, this familiarity causes him to wrestle with his past.It was as if I had been strolling unconcernedly along an unfamiliar, pleasant street when suddenly a door had been flung open and I had been seized by the scruff and hauled unceremoniously not into a strange place but a place that I knew all too well and had thought I would never be made to enter again.How accurate are our own memories? What do we know of our first loves? You can't help but ask yourself these questions when you read this sordid story with mounted language. It's not too often that you can relax in the exquisiteness of an author's narration and direction, not too often that you find a true meditation on loss and regret that exhibits such profundity about life,this vast invisible sea of weightless and transparent stuff, present everywhere, undetected, through which we move, unsuspecting swimmers, and which moves through us, a silent, secret essence…the ancient light of galaxies…and so it is that everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past.

  • Cynthia
    2019-02-02 07:45

    That’s exactly how I remember it……Banville is often compared to Nabokov so I suppose it's inevitable that he write his own version of a "Lolita" story but with the twist that it's from a male perspective this time. Here Alexander Cleave, a boy of fifteen, is the victim. Banville's use of language and his sense of humor are staggering. He doesn't so much provide belly laughs as he does a nod or a chuckle for example a Hollywood film director stays at Ostentation Towers and another luminary is a professor of Applied Deconstruction. His descriptions of the natural world are lovely. "Ancient Light" is an apt title because this is a book of memories. Even current events have roots in the past. And nothing happens just once.There are three stories told here. One is of Cleave's childhood and his early `love affair', another, from an adult perspective, is told in flashbacks about a death from ten years ago that's left Alexander grieving, and the third story is about his current life. Alexander is a career stage actor yet on the verge of retirement he's suddenly offered a leading role in a movie based on an enigmatic man whose life touched his own though he's not sure to what extent. In fact part of what he tries to find out is just how intimately this character, Vander, played in his past.Threaded through these explorations are four key women, the married lover who's also the mother of his best friend, his wife, his daughter, and Dawn Davenport, his leading lady in the movie they're making together. Each main character seems to have a double or to have a reflection. With all the doubling of characters and the flopping between past and present I found myself wondering who the real person was, which reality was more real, the `ancient' memory or the current reality. Or were either of them accurate? To muddy the waters Banville throws in allusions to Greek fables further throwing doubt on the narrator's account. In the end it didn't really matter what the truth was because, just like life, no memory is ever 100% accurate and who's to say which interpretation of events are real? It's what we give our attention to that counts, that gives things weight.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-01-26 06:57

    John Banville, as is usual with him, demonstrates more than just one level in his narration and the novel carries multiple psychological messages and meanings…“More confusingly still, there was another mirror, a full-length one, fixed to what would have to have been the outwards-facing side of the inwards-opening door, and it was in this mirror that I saw the room reflected, with at its centre the dressing-table, or whatever it was, with its own mirror, or I should say mirrors. What I had, therefore, was not, strictly speaking, a view of the bathroom, or bedroom, but a reflection of it, and of Mrs Gray not a reflection but a reflection of a reflection.”The present and the past, tricks of memory, delusions of youth and old age are the subjects – our past is a corrupted reflection of our life in our memory so our recountal of the past is a reflection of a reflection.“Nor did she care for the plangent, plunging love stories that were still so popular then, the women all shoulder-pads and lipstick and the men either craven or treacherous or both…”John Banville doesn’t go for this kind of tales either. So Ancient Light is much more a story of despair than a love story. It is the story of skeletons in the closet of the past.“Since it seems that nothing in creation is ever destroyed, only disassembled and dispersed, might not the same be true of individual consciousness? Where when we die does it go to, all that we have been? When I think of those whom I have loved and lost I am as one wandering among eyeless statues in a garden at nightfall. The air about me is murmurous with absences.”When one looks behind, what does one see? What ghosts?

  • Hanneke
    2019-01-22 07:48

    John Banville's perfect sentences flow without apparent effort. Banville is a master, fully in control. Alex, an actor from early age on, lives in a world where the past is more real to him than the present. "... so it is that everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past." What is the exact nature of these memories though? This novel examines that question in a most exquisite way.

  • Elaine
    2019-02-09 04:41

    The three stars I'm giving this book are actually erring on the side of generous, because my bafflement at the vague allusions to plot and coincidence that run through the novel without ever being resolved or illuminated (or anything very much happening with them) may in part have been my fault. Turns out this is the 3rd book in a trilogy of which I had not read the first two books, so much might have been different and less frustrating than it was, had I read the earlier books.This is an extremely introspective static book by a writer infatuated with fancy language and high brow literary allusions. Proust is not only the informing spirit of much of this long meandering meditation on memory and love, but he's actually name checked (in an inside baseball sort of way) -- we're told the narrator recalls his 15 year old self and his older lover as "Marcel and Odette". In a similar lit-crit-in-crowd joke, a sinister Paul DeMan analog haunts the outskirts of this book, even as DeMan himself is repeatedly name checked, and of course (how meta) the narrator jokes about how the fictional DeMan analog is a lot like Paul DeMan. I almost find it touching that anyone still cares about Paul DeMan enough to built a non-narrative narrative around him. (Talk about something that drags you back in time - DeMan is a madeleine that takes me back to my first "literature" class in college!)But for me at least, Banville isn't Proust. Where Proust grabbed my heart and my mind and wouldn't let go and sucked me in for all six books, and always left me chewing something over, or saying "yeah, that's IT" (even in the more draggy bits like Albertine Disparue), each of these 300 pages was bit of a slog. While there were flashes of lapidary brilliance, too often there were just too many words, and too many memory games, and the neither of the women in the central relationships -- the narrator's not-mother and his not-daughter -- ever become more than literary devices. (So too, you might say of Odette and Albertine, but...still...).Nonetheless, as irritating as I found this book (in addition to non-people characters, we have non-place places - the most deracinated Ireland, London and Italy that you can imagine -- only mental spaces are real to our narrator), there was something oddly intriguing about Banville's game. I might actually read the first two books some day, when I have a LOT of time.

