Saturday, February 24, 2007
The Sea by John Banville
Here's the opening of a beautifully written novel:
They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide. All morning under a milky sky the waters of the bay had swelled and swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waves creeping over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes. The rusted hulk of the freighter that had run aground at the far end of the bay longer ago than any of us could remember must have thought it was being granted a relaunch. I would not swim again, after that day. The seabirds mewled and swooped, unnerved, it seemed, by the spectacle of that vast bowl of water bulging like a blister, lead-blue and malignantly agleam. The looked unnaturally white, that day, those birds. The waves were depositing a fringe of soiled yellow foam along the waterline. No sail marred the high horizon. I would not swim, no, not ever again.
Someone has just walked over my grave. Someone.
Banville's novel won the Booker in 2005. While critics do appreciate Banville's writing (although some make fun of his use of obscure words when simpler ones would suffice), they do always praise his work highly:
"Above all else, expect from The Sea a ceaseless tide of ravishing prose, the cadences of which are designed to slowly dissolve the shoreline separating the artificial exercise of recording felt experiences from the actual experiences themselves." [5 Nov 2005] (The Globe And Mail [Toronto] Charles Foran)