The Untouchable

The Untouchable One of the most dazzling and adventurous writers now working in English takes on the enigma of the Cambridge spies in a novel of exquisite menace biting social comedy and vertiginous moral complexit

  • Title: The Untouchable
  • Author: John Banville
  • ISBN: 9780679767473
  • Page: 469
  • Format: Paperback
  • One of the most dazzling and adventurous writers now working in English takes on the enigma of the Cambridge spies in a novel of exquisite menace, biting social comedy, and vertiginous moral complexity The narrator is the elderly Victor Maskell, formerly of British intelligence, for many years art expert to the Queen Now he has been unmasked as a Russian agent and subjecOne of the most dazzling and adventurous writers now working in English takes on the enigma of the Cambridge spies in a novel of exquisite menace, biting social comedy, and vertiginous moral complexity The narrator is the elderly Victor Maskell, formerly of British intelligence, for many years art expert to the Queen Now he has been unmasked as a Russian agent and subjected to a disgrace that is almost a kind of death But at whose instigation As Maskell retraces his tortuous path from his recruitment at Cambridge to the airless upper regions of the establishment, we discover a figure of manifold doubleness Irishman and Englishman husband, father, and lover of men betrayer and dupe Beautifully written, filled with convincing fictional portraits of Maskell s co conspirators, and vibrant with the mysteries of loyalty and identity, The Untouchable places John Banville in the select company of both Conrad and le Carre.Winner of the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction Contemporary fiction gets no better than this Banville s books teem with life and humor Patrick McGrath, The New York Times Book Review Victor Maskell is one of the great characters in recent fiction The Untouchable is the best work of art in any medium on its subject Washington Post Book World As remarkable a literary voice as any to come out of Ireland Joyce and Beckett notwithstanding San Francisco Chronicle

    One thought on “The Untouchable”

    1. It took a while for the magic of this to work on me. Initially I thought Banville’s prose had the quality of bracken on a forest floor – the light picks out some beautiful tones and textures but there was a pervading sense of brittle lifelessness. I felt he wrote like someone who never leaves his study - or perhaps never leaves his head. But, then, all of a sudden, just before world war two arrives, it jumped into life and I very much doubt if I’ll read a more beautifully written novel thi [...]

    2. After reading something written so well, it’s a disappointment having only my own less eloquent words available to praise it. Maybe it’s better to let Banville’s passages sell themselves. I’ll get to those soon, but first a bit of context. The book, I learned only today, is a Roman a clef -- more or less a true account of the infamous Cambridge spies disguised as a novel. The focus is on Victor Maskell, a composite figure based primarily on real-life Anthony Blunt. It’s structured as a [...]

    3. ALL HIGH TALK AND LOW FROLICS:Part I ("My Other Secret Life")I first encountered the Judge, professionally, in Court.Early in my career, I appeared in the Family Court 400 times over two years. 50 or so appearances would have been before him.He was a precise and impatient judge. He had little tolerance for fools or the lazy or the unprepared. My reputation, some of which he would have contributed to, was that I anticipated what a judge wanted and I gave it to him. I use the masculine pronoun, be [...]

    4. Victor Maskell started spying as"a flight from ennui and a search for diversion". A marvellously bleak and cynical tale.

    5. As readers we have all experienced or come across books that either make a siren call to us, which we can’t ignore, or speak to us in a way that makes us drown within its pages, or even sing to us, a beautiful melody that soothes our spirit and enthralls us in a way nothing else does. This book had a combination of all those whilst also painting vivid pictures that would definitely give artists around the world a run for their money. Honestly, I am not exaggerating when I say this, as it was m [...]

    6. This is my second try with John Banville. Once again, he impresses me with his ability to write nearly perfect prose and characters who are as flesh and blood and flawed as any who ever breathed, while completely boring me. That's strike two, Mr. Banville, and two is all most authors get from me.Banville is a serious Literary Dude, and this is a serious Literary Dude's novel. The Untouchable is written as a memoir by one Victor Maskell, who is based on real-life Cambridge spy Anthony Blunt; alth [...]

    7. I've been spending the last month reading novels written by John Banville. It's fun with authors that have multiple works to stick with them one after another for a while to glimpse their depth and soak their craft. If at all possible the author should be wise and a good artist so that you see a little better where you are and maybe, if you are so inclined, refine your own attempts at expression through the absorption of their rhythms, their vocabulary. I started off with The Sea and then read T [...]