  • Gary
    2019-02-11 04:51

    Ancient Light is the third novel in John Banville's father-and-daughter trilogy involving Alexander and Cassandra Cleave, and can be read as a companion to Banville's earlier novels, Eclipse (2001) and Shroud (2003). Cassandra first appeared in Eclipse through her father's mid-life, melancholy reflections of his estranged and possibly schizophrenic daughter. She then appeared in Shroud through the dreamlike reflections of her lover, Axel Vander, an aging European intellectual. Cass again appears in Ancient Light, albeit only briefly, through her father's reflections of the past. Much of the novel tells the story of Alexander Cleave, now in his 60s, reminiscing about a love affair he had when he was fifteen with a woman 18 years his senior: "Certainly she granted me full freedom of her body, that opulent pleasure garden where I sipped and sucked, dazed as a bumble-bee in full-blown summer." He also remains haunted by the death of his daughter, and even travels to the Ligurian coastal town of Portovenere, hoping to find some meaning in the exact location of her suicide. The novel resonates with issues of lost innocence ("to fall in love again, to be in love again, once more"), memory ("Madame Memory is a great and subtle dissembler"), and the "ancient light" of the past "that travels for a million--a billion--a trillion!--miles to reach us.” In the final installment of Banville's sublime trilogy, Alexander Cleave observes, “everywhere we look, we are looking into the past"--or as Faulkner wrote, "the past is never dead. It's not even past."

  • Jill
    2019-02-08 03:53

    John Banville is a master word craftsman and every word is a carefully selected brick, placed just so on the foundation to create an astounding edifice. Whether you like his latest book or not, you can’t help but feel in awe of his power of meticulous and ravishing wordsmithing.This book focuses on a theme – “the doing of a thing and the recollection of what was done”, otherwise known as faulty memory. The entire novel is filtered through the thoughts of Alex Cleave, an aging actor, who is admittedly a not very good listener. There are two stories that yearn for attention: one in the past, one in the present.“Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother,” Alex recollects in the very first line of Ancient Light. Celia Gray – called Mrs. Gray throughout these recollections – is 35 years old to Alex’s 15. “Looking back now I am surprised at how little I learned about her and her life,” Alex reflects. Indeed, all these recollections are filtered through his own experiences and feelings. We know early on that this doomed affair will end through a humiliating discovery, but these sections are so powerful, so poignant, that they bedazzle and mesmerize the reader.In fact, for THIS reader, they overshadow the present (which is likely what Mr. Banville intended). Alex has grown up, married to a woman he seems to know only sketchily, and lost a daughter to suicide (all of this is revealed very early on). He is asked to take on a role starring as Axel Vander (almost an anagram of his own name) in a role called, fittingly, The Invention of the Past. Axel Vander was, also fittingly, a deconstructionist critic who adapted the name of the original Axel Vander when that man died. The role, played opposite a fragile and young actress -- will force him to confront his memories of his own daughter’s death.“So often the past seems a puzzle from which the most vital pieces are missing,” thinks Alex and indeed, there are key pieces missing of both puzzles from the past. This is a ravishing book that demands close attention throughout, and rewards the reader with g glimpse of the ancient light. (“…the sky must be visible at the top of a window viewed from the base of the opposite wall, if memory serves”). From the opposite wall – the wall of the present – important pieces are gradually illuminated.

  • Ruth
    2019-01-26 07:54

    Ancient Light is an elegant disquisition on how the hermeneutics of the past may lead to our conjuring of and reckoning with our contemporary selves. The prose is an exquisite exploration of the depth of emotion through the act of rumination -- while much happens in the book, this is largely an interior book -- a book of cognition and interpretation. The layers of grief, melancholy and loss, tempered by a desire for human connection moved me repeatedly. The understanding of motives -- and the order in which we learn what we know (what the narrator knows/thinks he knows) is complex, driving us ever nearer not the truth but the core. While not on the level of The Infinities or The Sea, Ancient Light has one of the most devastatingly beautiful concluding passage of any work of literature I've come across.

