Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Untouchable (John Banville)

This is John Banville's cerebral, psychological exploration of the character of Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, Poussin expert and Soviet spy. I'm about a third of the way through this novel and as always in thrall to Banville's writing and acute analysis of his characters' states of mind.

May I sound like a fortune-teller? A much-awaited return to Canada is mooted, but not in circumstances predicted. More later ... and who would have thought an essential part of the carry-on baggage of a thirty-something snowboarding instructor is two Terabytes of USB hard disk capacity?

Immortality is getting harder. Think of all the educated people of the world (at a particular time) filling a circular stadium. In one direction we rank the mathematicians, in another the novelists, in a third the singers and musicians, and so on. The best of the best are out on the periphery and only one or two people per generation - those on the extreme circumference - will be destined for cultural immortality.

The ratio of circumference to area is inversely proportional to the population of the stadium: generations pass, civilization expands and the competition gets ever more severe; immortality gets harder.  (I feel I'm channelling Banville's hero Victor Maskell here ..).