It was a case of second time lucky for Wexford-born John Banville who was awarded the Man Booker prize for fiction this month. This most prestigious of British literary awards carries with it prize money of 50,000 as well as the guarantee of an enormous increase in sales and international recognition. Prior to winning the award, Banvilles elegiac novel The Sea, published by Picador, had sold a mere 3,000 or so copies in the UK, but this is set to change as bookshops in Britain and Ireland stock up. The Sea, which tells the story of an elderly widower who returns to the seaside town where he had spent his youth, was described by the judges as a masterly study of grief, memory and love recollected.
Banville had been short-listed for the Booker Prize once before in 1989 with a novel entitled The Book of Evidence. In his acceptance speech at the Guildhall in London, Banville encouraged other authors to persevere even in the face of apparent failure and thanked his agent, editor and publisher for having supported him during less successful times. His first novel was written at the age of 25 and since then he has written 13 further novels. He also spent over 10 years as literary editor at The Irish Times. Banville now lives in Dublin.