    8. It seems like I have been reading this forever. The story is confusing, but the writing is glorious. Reading Banville is like reading a text book for writers. But you have to read slowly, savoring the word choices and images. It's best to read on kindle, with dictionary at hand.

    9. "Недосегаемият" е от онези книги, които те поглъщат, не искаш да свършват и за които благородно завиждаш на онези, които са в началото на удоволствието. Книга, след която се страхуваш да започнеш друга, за да не налетиш на подобие на литература.Трябва да се чете бавно, за да бъ [...]

    10. What forces a person to betray his country? Where do all the spies come from? What makes them ticking? Some true espionage stories are much stranger than fiction, especially when the tale is told by such master as John Banville.“To take possession of a city of which you are not a native you must first fall in love there.”To achieve our own ideals we are ready to betray any ideals of the others.

    11. A book I’d like to erase from my mind to be able to experience it all over again.As an espionage thriller it has the mood and tawdry realism of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. But (with the greatest love and admiration for early John le Carré) this is much more than a genre novel. I’ve seen Banville compared to Vladimir Nabokov and on the evidence of The Untouchable the comparison is not overblown. In fact I’d go as far as to submit that this as good as Lolita in the way it uses a hein [...]

    12. I liked the first part of this book more than the latter half. There is an odd sense of oh-do-let’s-be-done-with-this in the back half of this book, although there are still some great passages in the latter half. What I enjoyed most in this book was the richness of Banville’s language. The other main point for me was the inversion of the typical espionage story. One rarely gets the traitor as protagonist, and in this case such an unpalatable character. It was refreshing, in a way.

    13. This is a terrific reimagining of the life of Anthony Blunt, but although many of the historical events are shared, much of Victor Maskell's life and character is clearly fictional. I found it a bit difficult to get started, but once Maskell's mixture of stylish erudition, humour and ruthlessness became familiar, I found it enjoyable and entertaining - one of Banville's best creations.

    14. Read because Yanagihara praised it in a recent Guardian interview; a fictionalized account from the 1st person of one of the Cambridge spies — in this case a Protestant Irish immigrant who became a comfortable member of the upper class in London, a curator of the royal art collection and a major art historian, specialist in Poussin (one of whose pictures, The Death of Seneca, he keeps at home, though it seems to be fake). This a long story of his movement in various circles, the glimpses of t [...]

    15. This is a great novel based on a blending of the lives of several real-life British men, “The Cambridge Five,” who were spies for the Soviets in the 1930’s through the 1950’s. Our main character, given the name Victor Maskell, is a gay man who found out he was gay only after being married and having two kids. This was a time when homosexuality was a crime in Britain and gay men had to resort to meetings in public restrooms. One character commits suicide after he was arrested in police st [...]

    16. Историята на един шпионин(Цялото ревю е тук: knijenpetar.wordpress/201 Бях сигурен, че няма да ми е лесно с Джон Банвил, още повече че прочетох един доста пространен материал за личността и творчеството му, преди да започна самата книга. Всъщност прехвърлих десетина страници за настрой [...]

    17. Vita interiore di un apostoloL'incontro con questo libro è stato eccellente, perchè è scritto in modo brillante e il protagonista è un critico d'arte inglese: l'arte mi affascina e il Regno Unito anche, per quello che ho visto. Procedendo nella lettura, l'ho trovato un po' incredibile: il protagonista è uno studente di Cambridge, colto, indeciso se dedicarsi alla matematica o all'arte, sceglie l'arte. Affascinante, imparentato con la regina madre, frequenta clubs esclusivi e la società deg [...]

    18. Like many of Banville's narrators, Victor Maskell, the eponymous "untouchable", is an art historian. The details surrounding Maskell's life roughly correspond to a conflation of Anthony Blunt (1907-83), who was exposed in 1979 as a former Soviet spy, and the Belfast-born poet, Louis MacNeice (1907-63). The form of the novel is a fictionalised memoir, written out by Maskell in the last year of his life, detailing his rise from Cambridge undergrad in the early '30s to member of the Royal Household [...]

    19. I enjoyed this book very much and I think the ending is terrific. Fascinating to read about Anthony Blunt and find how very closely his career is followed in this fictionalisation of his life.Banville's writing is beautiful and the pace is perfect. Highly recommended.

