The novel offers a narrative told by a man who acknowledges little difference between memoryand invention and who plays the lead in
The Invention of the Past,
a film about a literary criticwho erased his personal history by assuming the identity of dead man. Ideas of self, of theveracity of memory, of our ability to truly know ourselves or each other all lose stability in thefascinating hall of mirrors Banville has created in
Still, the emotional currents that move through Alex as he recounts and relives the past are quitereal and compelling. There is a searching, yearning, elegiac quality about the story he tells, astory whose meaning remains mysterious, even to him. He is a man chasing ghosts, as hesearches out the fate of Mrs. Gray and makes an impetuous trip to the Ligurian coastal town(where his daughter committed suicide) with his co-star, Dawn Devonport, in the aftermath of her own failed suicide attempt.Written with Banville’s signature lyricism and subtle emotional intelligence,
is anovel of love and loss—the all-consuming thrill of a first love, intensified by illicitness andsecrecy, and the loss of a past that nevertheless remains both inescapable and ungraspable.
Questions for Discussion