  • Sheenagh Pugh
    2019-02-16 06:58

    This book uses characters Banville has used before, in his novels Shroud and Eclipse: Alexander Cleave, semi-retired actor, his daughter Catherine ("Cass") and a controversial dead critic called Axel Vander who bears a resemblance to the real-life late Belgian critic and theorist Paul de Man. Those who've read these novels will already know something of the characters and what may have happened to them. However, since it's possible that others, like me, have never read a line of Banville before and are starting here, I'll try to avoid spoilers. The novel is narrated by Alex, who is both brooding over his dead daughter and reminiscing about his first lover Mrs Gray, a married woman who seduced him when he was 15 and she about twice that. He's also become involved with a film of the life of Axel Vander. Since that gentleman, unknown to Cleave, was connected with his daughter's death, this may seem somewhat of a novelistic coincidence, but to be fair, where would the novel be without coincidence?Banville is famous for his poetic prose style and in the first 15 pages or so, before the story really takes off, it almost put me off reading, because it felt like Fine Style for the sake of it. The narration is quite mannered; the sentences often long and sometimes convoluted and some of the imagery downright OTT – a fridge "the colour and texture of curdled cream"? Colour, maybe, but a fridge the texture of cream doesn't work on all sorts of levels….But as soon as the narrative picks up momentum, things get a lot better – also, as we get further into Alex's mind, we come to see that some of his verbal flamboyance is down to his singular and wry sense of humour. His description of his first sexual encounter with Mrs Gray in a car is not just fine writing but powerful writing:"Now and then I caught a faint whiff of her mingled fragrances, while a dribble of cigarette smoke from her lips drifted sideways and went into my mouth. I had never been so sharply conscious of the presence of another human being, this separate entity, this incommensurable not-I; a volume displacing air, a soft weight pressing down on the other side of the bench seat; a mind working; a heart beating."He is just as powerful when describing the Cleaves' bereavement; this is a novel of grief, obsession, nostalgia and above all, memory transmuted into art. Stylistically, along with his liking for poetic prose goes a penchant for puzzles and riddles. Names are important: when Cleave remarks that the name Axel Vander sounds like an anagram to him, we can hardly fail to notice that it is one letter off being an anagram of Cleave's own first name. Similarly, Cleave dwells on the fact that an actress has changed her name from Stebbings to Devonport, while carefully not mentioning the far more important change of her first name from Stella to Dawn. Cass, his daughter, had a mental condition called Mandelbaum's syndrome, which you won't find in the pharmacology. I've read suggestions that this may be a reference to the American philosopher Maurice Mandelbaum, or the Auschwitz survivor Henryk. Personally, given that Mandelbaum means "almond tree", I wonder if it is not an allusion to the folk song in which a girl shakes almond blossoms on to her dark hair while her lover, taking it for an ill omen, brushes them away:"Oh, foolish one, to deck your hair so soon with snow,Long may you have to wait;The dreary winter days when chilling north winds blowDo not anticipate!"Cass anticipates winter in her early death, as Dawn tries to… just a thought.I got genuinely involved with the characters and, in the end, fairly hypnotised by the style. But the ending was less convincing and satisfying than I would have liked. I would accept that, as this book stresses throughout, memory can be most unreliable, particularly the memory of someone who was then a self-absorbed adolescent. But the final reveal depends on his not having become aware of something that, given the sort of place where he lived, I actually think it would have been very hard for him not to have heard about at the time. That was a pity, but the novel as a whole is absorbing and compelling.

  • Cateline
    2019-02-10 04:39

    Ancient Light by John BanvilleNow he was speaking of the ancient light of galaxies that travels for a million--a billion--a trillion!--miles to reach us. "Even here," he said, "at this table, the light that is the image of my eyes takes time, a tiny time, infinitesimal, yet time, to reach your eyes, and so it is that everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past." (p. 202)It isn't that Alexander Cleave is an unreliable narrator, it's more that his memory is an unreliable source. Telescoping present to past, wandering down corridors of memory that haven't been traversed in....how many decades? A gentle and perhaps a bit mad telling of his daughter's death, his own past affair as a teenager with a friend's mother, and the making of a film about a scoundrel. Circles within circles, the truth of which is, shall we say, a bit blurred around the overlapping edges. How many of us remember our past with true clarity, without any skips in reality? Without any hopeful longings being fulfilled or shameful events being obliterated? Do we remember our past as it happened, or as we would prefer it had taken place? How important is it that we remember, with clarity, what has formed us? Is it better to believe the better or the worse, what will it bring to our present?Banville's prose, as always is gorgeous. But "gorgeous" just doesn't cover it. Lyrical, flowing and crisp as autumn air, his prose flows over the reader like a balm. It is both exhilarating and calming.Yeah, it's gorgeous. :)Highly recommended.

  • Lisa
    2019-01-23 23:41

    John Banville is one of my favourite authors and Ancient Light comes highly recommended by its blurber Sebastian Barry, but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I expected to. That might just be because I loved The Infinities so much that my expectations were unreasonably high.Ancient Light is edgier than its predecessor. Reviewers at GoodReads have noted that it's third in a trilogy comprising Eclipse (0n my TBR from way back) and Shroud which I read ages ago, but didn't much like. In the wake of The Sea (which I loved) and The Infinities which I found utterly charming, I had banished Shroud from memory, and so when I came to read Ancient Light, I had no recollection of its characters as recycled from Shroud: the ageing actor Alexander Cleave, his dead daughter Cass, and the enigmatic literary theorist Axel Vander. What was familiar, however, was a sense of unease...To read the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2012/10/19/an...

