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Kepler [Paperback]

John Banville
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 May 1990
A historical novel based on the life and work of Johannes Kepler, the great astronomer of the 17th-century, which was winner of "The Guardian" Fiction Prize in 1981. The author also wrote "Doctor Copernicus" which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1976 and "The Newton Letter".

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Minerva; New edition edition (3 May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749390778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749390778
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.4 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,693,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fifteen novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

Product Description


When the solution came, it came, as always, through a back door of the mind, hesitating shyly, an announcing angel dazed by the immensity of its journey." -- from Kepler In a brilliant illumination of the Renaissance mind, the acclaimed Irish novelist John Banville re-creates the life of Johannes Kepler and his incredible drive to chart the orbits of the planets and the geometry of the universe. Wars, witchcraft, and disease rage throughout Europe. And for this court mathematician, vexed by domestic strife, appalled by the religious upheavals that have driven him from exile to exile, and vulnerable to the whims of his eccentric patrons, astronomy is a quest for some form of divine order. For all of the mathematical precision of his exploration, though, it is a seemingly elusive quest until he makes one glorious and profoundly human discovery. "Narrative a positively symphonic level." -- The Guardian

About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fourteen previous novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He has received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Dublin. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Progression from Dr. Copernicus 12 Nov 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
John Banville's, "Dr. Copernicus", was excellent in its entirety, and sections of the work were exceptional. "Kepler" which is a sequel in a Historical sense, may not match the former for its consistency of excellence, however it is still a very good novel, it takes the work of Copernicus another step, and is a piece of work that is 5 star material when compared to much of contemporary writing. The four star ranking is only relative to, "Dr. Copernicus".

The idea of whether these early stargazers believed their work documented truth or merely supported what they observed is taken a step further with Kepler and his work. When Kepler and his peers were working, mathematical proof was becoming the essence of what they would eventually publish. Work that appeared to explain what was seen was no longer enough, proving it to oneself and one's peers was the new test. One of the great enigmas that Kepler sought to solve was the orbit of Mercury. His findings were to change the Copernican view of the Universe, while Galileo was extending the very reach of it.

The science, and the math employed are raised a couple of steps from the previous novel, and are part of why I liked this work less. Understanding complex ideas should not be brought down to such simplistic levels so that no effort to understand is required, and whatever is learned is of little use as it relates to the true and complete idea. I always enjoy a writer that can explain complex theory in a manner that allows an inquisitive mind to be challenged, and the science enjoyed. In "Kepler", this did not happen the majority of the time. So the reader must just take on faith what is said, or study some pretty advanced geometry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'That was the demon. He recognised it.' 8 Jan 2010
This is a beautiful book, winner of The Guardian Fiction Prize in 1981. I first read it 10 years ago but I enjoyed and appreciated it much more when I reread it recently. Here are some thoughts about it:

+ It is a beautifully crafted book, inspiring and down to earth, just like the subject of the novel. Banville manages to weave an intriguing and engaging text about the man and his times.

+ The narrative structure of the novel is not linear but somehow reminiscent of Kepler's study and perception of the universe.

+ The book is 'alive' in terms of the rhythm: the slow-paced narrative of lived experience in the earlier parts of the novel contrasts with the speedy final pages where a sense of revelation (Kepler's) coincides with a sense of a closure-that-is-not-a-closure ('Never die, never die.')

+ Like Kepler, the reader often 'recognises' the ghost in the machine: 'That was the demon. He recognised it. He had known it before, the selfsame feeling [...] in order to destroy the past, the human and hopelessly defective past, and begin all over again the attempt of teetering on the brink while the gleeful voice at his ear whispered jump.'
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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting account of early astronomy 25 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Typical banville. Tremendous language, history and a personal slant on one of the worlds early astronomers. Lots of humour and dry wit, good character descriptions, all set against the background of Lutheran middle Europe. Follows Copernicus as a very good read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great rendering of a true Genius 15 April 2012
I barely knew anything from Kepler, appart from those concepts explained in the Physics class in High School, and didn't realize his true weight in modern science.

This book novelizes Kepler's life, at least his adult years. The author is interested in showing how great achievements came by, made by great genious, who lead lives that are more often than not dire and disaggreeable. It reminded me of "Measuring the World", only I find this novel better, more fulfiling.

Kepler was a genious (like Copernicus and Galileus) who had to build a new branch of science, to develop the mathematical tools for that pursuit, and on the same journey to pull down his own assumptions, theories and prejudice.

He had to build on observations that were not his, buth Brahe's, and at the same time struggled to make a living, because he was not very fortunate: he didn't manage to be an appreciated teacher, he was protestant in catholic lands, his wife's social position was better than his, he couldn't secure a powerful protector.. As other readers point out, it is difficult to know where the novel starts and where the true history begins, but the author has done a very clever and outstanding job of it.

One can only marvel how this man, who had everything against him (family position, religious prejudice, wars, illness, lack of understanding from his family...) could climb such an intelectual peak that would tumble astronomy, physics, religion and reshape the our vision of nature and life. The book accompanies him through this voyage, from one poor house to a palace, from school to observatory, from family life to imperial court.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is the fictional version of the life of Kepler. I found it very interesting though to me the subject matter, Kepler was a seventeenth century astronomer, is dry. Banville does turn a rather boring life's work into a good story. The work is thought provoking and touches on the state of religious affairs in Europe at this time, as well as the way a mathematician has to pay his way. Keplar had to rely on sponsors such as the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph II and his successors during a time of religious turmoil and wars for the right to rule.
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