Milane Recommends: The Infinities by John Banville

This is a novel set in a large, faded, probably British house, in which a man is dying. This man is Adam Godley, whose fame has eclipsed Einstein’s. His equations have made the idea of infinity workable, by embracing the universe of infinite possibilities. His son, young Adam, comes to see him as he lies in a coma, and the son brings his wife along. The genius’s second wife tends to him, and his strange daughter drifts nearby. The novel’s narrator is Hermes, the psychopomp, so called because he guides souls to their next destination. Sometimes old Adam takes up the narrative, but it is questionable whether it’s really him or Hermes speaking. Hermes father Zeus, takes on any identity necessary to seduce young Adam’s beautiful wife and Pan arrives in the form of a doughy, bulky mathematician, who keeps everyone on edge.

Banville brings us the gods in as many forms as the ancients saw them. Hermes ends up being an enlightening messenger, and not so remote from humans after all. And he does much to console the mortal reader in the face of death, and the fear of death.

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