John Banville Irish Writers
John Banville Irish Writers (Image Source: Flickr – Alliance Francaise Dublin)

Two writers, one man. An exploration of the styles of John Banville and Benjamin Black: his life, work and success.

Young Life and Work:

Home life:

John Banville was born and raised in Wexford, Ireland. Growing up alongside his brother, Vincent Lawrence, and his sister, Anne Veronica Banville-Evans. Surprisingly, his siblings also became writers.

Educated at Christian Brothers Primary in Wexford and St. Peters College. John Banville intended to become a painter and architect, however, he did not attend university.



When John Banville left school, he was employed as a clerk for Aer Lingus. He did not view this job as his future, rather a chance to take advantage of cheap, foreign travel. Lived in the US.

Banville worked in Journalism for over 30 years and in 1969 returned to Ireland and became sub-editor at The Irish Press, rising to Chief Sub-Editor. Since 1990, he became a regular writer in The New York Review of Books. He became sub-editor at The Irish Times and made Literary editor in 1988-1999.


John Banville Writing

He started writing at the age of 12, he tried to imitate Joyce’s “Dubliners”. His first line was:

“The white May blossom swooned slowly into the open mouth of the grave”.

As himself:

John Banville’s first collection of short stories “Long Lankin” published in 1970. Followed by “Nightspawn”, published 1971, and “Birchwood”, published 1972. Continuing onto write “Dr Copernicus” in 1973; “Kepler” in 1981 and “The Newton Letter” in 1982. Forming his trilogy, “The Revolutions”, exploring great men of science.

His second Trilogy is entitled “The Frames Trilogy”. This trilogy consists of his novels: “The Book of Evidence” written in 1989; “Ghosts” written in 1993; and “Athena” written in 1995.

Finally, his third Trilogy is entitled “Cleave Trilogy”. This trilogy includes “Eclipse”, written in 2000; “Shroud”, written in 2002; and “Ancient Light”, written in 2012. All exploring the lives of characters Alexander and Cass Cleave.


As Benjamin Black: crime fiction

John Banville published crime fiction under a different name, Benjamin Black. The first novel published under this name was “Christine Falls” in 2006. Banville views his work under Black as spontaneous in comparison to his usual literature. “Christine Falls” is the first of a series of crime novels entitled “Quirke”. The following novels in the series are: “The Silver Swan”  published in 2008; “Elegy for April” published in 2010; “A Death in Summer” published in 2011; “Vengeance” published in 2012; “Holy Orders” published in 2013; and “Even the Dead” published in 2016.

The following novels published by Benjamin Black was “The Black-Eyed Blonde”, a Philip Marlowe Novel, published in 2014; “The Lemur, published in 2008; and most recently “Prague Nights” published in 2018.


John Banville’s Awards:

Throughout John Banville’s career as an author, he has received many awards. The most notable being:

  • In 1976 “Dr Copernicus” won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction
  • In 1989 “The Book of Evidence” won the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction
  • In 1997, “The Untouchable” awarded the Lannan Literary Award
  • In 2006 awarded the Premio Grinzane-Francesco Biamonti Prize
  • Awarded the 2007 Madeleine Zepter Prix Littéraire Européen. In the same year made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
  • In 2013 awarded The Austrian Prize for European Literature
  • He was made a Cavaliere of the Ordine della Stella d’Italia in 2017 (he was made an honorary Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy)

John Banville has been a favourite of the public to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

John Banville continues to write, both as himself and as Benjamin Black. The future is bright for this author, hopefully, a Nobel Prize on the horizon.


Fun Facts:

  • John Banville was born on 8th December 1945
  • His writing has mainly received influence from: W. B. Yeats, Henry James and Samuel Beckett
  • His parents were Agnes (née Doran) and Martin Banville
  • He is a Vegetarian
  • He currently lives in Dublin
  • The only space where he can write is his own room, in solitude
  • He has been married and separated. Married to Janet Dunham and had two sons with her.
  • He then had two daughters with Patricia Quinn (former director of the Arts Council)


More worthy reads that you might also enjoy:

Famous Irish Authors Who Helped Promote Irish Tourism | 100 Best Irish Historical Fiction to Consider Reading |Dublin’s Writer Museum, Dublin City|


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