Paul Murray’s ‘Skippy Dies’ is a bit of a masterpiece, a book loved by many people. The Mark and the Void marks his eagerly awaited return and is certainly a hefty piece of work.
Paul has following Claude for a week, eager to tell the story of the French banker. He wants to tell a real story, and Claude has been chosen to be the centre of it. Paul points out the surroundings, the International Finance Services Cente, right in the middle of Dublin, but they could really be anywhere as an office like this isn’t grounded in any sense of place. He feels we’re living in an age of distraction, with everyone on their phones, not speaking to each other and always wanting to be somewhere else.
Paul sees Claude as the Everyman of today, right in the centre of a globalised world. The story of the banks is the story of the centre and Claude is right at the heart of it. Whether Paul is the right person to tell this story seems a questionable one as he hasn’t actually managed to write anything in years. Can a novel really he set in the IFSC, a bizarre place with much wealth and in some instances pretty much no employees?
Claude is very self-conscious at first with Paul watching him at work. The explanations of how the financial system works are as barmy as we expect from the stories we’ve read in recent years. There’s a great deal of humour here, with this story feeling at times like a very big book indeed as it takes on some of the grotesque issues that have plagued Ireland and indeed the wider world. It shows the workings of the wider financial systems through the goings on here at the Bank of Torabundo.
Things change in the story when Paul suggests they change the angle of the book so that the Everyman robs the bank to win the heart of a waitress and painter. This person comes in the form of Ariadne, a woman with a clear vision on the value of art and the way things are in society.
The book has many twists and turns and has a lot to say for itself. This is a familiar world of bankers gambling money at the expense of the people and is very much the story of our times. It’s bursting with humour and ideas and feels like a book which will gain in stature over time.