  • Ellie
    2019-02-11 02:32

    A stunningly beautiful book. And if the lead character, actor Alex, husband and bereaved father, is a little cold and narcissistic, this is more than offset by the powerful writing of this book. Banville's prose slips often into poetry and his musings on the fallibility of memory and the joys but (it seems mostly) pains of the past make for a fascinating place into which, as a reader to settle.

  • Teresa Proença
    2019-01-22 01:56

    "Ah! amor feliz! Mais que feliz! Feliz amante!
Para sempre a querer fruir, em pleno hausto,
Para sempre a estuar de vida palpitante,
Acima da paixão humana e sua lida
Que deixa o coração desconsolado e exausto,
A fronte incendiada e língua ressequida."— John KeatsTHE CLEAVE TRILOGY - Livro IIILuz Antiga(Michael Hafftka, Memory)Personagens principaisAlex Cleave Catherine Cleave - (filha de Alex e Lydia)Lydia (mulher de Alex)Celia Grey (amante de Alex)Pequeno resumoAlex Cleave (o narrador) dez anos depois dos acontecimentos relatados nos dois primeiros livros é convidado para representar Axel Vander, cuja biografia vai ser objecto de uma versão cinematográfica. Durante a rodagem, conhece uma pessoa a quem pede ajuda para saber do destino da Sra. Grey, uma mulher casada e mãe de um amigo, de quem foi amante quando ele tinha quinze anos e ela trinta e cinco."Quem iria eu amar agora, e quem iria amar-me? Um mundo acabava sem um só ruído."Conclusão final, comum ao três livros da trilogiaNunca tinha lido John Banville. É uma benção que a minha curiosidade não tenha limites. A prosa de Banville enfeitiça. Mesmo sendo quase sempre descritiva, e com pouco diálogo, nunca cansa; quando beira o limite do "não se passa nada", o enredo avança e novas perspectivas se abrem, através das personagens ou acontecimentos. Não é uma leitura alegre, pelo contrário. Por vezes senti-me angustiada como se o sofrimento das personagens fosse meu. Não sei se é leitura para ser apreciada por qualquer pessoa, ou em qualquer altura. Diria que, apenas, marcará cada leitor conforme a sua experiência ou momento da vida; um livro triste toca-nos mais profundamente quando estamos tristes...

  • Frank
    2019-02-13 01:31

    This is the third novel in a trilogy, a "real" trilogy if you will, and unlike Banville's two previous groupings, the "Revolutions Trilogy" (about the astronomers Kepler, Copernicus and, somewhat tangentially, Newton) or the unnamed art-history trilogy (which may or may not share a narrator in Freddie Montgomery), Ancient Light continues the parallel stories of the Irish stage-actor Alexander Cleave, his daughter Catherine (Cass) and the Belgian-born deconstructivist and academic bully Axel Vander begun in Eclipse: A Novel (2000) and Shroud (2002). Never mind that both Cass and Vander are dead (for ten- and eight-years, respectively) when the story opens; since when has death been a disqualifier for fictional characters?There are in fact two plots here: Alex (not to be confused with Axel, not just yet) reminisces about his first sexual experiences, a magical summer fifty-years earlier when he carries on an affair with the mother of his best friend. Intermingled is the present where—after a hiatus of ten years (just before the death of Cass)—his acting career is revivified by the offer to appear in a film, a biopic of none other than Axel Vander. That summer he was fifteen and Mrs Gray was thirty-five: a hardly impossible age disparity, despite its improbability. Alex is a terribly unreliable narrator, however; he misremembers so much, and readily admits it. Whilst waxing poetic about the falling russet leaves or hoar-frost on the lawn, he'll come up short with a "wait, wait—but this was summer". For all his pleasant prose, so carefully crafted, Alex really is a bit of a dolt: an autodidact (bordering on dilettante), self-absorbed, endlessly absorbing the sights, sounds and smells around him, he is rarely aware of their significance. His great redeeming quality is that he knows this is his weakness.And the prose does belong to Alex, as narrator (rather than Banville, as author): he describes his writing space (a hidey-hole at the top of the house with a high window and a green-leather upholstered visitor's chair); we know all along that this narrative is coming from the character. It's a conceit Banville has used before (in both Eclipse and Shroud for example), letting him use both the present and past tenses, permitting for both recollection and recording.Banville's real subject of course is not teen-aged lust or life imitating art. It is memory: the tricks it plays on us, the ways we use it to defend and define us, to cajole, or comfort, or even berate ourselves when that is paradoxically comforting. Many of Alex's memories are wrong: with the assistance of a researcher (a charmingly obscure character in black denim and leather and a beat up 2CV named Billie), he tracks down someone from his past who sets him right.I wished there were more of that Billie in the book; there was more than enough of the other Billy. Indeed, the dramatis personae is crammed full of Doppelgängers: Billy and Billie, Alex and Axel, Dawn and Cass, JB and John Banville.[There's so much material here, I can't cover it all.]There were a few disappointments for me. In Eclipse, Alex had retreated after his stage career collapsed to his mother's house in Wexford, long abandoned to a caretaker whose first priority was apparently taking care of himself: he and his teen-aged daughter had moved into the house themselves, as a sort of "perk" of the job. I wished we had gone back there to see how they were getting on; I liked Quirke and Lily. More importantly, the theme of the original novel was also memory: Alex riffed for dozens and dozens of pages on his life growing up in the close confines of the little town. I expected that Ancient Light would have given at least a passing explanation on why Alex left out any intimation of his romantic affair with a married woman twice his age from the earlier writings.The saving grace is that there was the set-up for another installment: Alex was invited to attend a conference in Arcady (the thinly veiled Berkeley) where Axel Vander taught. He decides to attend, in the company of the screenwriter and Vander biographer JB. Something to look forward to in 2014 perhaps?Edited to Add: There's a great review by Joan Acocella in the October 8, 2012, issue of the New Yorker.

