Booker prize winner John Banville talks to Rosie Goldsmith about his new novel Ancient Light. He tells us a little bit about his early life in Dublin, and how he still loves the light and climate. When asked about his actual writing process, Banville confesses that he “writes as if in a dream”.
We were treated to a reading from Ancient Light, a passage about grief and memory. It is about “why the past is so precious and so vivid”, Banville is clearly fascinated how we feed off of our pasts; “I always try to get to the essence of things” he says. Benjamin Black, he admits, is probably his own ‘dark half’ and his Banville novels are “all versions of me”.
On the time it takes to write his novels; “Benjamin Black takes 3-4 months, Banville, probably 3-4 years.”‘ He hopes, and believes however, that each novel is equally skilfully crafted, and honest.
He confesses a need to write the Banville novels with a fountain pen, which is then transferred onto a screen, whereas Black’s novels are typed straight onto a screen. It’s all to do with the speed of the thinking process for each type of novel, he says.
You can’t help but warm to a man who confesses how he loves female humour, and how they can ‘undo’ men with their tender humour, as he puts it. The Quirke mystery novels by Black are being adapted for a BBC One series, and as he said this his phone rang – “it’s Hollywood!” he joked. It’s clear he has an immense love of language and its ambiguities.