    20. In the end, I found the book chilling in its portrayal of a man without authentic emotional ties. He is alienated from his children. Apparent friends have betrayed him. He doesn't even seem particularly tied to the politics that have supposedly driven him into his life as a double-agent.

    21. I first read John Banville several years ago when I picked up a mystery, Christine Falls, written under a pseudonym. By now, I remember little of that story, but I still remember that the writing was of close to literary quality rather than the somewhat less quality that is usual in the genre. I wasn't disappointed here in The Untouchable. Several GR members have this shelved as spy/thriller, and, with the GR description, I was sort of expecting something in that vein. Well, it isn't. This is wr [...]

    22. Ambitious saga chronicling the disaffected, alienated generation coming of age in the WWI thirties (upper-class, well-educated, with no 'anchor') and their often-successful wooing by already-converted dons in their respective ivied universities such as Cambridge, Eton, Oxford. LeCarre' has already covered this ground somewhat, but this book is a 'life' of such a young man, played into his seventies and brutally illustrating the cost/benefits balance sheet of an existence predicated upon duplicit [...]

    23. Well, I have finally read a Banville novel, and it did not disappoint. The complexity of the language was exquisite, his philosophical musing on love, relationships, friendship, social structure and the need for Stoicism in our lives was interesting, to say the least. He spent the whole novel referencing his beloved "Death of Seneca" by Poussin, I wasn't sure if this was simply a literary device to keep referencing stoicism, since Seneca was one of the great stoic philosophers, but Banville skil [...]

    24. An auspicious introduction for me, to this very intelligent author. In this very well crafted novel the author takes us through a fictional account of the life of a Cambridge spy during the time around World War II. The protagonist leads a double life in almost every sense of the meaning, and finds thrills in his deception, the same way he finds comfort in art, which is his another of his loves. His identity is built on lies, and those lies are both his security, and potentially his undoing. Now [...]

    25. Едната звездичка минус не е заради автора, а заради мен. Всеки път навлизам мудно в прозата на Банвил, когото иначе много обичам. Обикновено влизам в ритъма на стила му след 50-60 страници, но този път не можах да се настроя на тази вълна и чак като стигнах до последните страниц [...]

    26. The novel is the memoir of Victor Maskell, scion of the estate of Carrickdrum in Northern Ireland, an Art Historian, expert on Poussin; and a spy for the USSR since his time at Cambridge in the 1930s. His journal is written down as if for Miss Serena Vandeleur, a journalist who comes to him after his exposure to the press long, long after the Security Services had become aware of his treacherous activities. He thus bears a more than superficial resemblance to Anthony Blunt but doubtless the para [...]

    27. [rating = A-]One of my: Best Books of the Year (for 2017)What a series of tricks Mr. Banville has pulled off! He is just a showman that loves to showoff, though he does it so offhandedly it appears subtly accidental. I just love Banville; even if he uses large (sorry, perhaps "archaic" is more accurate) words and his plots are not always focused (except this one was a better novel for plotters!!), he still has a magical way with language. I have noticed that what he enjoys most is describing lig [...]

    28. Racing through this it is so so brilliant. Incredible writing, the story of an expose spies life which is largely based around Anthony Blunt. There are some fold-in elements taken from Louis MacNeice's life which are fine but sort of sit a little oddly - that's my only complaint. Otherwise this is a huge treat - intelligent, waspishly funny, the snobbishness is played to the hilt. As the novel moves into its second half Maskell's lies about himself slip out of the narrative; I'm thinking about t [...]

    29. Meh, started this cuz I wanted to read something that didn't remind me of my current life situation at ALL. And then ironically the book turns out to be about a Russia scandal. LOLWouldn't recommend. Couldn't tell the characters apart, couldn't really follow the plot, the writing was "good" but not really my style and I got really tired of it halfway through. Laughably bad sex scenes.

    30. John Banville is a fascinating writer. This is my second try at his novels, and there seems to be quite a pattern. The writing is gorgeous, the plot interesting and gratifyingly complex, and all of the characters utterly and profoundly unsympathetic. I get the sense that the author feels a bit like it would be giving in to cheap standards to give his principle character any redeemable personality traits. Victor Maskell, the Cambridge spy around which the story revolves, is selfish and vain almos [...]

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