Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
One part Nietzsche, one part Humbert Humbert, and a soupcon of Milton’s Lucifer, Axel Vander, the dizzyingly unreliable narrator of John Banville’s masterful new novel, is very old, recently widowed, and the bearer of a fearsome reputation as a literary dandy and bully. A product of the Old World, he is also an escapee from its conflagrations, with the wounds to prove it. And everything about him is a lie.
Now those lies have been unraveled by a mysterious young woman whom Vander calls “Miss Nemesis.” They are to meet in Turin, a city best known for its enigmatic shroud. Is her purpose to destroy Vander or to save him—or simply to show him what lies beneath the shroud in which he has wrapped his life? A splendidly moving exploration of identity, duplicity, and desire, Shroud is Banville’s most rapturous performance to date.
“But if a fictional character was the starting point for one half of the double act that dominates Shroud, reality lies behind the other. Axel Vander, the celebrated literary theorist whom Cass tracks to Turin in order to confront him with the catastrophic proof of a misspent past, shares many similarities with Paul de Man, the Yale deconstructionist who was posthumously revealed to have written numerous anti-semitic articles for collaborationist Belgian newspapers in the early 1940s. In real life, death deprived the world of De Man's response to his discovery; in Banville's reworking, Axel Vander's predicament is ceaselessly cast and recast, to shed light not only on the protean nature of the self-inventing fugitive, but also to question the authority of the narrative itself—the subject, broadly speaking, of De Man's writing.” —The Guardian
“Hypnotic. . . . As much as any author today, [Banville] demonstrates the continuing relevance of words like ‘artistry’ and ‘masterpiece.’” —The New York Times Book Review
“The style—the voice—is a phenomenon, a wonder in itself. . . . Shroud is full of . . . secrets that change everything once you notice them. . . . Dazzling.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Glittering, far-reaching intelligence. . . . Sentences, paragraphs, pages that by their exact and passionate beauty transport the reader and make the world new.” —The Boston Globe
“A work of fiction with . . imaginative ambition and integrity.” —The Washington Post Book World
“In beautiful, lucid prose, John Banville describes a tragedy so strongly rooted in history and character that, like all real tragedies, it could not happen otherwise.” —The Times (London)
“Morally gripping as it is, Shroud is still a Banville performance, playing brilliantly with language in the gap between actuality and perception . . . Shroud will not easily be surpassed for combination of wit, moral complexity and compassion. It is hard to see what more a novel could do.” —The Irish Times