Doctor Copernicus

Doctor Copernicus

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'Banville is superb ...there are not many historical novels of which it can be said that they illuminate both the time that forms their subject matter and the time in which they are read: Doctor Copernicus is among the very best of them' - "The Economist". The work of Nicholas Koppernigk, better known as Copernicus, shattered the medieval view of the universe and led to the formulation of the image of the solar system we know today. Here his life is powerfully evoked in a novel that offers a vivid portrait of a man of painful reticence, haunted by a malevolent brother and baffled by the conspiracies that rage around him and his ideas while he searches for the secret of life. 'Banville writes novels of complex patterning, with grace, precision and timing' - "Guardian". 'With his fastidious wit and exquisite style, John Banville is the heir to Nabokov' - "Daily Telegraph". 'A tour de force: a fictional evocation of the great astronomer which is exciting, beautifully written and astonishingly redolent of the late medieval world' - "The Times".show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 18mm | 220g
  • Pan MacMillan
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • map
  • 0330372343
  • 9780330372343
  • 116,529

About John Banville

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fourteen other novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He has received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in more

Review Text

One of the odder facts about Nicolas Copernicus is that his great work De revolutionibus remained unpublished until he was on his deathbed. Certainly the dutiful Polish Canon knew that accusations of heresy would greet his sun-centered cosmology. But in this striking presentation, the deeper reason for the delay is a neurotic uncertainty - or ruined passion for certainty - arising from the astronomer's relationship with his sadistic, intensely loved and hated brother Andreas. Andreas' systematic destructiveness thrusts Nicolas into frozen isolation and increasingly poisoned mistrust of any final "truth." Indeed, no test of his theory was technologically possible during his own lifetime; Banville's lonely Canon Koppernigk comes to see the heliocentric-geocentric question as perhaps only a rivalry of sterile illusions - points of light in ambiguous motion. And thus he spends decade after methodical decade going about his duties in the see of Ermland in war-torn Baltic Poland. The final decision to publish is brilliantly presented by Banville through the eyes of a Nabokovian mad narrator - a former disciple lost in his own delusions. Elsewhere the book is less successful; a lifetime of barren doubts is not easy to project as imaginative drama. Banville's deliberately low-keyed and reticent style can sink into arid exposition; how much more Marguerite Yourcenar accomplishes in The Abyss (p. 424). This smaller achievement rarely commands our wonder, but at its best it does have a sort of poised conscientiousness which commands liking and respect. (Kirkus Reviews)show more