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The Mark and the Void

Paul Murray


Idea for a novel: we have a banker rob his own bank. He's work­ing alone; at first, it'll look like a classic inside job. This man, however, is not what you'd call an insider. He's French, not Irish, and although initially he might look like a typical Parisian - black suit, expensive shoes, hair neat but worn slightly long - as the story unfolds and his past comes to light, we find out he never quite fitted in over there either. He didn't grow up in a leafy sub­urb, didn't attend a fancy grande ecole of the kind that bankers tend to come from; instead he spent his childhood in a run-down corner that the city prefers to disown, and his father's something blue-collar - a welder maybe, a veteran of 1968, a tough nut.

The family doesn't have much: the father's job is precarious, they're constantly resorting to moneylenders, bailiffs come to take the car away, all that. But the father's ambitious for the boy; the father's determined that he'll have a better life. So the son beavers away in his third-rate school and makes it into a second-rate university, and after graduating at the top of his class, he's offered a position in a prestigious French bank. It's dull work, mostly filing and admin, but he's diligent and quick and after a few months his manager takes note of him and recommends him for a start in the Research Department.

As a junior analyst, his official role is to dig up information on companies for the bank and its clients. In practice, he spends his time fixing paper jams, fetching coffees and listening politely while his boss describes his recent sexual adventures. When he gets to do his job, though, he finds that he likes it. More import­antly, he's good at it.