A book about the Irish banking system is the funniest thing you’ ll read this fall.
To be c l e a r : I r i s h a ut hor Paul Murray doesn’t think that the catastrophic economic collapse that befell his country after the global recession is anything to be made light of. But is it a great backdrop for a satirical story about the bizarre world of investment banking circa 2008? Of course, says the author of The Mark and the Void:
Banks (unless they’re being robbed) aren’t generally the first place people think to set novels.... “There are some very dark things that have been happening in the world of financial capitalism for some time, but if it’s just me saying over and over ‘Banks are bad,’ it would be a very boring read. But once you burrow into it, the lives of bankers and the actual operations of a major investment bank are beyond parity.”
Much of the humour in this book comes from the way you capture the weirdness of office life. How did you find the funny there? “When you die, the greatest contribution your life will have is whatever you spent 40 hours a week doing, week in and week out, for 40 years. That’s fertile ground for humour.”
The hero of this book is Claude, a bank employee who feels like what he does is meaningless so he ends up recruiting a down-and-out novelist to “write” him a more meaningful life. Is that emptiness the “void” in the book title? “Instead of Claude saying ‘Well, this job doesn’t help anybody or make the world better at all, and maybe that’s why I feel like I’m living in a void,’ he says ‘Maybe I can find some narrative that I can hook on to and that will make me interesting.’ It’s an adolescent fantasy that you’ll find some job that will tick all your boxes or be perfectly fulfilling or give your life meaning.”