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Iris Murdoch: A Life

Conradi, Peter

188 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0393048756 / ISBN 13: 9780393048759
Published by W W Norton & Co Inc, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 2001
Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
From Kennedy Books (Jamestown, ND, U.S.A.)

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Quantity Available: 1

About this Item

Unread copy protected by Archival Brodart cover. Upper right book corners have slight wrinkle, otherwise book and DJ are in fine condition. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000901

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Iris Murdoch: A Life

Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

In "Iris Murdoch," Peter Conradi assesses the remarkable intellectual and cultural legacy of the celebrated philosopher and beloved novelist. Depicting her personal life in extraordinary detail -- her student days at Oxford, her Communist activities, her early affairs, and her enduring marriage to John Bayley -- he also deftly interprets her philosophical works and twenty-six novels with brilliant clarity and insight. Murdoch emerges as a writer who in her early years imagined herself as the heir to George Eliot but later found a kinship with Dostoevsky's fantastic realism, his obsessions with sadomasochism, and his philosophical fascination with moral anarchy. Relying on ninety-five hitherto unseen diaries, hundreds of interviews, and thousands of letters, Conradi has written a riveting biography that is as much an absorbing history of literary England from 1940 to the present as it is a vivid depiction of one of our greatest twentieth-century writers.

Review:

Peter Conradi is literary executor of the estate of Iris Murdoch (1919-99) and was her close friend in the 1980s and '90s, so sensible readers will not expect this to be a warts-and-all biography of the distinguished novelist and philosopher. What they get instead is a warm, appreciative portrait focused on Murdoch's formative years: happy Anglo-Irish childhood; intellectual fulfillment at Oxford University, where she joined the Communist Party and formed many enduring friendships; a stint in the civil service and work with refugees during World War II; and the postwar decade, when she began to write the intellectually challenging yet wickedly entertaining novels that made her reputation. John Bayley movingly described his wife's struggle with Alzheimer's disease in Elegy for Iris, and Conradi wisely does not reiterate that material. He concentrates on recapturing the intense young woman who awed fellow students with her brains and enticed men with her blonde hair and generous figure, yet kept everyone at a slight distance, finding epistolary relationships more manageable than the tangled sexual intrigues her fiction explores so acutely. She had many affairs, including a painful one with expatriate (and married) European intellectual Elias Canetti, but marriage to Bayley in 1956 gave her the stability she needed; over the next 40 years she produced 25 steadily more assured and provocative novels, from Under the Net through A Severed Head and The Black Prince to The Green Knight. Conradi uses interviews and Murdoch's journals to good effect in a lengthy but readable text that illuminates the personal experiences that so intimately informed her fiction. --Wendy Smith

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