novelist and journalist, born in Wexford, literary editor of the Irish Times from 1989. His fiction is characterized by a densely referential style and by a preoccupation with the act of writing itself. Long Lankin (1970), his first book, was a collection of stories and a concluding novella, ‘The Possessed’, which was drawn on for his first novel, Nightspawn (1971). Birchwood (1973) was followed by a trilogy of fictional biographies of figures from the history of science—Doctor Copernicus (1976), Kepler (1981), and The Newton Letter: An Interlude (1982). The central figure of Mefisto (1986) is Gabriel Swan, a man obsessed by numbers. The Book of Evidence (1989) was followed by two loosely connected sequels, Ghosts (1993), whose protagonist is a scientist who has been convicted of murder, and Athena (1994), in which the same narrator becomes ensnared in a conspiracy involving stolen works of art. Later novels include The Untouchable (1997), a deft transmutation of the spy novel with a character based on art historian Anthony Blunt, and The Sea (2005, Booker Prize), a novel of grief, recollection, and loss.