Axel Vander, famous man of letters and recently widowed, travels to Turin to meet a young woman called Cass Cleave. Cleave is a literary researcher who has discovered two secrets about Vander's early years in Antwerp. The first is that, in the years prior to World War Two, Vander contributed some anti-Semitic articles to a right-wing newspaper, and secondly, that he is not Axel Vander at all. He is Vander's childhood friend; he appropriated Vander's name and identity after the man disappeared and was presumed dead.
The novel is partly inspired by two scandals regarding famous academics that occurred in the 1980s: the posthumous discovery of anti-Semitic texts written during World War II by literary critic Paul de Man, who had an influential postwar career in the United States; and the murder by Louis Althusser of his wife Hélène Legotien. Althusser was a well-known Marxist philosopher
Banville has said that this is one of his favourite of his novels — "a dark, hard, cruel book", one in which he came closest to achieving what he set out to write at the start of the writing process. He also noted that "Everybody hated Shroud—even, I think, the people who admired it. It was favorably reviewed, but it was not and is not a book a reader could readily love. Shroud is my monstrous child whom I cherish but who horrifies others."
- Bawer, Bruce (2003-03-16). "Double Exposure". New York Times Books. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
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