“Cancel, yes, cancel, and begin again”: John Banville’s Path from ‘Einstein” to Mefisto


  • Kersti Tarien Powell University in Philadelphia




Mefisto, literary manuscripts, Literary manuscripts, Narrative voice, Albert Einstein, Science and Literature


Focusing on unpublished manuscript materials, this article is the first scholarly attempt to investigate the textual and thematic evolution of John Banville’s Mefisto (1986). As originally conceived, Mefisto would loosely follow Albert Einstein’s life story in order to investigate the moral and political undercurrents of 20th-century European weltanchauung. However, the novel’s five-year-long composition process culminates with the eradication of these historical, moral and scientific concerns. Mefisto is finally born when Banville establishes Gabriel Swan’s narrative voice. As this article argues, this novel constitutes a turning point not only for the science tetralogy but for Banville’s literary career.

Author Biography

Kersti Tarien Powell, University in Philadelphia

Kersti Tarien Powell is an Assistant Professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She has written extensively on contemporary Irish authors, especially John Banville. Her articles on Banville have appeared in the Irish University Review, Éire–Ireland, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, and the Yearbook of English Studies. Her latest project was a 10,000-word overview article on Banville commissioned for the Dictionary of Literary Biography: Twenty-first Century Irish Fiction Writers (forthcoming in 2019).


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How to Cite

Powell, K. T. (2021). “Cancel, yes, cancel, and begin again”: John Banville’s Path from ‘Einstein” to Mefisto. ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, 22(1), 135-146. https://doi.org/10.37389/abei.v22i1.3853