William John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945, the youngest of three siblings. He was educated at Christian Brothers schools and St Peter’s College, Wexford. After college John worked as a clerk for Ireland’s national airline, Aer Lingus, before joining The Irish Press as a sub-editor in 1969. Continuing with journalism for over thirty years, John was Literary Editor at The Irish Times from 1988 to 1999.
John’s first book, Long Lankin, a collection of short stories and a novella, was published in 1970. His first novel, Nightspawn, came out in 1971, followed byBirchwood (1973), Doctor Copernicus (1976), Kepler (1981), The Newton Letter(1982), Mefisto (1986), The Book of Evidence (1989), Ghosts (1993), Athena(1995), The Untouchable (1997), Eclipse (2000), Shroud (2002), The Sea (2005),The Infinities (2009) and Ancient Light (2012). His non-fiction book, Prague Pictures: Portraits of a City, was published in 2003 as part of Bloomsbury’s ‘The Writer and the City’ series. In 2012, an anthology comprising extracts from John’s fifteen novels to date, together with selections drawn from his dramatic works and various reviews, was published under the title, Possessed of a Past: A John Banville Reader.
Among the awards John’s novels have won are the Allied Irish Banks fiction prize, the American-Irish Foundation award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, theGuardian Fiction Prize. In 1989 The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was awarded the first Guinness Peat Aviation Award; in Italian, as La Spiegazione dei Fatti, the book was awarded the 1991 Premio Ennio Flaiano. Ghostswas shortlisted for the Whitbread Fiction Prize 1993; The Untouchable for the same prize in 1997. In 2003 John was awarded the Premio Nonino. He has also received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation in the US. In 2005, John won the Man Booker Prize for The Sea. In 2011 he was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize. Last year, John was awarded the Irish Pen Award for Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature.
Under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, John has published the following crime novels: Christine Falls (2006), The Silver Swan (2007), The Lemur (2008), Elegy for April (2010), A Death in Summer (2011) and Vengeance (2012). Later this year, Mantle will publish Holy Orders, the sixth book in the Quirke series. The first three have been adapted by Andrew Davies and Conor McPherson for the BBC, and will be broadcast later this autumn, starring Gabriel Byrne in the title role.
John (again writing as Benjamin Black) has also been commissioned by theRaymond Chandler Estate to pen a new Philip Marlowe novel which will be published by Holt in the US in 2014.