  • Tony
    2019-02-13 06:49

    ANCIENT LIGHT. (2012). John Banville. ****. There are two references to ancient light in this novel. The first reference (p. 69) tells us that, according to a code of chartered surveyors of the time, householders had a right to ancient light, i.e., “the sky must be visible at the top of a window viewed from the base of the opposite wall.” I didn’t see where this helped me. But then I came across the second reference (p. 202): “Now he was speaking of the ancient light of galaxies that travels for a million – a billion – a trillion! – miles to reach us...and so it is that everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past.” This finally made sense because what we have here is a novel about memory, although the memory it tells of is flawed and imperfect. Our narrator is Alexander (Alex) Cleave, and, at the time we meet him he is about sixty-five-years old. He starts off his story by telling us of his love – if love it was – for a married woman of thirty-five when he was fifteen. Of course, when he was fifteen, love meant mostly one thing, and we learn a lot about their conduct of that one thing. His older lover was one Mrs. Gray, the wife of the town’s optometrist and the mother of two children, Billy, Alex’s best friend, and Kitty, his younger sister. The beginnings of this ‘affair’ occur in the back seat of a beat-up station wagon and continue in an abandoned house in the woods. We don’t learn a lot about Mrs. Gray from this tale because Alex is too young, at the time, to be very observant about her. His essentially sole interest in her is sex. In the second half of the book, when Alex is actually sixty-five, he is essentially retired from his career as a stage actor, but is asked to act in a biopic of an obscure man who pretended to be someone that he was not and acquired fame in that way. He agreed to do so, mainly because it gave him a chance to go to a particular spot in Italy where his grown daughter comitted suicide by leaping off a cliff. This was another memory trip for Alex, but one very different from his earlier one. In both cases his memory was flawed, though corrected by other people who were there in both cases at the time. The whole point of the novel is to expose the fraility of memory and the mistakes it is prone to make, even with things that supremely important to us at the time. This is a multi-layered novel from this Man Booker-winning novelist, but one that is worthy of a slow read. I am constantly impressed with the care he takes with making sure that he has chosen the absolutely correct word for each thought in each sentence. Recommended.

  • Liverpooljack
    2019-02-02 04:42

    “The Bud is in flower. Mud is Brown. I feel as fit as a Flea. things can go wrong.”After devouring 267 pages of Ancient Light - like a fifteen-year-old schoolboy - I’m left to reflect on the meaning of breathtaking. From the opening 4 pages, which I instantly had to re-read, to the end I was hypnotized, infatuated and dare I say, in love… “Love may be too strong a word but I do not know a weakerone that will apply”“She looked down at herself and then at me and raised her eyebrows and made an O of her mouth…”“I knew precious little about girls – and consequently the little I knew was precious indeed – and next to nothing about grown women.”“We raised our glasses in a wordless toast and drank. Wormwood, bitter gall, the taste of ink and luscious rot.”“as agile as one of those speckled trout…”- Like Joyce writing Lawrence via Greene“A drama coach I once took lessons from told me a good actor should be able to act with the back of his head.”

