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Family Romances

Anthony Thwaite, 2 February 1989

A Little Stranger 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 9780747502791
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Running wild 
by J.G. Ballard.
Hutchinson, 72 pp., £5.95, November 1988, 0 09 173498 3
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Breathing Lessons 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 327 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7011 3391 0
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... George Barker (The Dead Seagull) and Craig Raine, and who had once heard the plot of a novel by Iris Murdoch. The novel’s characters were indeed Romantic, if by that one means fabulous, fanciful, whimsical, high-flown, etc, as under Roget 515: Lucas Salik, Anne Cowdenbeath, Cora Godfrey and the rest seemed precocious fictions, made palpable only by ...

With A, then B, then C

Susan Eilenberg: The Sexual Life of Iris M., 5 September 2002

Iris MurdochA Life 
by Peter Conradi.
HarperCollins, 706 pp., £9.99, August 2002, 9780006531753
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... my friends, I say to the teacups and spoons. Such intense love for Puss – more and more,’ Iris Murdoch wrote in her journal. It was the summer of 1993. Her 25th novel was just being published, and she was working at her last, Jackson’s Dilemma. Who was Jackson? Puss asked her, but she could not tell. ‘I don’t think he’s been born ...

Plato’s Friend

Ian Hacking, 17 December 1992

Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 520 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 7011 3998 6
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... mean it’s thinking, and it’s a programme of action.’ That’s Crimond, the high-flyer, in Iris Murdoch’s 1989 The Book of the Brotherhood, replying to a question about his projected book. His envious interlocutor Gerrard asks:   ‘So it’s like a very long pamphlet?’   ‘No. It’s not a long simplification. It’s about ...

Don’t worry about the pronouns

Michael Wood: Iris Murdoch’s First Novel, 3 January 2019

Under the Net 
by Iris Murdoch.
Vintage, 432 pp., £9.99, July 2019, 978 1 78487 518 3
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... of a later perspective (real or imagined) into an earlier one. We may be a little surprised to see Iris Murdoch playing with the Russian Formalists’ distinction of story and plot (fabula and syuzhet, events in their chronological order and events in the order of their arrangement). Or even to see her playing at all. But we should not be, and for several ...

Another A.N. Wilson

Michael Irwin, 3 December 1981

Who was Oswald Fish? 
by A.N. Wilson.
Secker, 314 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 436 57606 6
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... Price if she so wishes. In summary, as at full length, The Sweets of Pimlico recalls the work of Iris Murdoch. But if certain points of detail and emphasis seem to reflect her influence in particular, the genre concerned has attracted other distinguished practitioners and goes back a long way. Forster, especially in the earlier novels, and ...

Fallen Language

Donald Davie, 21 June 1984

The Lords of Limit: Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Deutsch, 203 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97581 0
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... and Greville and Sidney, for Hobbes and Cudworth, for Locke and Berkeley, as for J.L. Austin and Iris Murdoch and himself. Similarly he assumes that Americans like Santayana and John Crowe Ransom and Kenneth Burke, when they speak of language, have in their sights and in their ears the same language as the one that he and Austin and ...

Like Apollinaire

Michael Wood, 4 April 1996

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by Paul St John Mackintosh and Maki Sugiyama.
Boyars, 189 pp., £14.95, May 1995, 0 7145 2997 4
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A Personal Matter 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by John Nathan.
Picador, 165 pp., £5.99, January 1996, 0 330 34435 8
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Hiroshima Notes 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by David Swain and Toshi Yonezawa.
Boyars, 192 pp., £14.95, August 1995, 0 7145 3007 7
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... in the wake of Sartre and Camus, and before the Sixties became the Sixties. William Golding, Iris Murdoch, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Thomas Pynchon, who else? Oë wrote his graduation thesis on Sartre (in 1959), and evokes Camus in Hiroshima Notes: ‘A plague that ravages a city in North Africa, for example, appears as an abnormal ...


Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... by playing a South Coast matinée rather than wrangle with literati over the competing merits of Iris Murdoch, Jan Morris and Keri Hulme.This year the judges did make one interesting – and perhaps influential – early decision. Publishers have hitherto been allowed to nominate four books for the prize, but also submit a ‘B’ list which the judges ...


John Jones: Iris, Hegel and Me, 18 December 2003

... I’ve been basking in a warm glow from A.N. Wilson’s recent book about Iris Murdoch* – I mean its way of holding Plato and Kant not quite on a level with each other but far above everyone else except Hegel, about whom more later, in its account of her attention to the classical masters. This is a big merit, and a needful one because others, including her official biographer, have been at fault here ...


Christopher Ricks, 21 November 1985

Gentlemen in England 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 02 411165 1
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... a clean true plot, whereas The Healing Art, which could have been even better, could have been an Iris Murdoch novel that was good, never knew what to do with the situation it so compellingly established. The dramatic monologue, which Wilson has pondered with imaginative pertinacity, is the art of rotatory unadvancing character, and of situation strictly ...

I feel guilty

Adam Phillips, 11 March 1993

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and Further Psychoanalytic Explorations 
by Nina Coltart.
Free Association, 200 pp., £15.95, December 1992, 1 85343 186 9
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The Damned and the Elect 
by Friedrich Ohly, translated by Linda Archibald.
Cambridge, 211 pp., £30, September 1992, 0 521 38250 5
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... and the novelist she quotes to such good effect, and with whom she shares certain affinities, is Iris Murdoch (the other novelist who comes to mind in reading her is Henry James). She is interested, that is to say, in the mixing but not the muddling of traditions, and in psychoanalysis as inescapably a moral enterprise – ‘tending as it does towards ...

How to do the life

Lorna Sage, 10 February 1994

Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World 
by Carol Brightman.
Lime Tree, 714 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 413 45821 0
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... of other writers and critics – Raymond Williams, Doris Lessing and (perhaps most suggestively) Iris Murdoch – who were all talking about something similar at the same time. You can describe it in many different ways, but it comes down to the disintegration of the representative function of fiction, as much as its representational one. As McCarthy ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... shooting, many of Frank’s poems, journal entries and letters to his parents, to Edward and to Iris Murdoch. Such memorials had become almost a convention of the times, at least on the intellectual left – Frank was both intellectual and Communist – following similar books in memory of John Cornford, Julian Bell and David Haden-Guest, all killed in ...

Finding out who you were

Paul Delany, 6 August 1992

Murther and Walking Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 357 pp., £14.95, October 1991, 1 85619 078 1
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... with everyday concerns, and is active mainly within the horizon of an individual life. With Iris Murdoch or Anthony Powell – Davies’s closest equivalents among British novelists – mythic seriousness cohabits somewhat uneasily with social comedy. On the other side of the Atlantic, a mythic hero like Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King also ...

At the Pool

Inigo Thomas, 21 June 2018

... like Joseph Mitchell’s collected New York journalism, Up in the Old Hotel, but who knows why? Iris Murdoch was a Sprawson enthusiast. In her review of the book, published in the New York Review, she revealed her own aquatic inclinations: I am not in the athletic sense a keen swimmer, but I am a devoted one. On hot days in the Oxford summer my husband ...

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