'It was a peculiar, out-of-body experience' - John Banville on the hoax call that made him believe he had won the Nobel Prize
It is perhaps wiser to judge a man in how he handles life’s disappointments than how he behaves at the height of his success.
And this weekend Booker Prize-winning author John Banville was as dignified and eloquent as ever in the face of a disappointment that made headlines around the world.
On Friday he had received a call, which appeared to come from the Swedish Academy’s offices, telling him he was one of two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature about half-an-hour before Thursday’s ceremony in Stockholm.
Later he was to learn that it was not to be, when he received a voice mail explaining that there had been a last-minute disagreement among the decision makers. Both communications seem to have been hoaxes.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he described his feelings the morning after the news: “It was a peculiar, out-of-body experience. But I’m a novelist, and all experience is potential material.”
He added: “One should never take prizes too seriously. They I’ve said it before, and I say it again, I’d be a poor writer indeed if the getting or not getting of a prize influenced what I write and how I write it.
“Every morning is a struggle to start up afresh, as every writer knows. I had intended to work today [Saturday], to make up for the previous two days of running about and shouting — not literally, but you know what I mean — but I’ve had too many distractions, a lot of them pleasant ones, for I’ve had many calls and emails from sympathisers.”
“Still”, he said, “it would have been nice to have all that lolly...”
Mr Banville, whose novels include the acclaimed Frames and Revolutions trilogies — The Book of Evidence, Ghosts and Athena; and Doctor Copernicus, Kepler and The Newton Letter — and The Sea, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2005, is in good company as a writer without a Nobel Prize in Literature to his name.
A host of the world’s greatest writers have famously not won the coveted prize, including. Robert Frost, John Updike, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, whose novel Ulysses is often called the greatest ever written.