  • B the BookAddict
    2019-02-09 01:58

    Beautiful, exceptional and superlative - as only Banville can write. 4.5★

  • Georgina Koutrouditsou
    2019-01-25 01:46

    Ο Μπάνβιλ με δυσκόλεψε αρκετά,ωστόσο τον διάβασα και έγραψα λίγα λόγια στο αγαπημένο Dreamers&Co -->http://dreamersandco.com/2017/06/arch...Ποια είναι η κατάλληλη ηλικία για να αναπολήσει κάποιος το πρώτο ερωτικό του σκίρτημα; Και όταν το κάνει, θα είναι σε θέση να τα θυμηθεί όλα όπως έγιναν ή θα εξιδανικεύσει και θα ωραιοποιήσει τις καταστάσεις; Ποιος ο ρόλος της Μνήμης στη ζωή των ανθρώπων γενικότερα; Ο Μπάνβιλ στο παρόν μυθιστόρημα παίζει με το Χρόνο και τη ζωή ενός 65χρονου που έχει πληγεί από την αυτοκτονία της κόρης του και θέλοντας να γράψει ένα βιβλίο-επιστολή(;) αναπολεί την εφηβική του ηλικία σε μια επαρχία της Ιρλανδίας.Ο 65χρονος Αλεξάντερ Κλιβ, άνεργος ηθοποιός εδώ και χρόνια , βιώνει μαζί με την γυναίκα του την ξαφνική απώλεια της μοναχοκόρης τους. Έχουν κλειστεί και οι δυο σε μια καθημερινή ρουτίνα, στην οποία παρεμβαίνουν πού και πού αχτίδες φωτός, τόσο κυριολεκτικές όσο και μεταφορικές. Μία από αυτές τις εκλάμψεις θα είναι και η θύμηση του πρώτου ερωτικού σκιρτήματος του Αλεξάντερ. Γυρνάμε 50 χρόνια πίσω σε μια επαρχιακή περιοχή της Ιρλανδίας, όπου ο ήρωας θα ερωτευτεί την κατά 20 χρόνια μεγαλύτερή του μητέρα του καλύτερού του φίλου, την κυρία Γκρέι, όπως θα αναφέρεται χαρακτηριστικά σε όλο το μυθιστόρημα. Οι δυο τους θα συνάψουν μια απαγορευμένη σχέση η οποία θα κρατήσει κάτι λιγότερο από πέντε μήνες. Ωστόσο στα μάτια του έφηβου Αλεξάντερ, αλλά και στου ενήλικα, θα κρατήσει παραπάνω και θα τον καθορίσει για το υπόλοιπο της ζωής του. Ταυτόχρονα με την αφήγηση αλά Λολίτα στο αντίστροφο ο Μπάνβιλ θα βάλει τον ήρωά του να συμμετέχει στα γυρίσματα μιας ταινίας με τον καθόλου τυχαίο τίτλο «Η επινόηση του παρελθόντος». Εκεί θα έρθει αντιμέτωπος όχι μόνο με το σενάριο που είναι γεμάτο αναφορές στο Χρόνο αλλά και στη Φιλοσοφία, αλλά και με την συμπρωταγωνίστριά του η οποία έχει αυτοκαταστροφικές τάσεις, κάτι που του θυμίζει την κόρη του.«Αν είχα δείξει την πρέπουσα προσοχή στο χρόνο και τα μυστήριά του, τότε ίσως να μπορούσε να εξηγηθεί το τσίμπημα της ακαθόριστης λύπης στην καρδιά. Αλλά ήμουν νέος και δεν διέκρινα στον ορίζοντα το τέλος, κανενός είδους τέλος..» «Πόσο συχνά μοιάζει το παρελθόν με παζλ από το οποίο λείπουν τα πιο καίρια κομμάτια.»Διαβάζοντας το μυθιστόρημα είχα την εντύπωση ότι μου έλειπαν πολλά κομμάτια για να κατανοήσω αναφορές του συγγραφέα. Και πώς όχι άλλωστε, αφού το βιβλίο αποτελεί το τελευταίο μέρος μιας άτυπης τετραλογίας («Έκλειψη», «Θάλασσα», «Σάβανο») του συγγραφέα με πρωταγωνιστές τόσο τους ήρωες του παρόντος βιβλίου όσο και ονόματα που τυχαία ( ή όχι) προσπερνούν τις σελίδες μας. Ωστόσο αυτό που με κράτησε στις «μπερδεμένες ζωές» του Μπάνβιλ, όπως αναφέρει η κριτικός του New Yorker Joan Acocella, ήταν η μαγική του γραφή. Ο Μπάνβιλ ακολουθεί πιστά τη συμβουλή του Orwell «ότι η λογοτεχνία πρέπει να είναι καθαρό γυαλί που μας επιτρέπει να βλέπουμε μέσα από αυτό». Υπέροχος γλωσσοπλάστης, άριστος χρήστης της γλώσσας και των γραμματικών της στοιχείων, εξαιρετικός στις λεπτομερείς περιγραφές σκηνών αλλά και συναισθημάτων. Πολλές φορές είχα την εντύπωση ότι περπατούσα μαζί με τους ήρωες και διέκρινα στο δρόμο τα λουλούδια και τις αποχρώσεις που έπαιρναν από το «Αρχαίο Φως». Ένα βιβλίο γεμάτο γρίφους για την ανθρώπινη μνήμη και για το ποια είναι η σημασία της στη ζωή μας. Προφανώς και διαβάζεται αυτοτελώς, μόνο και μόνο για να απολαύσει κανείς αυτή την εξαιρετική μαεστρία του λόγου, να ταξιδέψει σε μια επαρχία της Ιρλανδίας εκεί γύρω στις αρχές του ’60 και τέλος να κατανοήσει το μυαλό και τις εκφάνσεις του ενός 65χρονου που αναπολεί λάθη ή και όχι.Ο συγγραφέας έχει βραβευτεί πολλές φορές και θεωρείται ένας από τους καλύτερους ιρλανδούς εκπροσώπους της λογοτεχνίας. Το 2005 βραβεύεται με το Booker για το μυθιστόρημα η «Θάλασσα». Ο Μπάνβιλ γράφει και με μια άλλη ταυτότητα- ψευδώνυμο αυτή του Μπέντζαμιν Μπλακ. Δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι ακόμη και εδώ κυριαρχεί ένας άτυπος δυισμός, τόσο του συγγραφέα όσο και αυτόν που συναντήσαμε στους ήρωες του παραπάνω μυθιστορήματος.Το παρόν βιβλίο έχει βραβευτεί με το Ιρλανδικό βραβείο ως Μυθιστόρημα της Χρονιάς το 2012. Κυκλοφορεί από τις εκδόσεις Καστανιώτη και έχει μεταφραστεί από τα αγγλικά από την Τόνια Κοβαλένκο.

