Reviews of The Untouchable

 

John Mullan

 

The Guardian – 11 February 2006

 

 

Art lovers often feature in John Banville’s novels. The protagonist and narrator of his most recent, the Man-Booker-winning The Sea, is an art historian. His earlier novel The Book of Evidence (1989) was narrated by an art thief, who later cropped up as a student of painting in Ghosts (1993). Athena (1995) is about a man hired to authenticate a group of paintings. Banville’s characters are experts in artificial perfection. His engrossing 1997 novel The Untouchable is about one of the most famous and infamous art historians of the 20th century, an aesthete who lived a secret life…



http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/feb/11/johnbanville

 

 

 

Patrick McGrath

 

The New York Times – 08 June 1997

 

 

Aleitmotif in the recent fiction of John Banville has been the elusive and unstable nature of identity. It’s apt, then, that in ”The Untouchable,” his 11th novel, he should seize upon the historical figure of Anthony Blunt as his point of departure. Blunt, a homosexual esthete of the 1930’s generation at Cambridge, was a distinguished English art historian, an expert on Poussin, curator of the Queen’s art collection and director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. He was also a spy. Blunt worked for the Kremlin from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. In 1979, he was exposed in Parliament by Margaret Thatcher and publicly disgraced as the fourth of the ”Cambridge spies” (the others, of course, being Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby). He died of a heart attack in 1983. Refracted through the novelist’s imagination, Blunt becomes Victor Maskell, the untouchable of the book’s title…

 


http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/08/books/the-fourth-man.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

 

 

Ann Somerhausen

 

www.awcb.org

 

 

I wished I’d written it myself. Unlike “The Sea,” an earlier work of this first-class author, “The Untouchable” sticks unrelentingly in my thoughts. The blurb on the back cover speaks of its “exquisite menace, biting social comedy, and vertiginous moral complexity” – and that describes it rather well…

 


http://www.awcb.org/rv/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50:book-review-the-untouchable-by-john-banville-&catid=20:archives

 

 

 

Mary Whipple

 

www.marywhipplereviews.com – 14 March 2012

 

 

In this fascinating and beautifully developed novel, Victor Maskell takes us step by (often debauched) step through what passes for his life. He is seventy-two and has just been unmasked as a spy. “Public disgrace is a strange thing,” he muses as he begins a journal. Maskell, a thinly disguised substitute for Anthony Blunt, is one of several by now well-known young British intellectuals who became spies for the Soviet Union during the thirties and forties, providing them with secret information during World War II and into the 1950s…

 

 

http://marywhipplereviews.com/john-banville-the-untouchable-england/

 

 

Mark Saunders

 

http://www.vqronline.org – Autumn 1998

 

 

 

In the current rage for memoir and documentary adventure, it is easy to forget the seeming paradox that fiction, when masterfully written, can always journey closest to the truth. It can also travel inward to irrelevance, and the Irish writer John Banville’s three previous novels—all lustrous, recalcitrant displays of verbosity and intellect, the vaguely sinister texts of a small cult of fans—seemed to be heading, albeit intriguingly, in that direction. In retrospect, however, it is tempting to see them as a series of studies for the large-scale masterpiece of The Untouchable, a brilliant, satisfying novel based on fact that reminds us why fiction is a matter of life and death as much as the scaling of any summit, the navigation of any storm at sea…

 


http://www.vqronline.org/articles/1998/autumn/saunders-art/

 

 

 

Philip Spires

 

www.blogcritics.org – 14 May 2009

 

 

John Banville’s novel fictionalises a much analysed episode of mid-twentieth century history. A group of influential, intellectual and – let’s be honest – privileged idealists, all of whom attended and were recruited from Cambridge University, undertook spying and espionage activities on behalf of the Soviet Union. There is still some doubt about how many of them there were. One of them retired to an honoured celebrity in Moscow, eventually to have his remains interred in the Kremlin wall…

 


http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-the-untouchable-by-john/

 

 

 

John Mullan

 

The Guardian – 25 February 2006

 

t was in the late 1980s when I watched one evening a television documentary on the painter Poussin and the great Poussin scholar Anthony Blunt. The programme opened with a piece of footage shot at the beginning of the press conference given by Blunt – he was still Sir Anthony at that stage, not yet having been stripped of his knighthood – in a room at the London offices of the Times on the day after he had been named in parliament by Margaret Thatcher as the fourth man in the Philby-Burgess-Maclean spy ring…

 


http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/feb/25/johnbanville

 

 

Sarah Armstrongs

 

www.saraharmstrongs.wordpress.com – 01 January 2012

 

 

There are a few things you must be informed about before acquainting yourself with Victor Maskell. An interesting character indeed; he had been leading the double life quite consistently (until that scandalous public disgrace) but now he’s an old man with little left than words and memories (and that painting by Poussin)…

 


http://saraharmstrongs.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/book-review-john-banvilles-the-untouchable/

 

 

www.inverarity.livejournal.com

15 May 2012

 

 

Victor Maskell has been betrayed. After the announcement in the Commons, the hasty revelation of his double life of wartime espionage, his photograph is all over the papers. His disgrace is public, his position as curator of the Queen’s pictures terminated… Maskell writes his own testament, in an act not unlike the restoration of one of his beloved pictures, in order for the process of verification and attribution to begin…

 


http://inverarity.livejournal.com/145167.html