Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir by John Banville - review by Ian Sansom

Ian Sansom

Portrait of the City

Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir


Hachette Books Ireland 224pp £24.99 order from our bookshop

‘Dublin was never my Dublin,’ explains John Banville at the beginning of Time Pieces, which he calls a ‘quasi-memoir’. Born in Wexford, just a couple of hours south of the capital, he explains that ‘Dublin was for me what Moscow was for Irina in Chekhov’s Three Sisters, a place of magical promise towards which my starved young soul endlessly yearned.’

Banville, though now in his seventies and an almost lifelong resident of the city, yearns for it still. The book reads like a young man’s love letter, full of wistful asides and coy remarks on the meaning not just of the city but also of life and art. ‘Art is a constant effort to strike past the mere daily doings of humankind in order to arrive at, or at least to approach as closely as possible to, the essence of what it is, simply, to be.’ ‘When does the past become the past? How much time must elapse before what merely happened begins to give off the mysterious, numinous glow that is the mark of true pastness?’

During the course of this thoroughly pleasing personal tour of the city, Banville explores the many marks of true pastness. There are memories of long-vanished ice-cream parlours and picture houses, ‘neon-signed, plush-seated’ palaces where ‘slick-haired commissionaires … would brook no nonsense from gurriers or their girls’. He regrets that O’Connell

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