  • Roger Brunyate
    2019-01-24 06:55

    Drunk on LanguageFrom time to time, I read novels in other languages, most often French. The shift tends to give a different perspective, removing me somewhat from the action, but at the same time having me breathe a different air, perfumed, exquisite, intoxicating me with the power of language itself. So it is with reading John Banville; even though he writes in English, it is not the language in which we talk to our friends, but something more consciously crafted, where every phrase seems wrought and polished. The sensation is closer to literary French than anything produced in Britain or America. Here, for instance, is the narrator looking out over the Bay of Lerici in a light snowstorm:I tried to make out the lights of Portovenere across the bay but could not for those great flocks of whiteness hosting haphazard in the brumous air.Come again—? Yet think about it for a moment, perhaps even look up "brumous" (like other Banville words such as "tundish," "leporine," or "mephitic"), and the description actually seems remarkably good. But writing like this gives the reader a dilemma: you either have to pause to suck the juice out of each of his nectared phrases, or continue in a perfumed haze of half-understanding; though familiar from poetry, neither is the usual posture in which to read a novel.Not that Banville offers a story in the usual sense. Or rather, he offers two, interwoven but virtually unconnected, except through their protagonist, the sixtyish stage actor Alexander Cleave. In one strand of the plot, he is offered a film role for the first time in his life, starring in a biopic opposite the much younger film star Dawn Davenport, whose unexpected neediness arouses an almost fatherly protectiveness in him. The other strand, occupying twice the number of pages, is Cleave's memories of his affair with Mrs. Gray, the mother of his high-school best friend; not even a May/October romance, this is more like March/July, since she is 35 and he only 15. The trouble is that I didn't believe either strand of the story, and I am not certain that I was intended to do so. The scenes of rehearsal and filming in the modern story are real enough, but the film itself, The Invention of the Past, is the improbable story of a Belgian literary critic, Axel Vander, a dark star in the deconstructionist firmament. Vander may also have been involved in the suicide of Cleave's daughter, Cassandra, ten years before, though none of these references are fully made clear. This seems like Roberto Bolaño territory, but they tie more directly to two earlier works by Banville, Eclipse (2000) and Shroud (2002), which introduce the Cleave/Cassandra/Vander triangle. Not having read these, I do not know whether the foreknowledge would have made the references here any more tangible; I suspect not. And here is his description of Alexander's first sensual encounter with his friend's mother:Mrs. Gray in the mirror, in the mirrored mirror, was naked. It would have been more gallant to say she was nude, I know, but naked is the word. After the first instant of confusion and shock I was struck by the grainy look of her skin—I suppose she must have had gooseflesh, standing there—and by the dull glimmer of it, like the sheen on a tarnished knife-blade. Instead of the shades of pink and peach that I would have expected—Rubens has a lot to answer for—her body displayed, disconcertingly, a range of mottled tints from magnesium white to silver and tin, a scumbled sort of yellow, pale ochre, and even in places a faint greenishness and, in the hollows, a shadowing of mossy mauve.Again, a wonderfully wrought, exquisitely precise description. But not that of a fifteen-year-old boy. This is a man who has made a lifetime's study of the language of art, applying it now to something in his distant past. In all his descriptions of their lovemaking (and he is not reticent), he combines the sensuous language of an aging connoisseur with knowing mythological references to "the Lady Venus and her sportive boy." Can it have been real? I do not trust Cleave's character now (he is an actor after all), I cannot believe his reconstruction of his younger self at all, and Mrs. Gray mostly seems the figment of masturbatory fantasy. One revelation at the novel's end takes away some of the unlikeliness, but it comes too late. One meaning of the novel's title Ancient Light is that "everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past." And it is no coincidence that the title of the movie is The Invention of the Past. The reshaping of life is what a novelist does, and it may be the connecting theme of the book, as Cleave reworks or even invents memories of Mrs. Gray as a way to exorcise the death of his daughter, and finding perhaps some platonic parallels in his relationship with Dawn Davenport. You could see Paul Auster doing something quite similar, but with much greater economy and less blatant self-indulgence. Banville is a master of language—of that there is no doubt—but I wish he would apply it to something with greater relevance to the real world.

  • Oscar
    2019-02-07 23:36

    El eje central de ‘Antigua luz’ (Ancient Light, 2012), del irlandés John Banville, es la relación amorosa que mantuvo Alexander Clave cuando tenía quince años con la madre de su mejor amigo, la señora Gray, de treinta y cinco años. Alex rememora aquella época, cincuenta años después, en una historia que es más que un tórrido romance. Recuerdo y olvido juegan un papel importante en las paradojas que nos depara la memoria. Si bien los escarceos del joven Alex con la señora Gray son el hijo conductor de la narración, también hay que mencionar el presente del protagonista. Alex es un actor de teatro retirado, al que le ofrecen un papel para la gran pantalla, lo que sería su debut cinematográfico. ‘Antigua luz’, siendo de lectura independiente, puede encuadrarse dentro de una trilogía, de la que formarían parte ‘Eclipse’ e ‘Imposturas’, ya que el personaje de Axel Vander vuelve a hacer aparición, aunque sea tangencialmente.El estilo de John Banville es brillante, incluso en su excelente traducción. Deslumbrantes son el vocabulario, la belleza del lenguaje, la facilidad para evocar momentos y sentimientos. Aunque bien es verdad que no es un estilo que agrade a todo el mundo.Amor, deseo, sensualidad, reflexión sobre la memoria, todo ello podemos encontrarlo en esta lúcida y espléndida novela.

