One Minute With: John Banville, novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

In my flat in the centre of Dublin, which I use as an office. There are many immigrant families in the apartment complex and... a courtyard where children of various races gather to play together in the afternoons; the sound of their medleyed voices is a constant delight as the day wanes.

What are you currently reading?

Max Hastings's masterly 'Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord, 1940-45', Tony Judt's final and almost unbearably moving book, 'The Memory Chalet', and Robert Coover's elegant, sinister and witty novella 'Spanking the Maid'.

Choose a favourite author and say why you like him/her

My favourite author at the moment is William James... A wise philosopher, and there are not many of those about.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's small, with bookcases, a sensible cherrywood table on which I write in longhand, with a fountain pen, and a desk on which my computer stands. Before me on the wall is a framed print of one of Picasso's etchings from the Vollard Suite, the one that appears on the jacket of my novel 'The Infinities'.

What distracts you from writing?

Thoughts of money and death, and a postcard reproduction of Bronzino's 'An Allegory with Venus and Cupid', from the National Gallery in London, which is pinned to my wall beside the Picasso print, and is the sexiest painting I know.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Phoebe Griffin in my Benjamin Black novels, particularly the latest, 'Elegy for April', in which she becomes really interesting. My agent Ed Victor says I am in love with her, but I think I am her.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Disappointed. I suppose they expect someone tall, dark and handsome, and they get me.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Marie Curie.

John Banville's latest novel, as Benjamin Black, is 'Elegy for April' (Mantle)

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