Familiar/Familial Strangeness: The Place of Narration in John Banville’s Eclipse and The Sea and Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
Keywords:Memory, identity, the house, defamiliarisation, places of narration
The trope of returning back to the childhood home, in middle age, after some kind of tragedy has struck is central to both the plot and act of narration in John Banville’s Eclipse (2000) and The Sea (2005). This withdrawal to the past is not simply a thematic element, but also a narrative strategy through which Banville casts an indirect gaze at the world as he describes it. Reality is, thus, never what is simply before your eyes but layered with echoes of the past, more specifically what we remember or imagine to be the past. The return home is also central to Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones (2016), in which Marcus Conway, the ghost-narrator finds himself back at his kitchen table where he reminisces about the past. What unites these novels is the act of narration, or the act of writing, that is carried out in these childhood spaces and places that are key to the ways in which these protagonists understand and confront their sense of identity although this notion of return is met with resistance or not fully understood by oneself. Extending this idea of what the house could symbolize in the context of Banville’s artistic aims, I examine the relationship between past and present, the act of writing for an imagined audience in one's childhood home, and how the spatial dimensions of the house itself relate to or reveal the aesthetics of these novels. Mike McCormack, whose writing has recently gained increasing critical attention, is one Irish author who makes an interesting counterpoint to Banville, in that similar concerns about identity and memory are reflected in the space of the home but in markedly different ways. This essay, hence, will demonstrate certain commonalities between these three novels while distinguishing how each engages with representations of space and place, particularly in the context of identity and the idea of home.
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