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Extra info for John Banville’s Narcissistic Fictions
The language of both of these self-images seems to betray the strange admixture of awe and aversion with which the narcissist regards him- or herself. In both instances, Vander represents himself as not just a monument, but a monument of a divine figure – an angel of light and a messiah. But he is a ‘grotesque’ seraph and a dead Christ with exposed genitalia and ‘featureless’ face. There is a suggestion of Lucifer in that image of the ancient, grotesque seraph. The association is strengthened when a variation of the same image reoccurs later: ‘I imagined again how I would seem to someone looking up from the streets below, an airborne figure […] about to plummet, a decrepit, lost archangel’ (45).
In de Beauvoir’s terms, his wife is the object onto whom he projects himself in order to reach himself. He is a self-made man, but would give anything to have been born into a condition of elegance and grace. ‘The fact is,’ he admits, ‘I would happily have exchanged everything I had made myself into for a modicum of inherited grace, something not of my own invention, and which I had done nothing to deserve’ (Banville, 2000a: 35). In this respect, Lydia fulfils the need for an idealised selfobject in that she presents an exotic, indistinctly Eastern figure.
It bears only a notional relation to that which it claims to represent. It is this idea of the self as a slender simulacrum which motivates so much of the ontological unease of Banville’s narcissistic narrators. It is in Shroud, however, that such anxieties reach their culmination. The notion of character as ‘an imitation of an imitation’ is a central one in Eclipse’s companion novel, Shroud. Shroud is the story of Axel Vander, a world-renowned academic with a disgraceful past to conceal. Amongst his worst sins are the shamefully self-interested euthanising of his senile wife and the series of explicitly anti-Semitic articles he supposedly authored during the war.