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?’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,
    • 'The day produced countless stories of chance, of people taking one route or another without realising that the dec… ,