  • Cornelius Browne
    2019-01-29 02:43

    Of the trio of trilogies that John Banville has now written, it seems with this summer's publication of Ancient Light that the earlier books (the Revolutions trilogy of Doctor Copernicus, Kepler and The Newton Letter, and the Freddy Montgomery trilogy of The Book of Evidence, Ghosts and Athena) have been trumped by the three strange and compelling novels centering on ageing actor Alexander Cleave, his painfully disturbed daughter Cass, and the literary theorist Axel Vander, who gave voice to the middle novel in the sequence, Shroud. What's remarkable about this trumping is that Banville's crowning achievement remains the novel that kick-started Montgomery. Concerning memory and first love, and first love viewed through the shifting veils of memory, there is terrific sensory immediacy to Ancient Light's sweaty, grappling portrayal of the illicit affair between a 15-year-old schoolboy and the 35-year-old mother of his best friend in 1950s Ireland. Less convincing are the present day scenes revolving around the making of an unlikely movie, but Banville more than compensates by pulling off the near impossible - he writes brilliantly about sex!

  • Terri
    2019-01-26 04:59

    Not a whole lot happens in this book. From the outset, you know that Alex had an affair with his friend's mother about 50 years ago so that's old news. Then, as a 60 + year old, he gets asked to act in a film, something he's never done before (he was a stage actor). Not a lot happens there either. His leading lady attempts suicide and he ends up taking her on a trip to Italy where his daughter took her own life some time previously. We never find out why. Basically it goes on and on using otentacious and pretentious prose and lots and lots of big, blousy words. If you want to learn new words that you'll never use or hear again, go for it. It seems to me that he's showing off most of the time. We find out nothing about Billy, his best friend and nothing about his poor wife, Lydia. She just hides out in the kitchen and has nightmares about her dead daughter.So hardly any story, no character development and tons of descriptions and long words.

  • Vanessa
    2019-02-07 05:42

    Banville is an exquisite writer and his skill is on full display in this novel. Unfortunately, the perfection of his descriptions can have the effect of making the emotions described in this novel (which should be incredibly intense, given that they include first love and the death of a child) seem removed and borderline clinical. Having read several other Banville novels, I trust, however, that the seeming remoteness of the narrative voice is a deliberate stylistic choice. Once I accepted the novel for the chilly jewel that it is, I ended up enjoying it, though it didn't really touch my heart. I'd contrast it with (my favorite novel) The End of the Affair which is also full of glorious prose but still manages to be heartrending.

  • Aishie
    2019-01-28 00:56

    Beautifully written, with such descriptive passages that you felt you were experiencing the same emotions that Alex was experiencing. I read this book however at a fairly emotional time- Alex was remembering past love, as am I at the minute. It's perhaps due to this that it struck such a chord with me. Half remembered situations, rose tinted glasses peering into the past, nostalgic pining,events that shaped your future self, all combines to make it a beautiful, and gentle read. A read that will haunt me for a while to come I feel.

  • Margaret
    2019-02-01 05:43

    When John Banville puts pen to paper, the results are always exciting, intellectually and aesthetically. His 2009 novel, The Infinities, still dazzles me with its perfect sentences, characters revealed in their depths and complexities, and a charming conceit which updates and makes real the influence of the ancient Greek gods (the eponymous Infinities) on Earth’s mere mortals. His scientist novels (Dr. Copernicus, and Kepler) are both intriguing. Yet despite my own fan status, I did not love Ancient Light. The protagonist, Alexander Cleave, is an older actor who has retired from the stage. Without any effort on his part, he is been recruited to star in a movie about Axel Vander, a renowned and cantankerous literary critic. Two events from Cleave’s past are cyclically recounted in flashbacks: the affair he had many years ago when he was fifteen with his best friend’s thirty-five year old mother and the death of his own adult daughter Cass ten years before. Both of these events haunt him, but it is his shifting memories of his first love affair that recur at greatest length throughout the book. And those sections of the book do not seem to build to anything, nor do they show that much about the ways that memory is fogged by our own present consciences. Cleave’s memories of his daughter and his continuing grief over her death are given so much less space and thought, even though they are deeply felt by Cleave and are of interest to the characters connected with his current portrayal of Axel Vander in the movie. Part of the novel offers too much information while other parts are nearly skeletal in what they bring to the reader. Perhaps if I had first read his Eclipse (2000) and Shroud (2002), which follow many of the characters in this book (especially Cass), I might have felt differently about that imbalance in Ancient Light. But I had not and life is too short to go there now.Rating 3.5; Banville's just always too good not to be a cut above.