“Necessary fantasy”: The Presence of Fantastic in John Banville’s Birchwood and Mefisto


  • Natália Bergamin Retamero Trinity College Dublin




Fantastic, John Banville, Contemporary Irish Literature


Among the many aspects of John Banville’s writing, the fantastic is underscored. In this respect, two of his novels reveal significant material for analysis: Birchwood (1973) and Mefisto (1986). Besides the repetition of themes such as the double and the search for an organizing force in the world, the presence of twin siblings is another interesting similarity of the novels. In addition, theories of the fantastic will certainly enrich the interpretation of these novels and contribute to a different perspective of the fantastic in Ireland. As Banville’s home country, Ireland has influenced his writing and because of this nation’s long practice of fantastic and gothic literature, Birchwood and Mefisto can be considered a contemporary expression of these traditions. The notions of the fantastic added to the Irish context provide a valuable analysis of John Banville’s novels and a greater understanding of Irish literature.

Author Biography

  • Natália Bergamin Retamero, Trinity College Dublin

    Natália Bergamin Retamero graduated the M.Phil in Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin with the support of the ABEI/HADDAD scholarship (2018/2019). As part of the course, she wrote a dissertation analysing family relationships on contemporary Irish novels written by Edna O’Brien, Anne Enright and Louise O’Neill. Previously she attended the English and Portuguese majors at the University of São Paulo (2012-2016), where she participated in activities organized by the Chair of Irish Studies W.B. Yeats. During her undergraduate studies she also researched dystopian novels for young adults, presenting her work at the 24th Symposium of Research Initiation at the University of São Paulo.


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How to Cite

Retamero, N. B. (2021). “Necessary fantasy”: The Presence of Fantastic in John Banville’s Birchwood and Mefisto. ABEI Journal, 23(1), 75-85. https://doi.org/10.37389/abei.v23i1.192594