In a dark comedy of errors, Iris Murdoch portrays the mischief wrought by Julius, a cynical intellectual who decides to demonstrate through a Machiavellian experiment how easily loving couples, caring friends, and devoted siblings can betray their loyalties. As puppet master, Julius artfully plays on the human tendency to embrace drama and intrigue and to prefer the distraction of confrontations to the difficult effort of communicating openly and honestly.
A brilliant mythical drama about well-meaning people trapped in a war of spiritual forces
Marian Taylor, who has come as a 'companion' to a lovely woman in a remote castle, becomes aware that her employer is a prisoner, not only of her obsessions, but of an unforgiving husband.
Hannah, the Unicorn, seemingly an image of persecuted virtue, fascinates those who surround her, some of whom plan to rescue her from her dream of redemptive suffering. But is she an innocent victim, a guilty woman, a mad woman, or a witch? Is her spiritual life really some evil enchantment? If she is forcibly liberated will she die? The ordinary, sensible people survive, and are never sure whether they have understood.
Charles Arrowby, leading light of England's theatrical set, retires from glittering London to an isolated home by the sea. He plans to write a memoir about his great love affair with Clement Makin, his mentor, both professionally and personally, and amuse himself with Lizzie, an actress he has strung along for many years. None of his plans work out, and his memoir evolves into a riveting chronicle of the strange events and unexpected visitors-some real, some spectral-that disrupt his world and shake his oversized ego to its very core.
A lay community of thoroughly mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, home of an order of sequestered nuns. A new bell is being installed when suddenly the old bell, a legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered. And then things begin to change. Meanwhile the wise old Abbess watches and prays and exercises discreet authority. And everyone, or almost everyone, hopes to be saved, whatever that may mean. Originally published in 1958, this funny, sad, and moving novel is about religion, sex, and the fight between good and evil.
Bradley Pearson, an unsuccessful novelist in his late fifties, has finally left his dull office job as an Inspector of Taxes. Bradley hopes to retire to the country, but predatory friends and relations dash his hopes of a peaceful retirement. He is tormented by his melancholic sister, who has decided to come live with him; his ex-wife, who has infuriating hopes of redeeming the past; her delinquent brother, who wants money and emotional confrontations; and Bradley's friend and rival, Arnold Baffin, a younger, deplorably more
successful author of commercial fiction. The ever-mounting action includes marital cross-purposes, seduction, suicide, abduction, romantic idylls, murder, and due process of law. Bradley tries to escape from it all but fails, leading to a violent climax and a coda that casts shifting perspectives on all that has preceded.
A comic novel about work and love, wealth and fame
Jake Donaghue, garrulous artist, meets Hugo Bellfounder, silent philosopher.
Jake, hack writer and sponger, now penniless flat-hunter, seeks out an old girlfriend, Anna Quentin, and her glamorous actress sister, Sadie. He resumes acquaintance with the formidable Hugo, whose 'philosophy' he once presumptuously dared to interpret. These meetings involve Jake and his eccentric servant-companion, Finn, in a series of adventures that include the kidnapping of a film-star dog and a political riot on a film set of ancient Rome. Jake, fascinated, longs to learn Hugo's secret. Perhaps Hugo's secret is Hugo himself? Admonished, enlightened, Jake hopes at last to become a real writer.
A scintillating novel of fate, accidents, and moral dilemmas
Set in the time of the Vietnam War, this story concerns the plight of a young American, happily installed in a perfect job in England, engaged to a wonderful girl, who is suddenly drafted to a war he disapproves of.
What is duty here, what is self-interest, what is cowardice? Austin Gibson Grey, the accidental man of the title, is accident-prone, also prone to bring disaster to his friend sand relations. He blames fate. But are we not all accidental, one of his victims asks. Fate and accidents make deep moral dilemmas for the characters in the long and complex tale.
A story about love and friendship and Marxism
Many years ago Gerard Hernshaw and his friends 'commissioned' one of their number to write a political book.
Time passes and opinions change. 'Why should we go on supporting a book which we detest?' Rose Curtland asks. 'The brotherhood of Western intellectuals versus the book of history,' Jenkin Riderhood suggests. The theft of a wife further embroils the situation. Moral indignation must be separated from political disagreement.
Tamar Hernshaw has a different trouble and a terrible secret. Can one die of shame? In another quarter a suicide pact seems the solution. Duncan Cambus thinks that since it is a tragedy, someone must die. Someone dies. Rose, who has gone on loving without hope, at least deserves a reward.
Best known as the author of twenty-six novels, Iris Murdoch has also made significant contributions to the fields of ethics and aesthetics. Collected here for the first time in one volume are her most influential literary and philosophical essays. Tracing Murdoch's journey to a modern Platonism, this volume includes incisive evaluations of the thought and writings of T. S. Eliot, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvior, and Elias Canetti, as well as key texts on the continuing importance of the sublime, on the concept of love, and the role great literature can play in curing the ills of philosophy.
Existentialists and Mystics not only illuminates the mysticism and intellectual underpinnings of Murdoch's novels, but confirms her major contributions to twentieth-century thought.
Full of suspense, humor, and symbolism, this magnificently crafted and magical novel replays biblical and medieval themes in contemporary London. An attempt by the sharp, feral, and uncommonly intelligent Lucas Graffe to murder his sensual and charismatic half-brother Clement is interrupted by a stranger-'whom Lucas strikes and leaves for dead. When the stranger mysteriously reappears, with specific demands for reparation, the Graffes' circle of idiosyncratic family and friends is disrupted-'for the demands are bizarre, intrusive, and ultimately fatal.
A novel about the frightfulness and ruthlessness of being in love
Martin Lynch-Gibson believes he can possess both a beautiful wife and a delightful lover. But when his wife, Antonia, suddenly leaves him for her psychoanalyst, Martin is plunged into an intensive emotional reeducation. He attempts to behave beautifully and sensibly. Then he meets a woman whose demonic splendor at first repels him and later arouses a consuming and monstrous passion. As his Medusa informs him, 'this is nothing to do with happiness.'
A Severed Head was adapted for a successful stage production in 1963 and was later made into a film starring Claire Bloom, Lee Remick, Richard Attenborough, and Ian Holm.
A sparklingly profound novel about the conflict between love and loyalty
The quiet life of schoolmaster Bill Mor and his wife Nan is disturbed when a young woman, Rain Carter, arrives at the school to paint the portrait of the headmaster. Mor, hoping to enter politics, becomes aware of new desires. A complex battle develops, involving love, guilt, magic, art, and political ambition. Mor's teenage children and their mother fight discreetly and ruthlessly against the invader. The Head, himself disenchanted, advises Mor to seize the girl and run. The final decision rests with Rain. Can a 'great love' be purchased at too high a price?
Edward Baltram is overwhelmed with guilt. His nasty little prank has gone horribly wrong: He has fed his closest friend a sandwich laced with a hallucinogenic drug and the young man has fallen out of a window to his death. Edward searches for redemption through a reunion with his famous father, the reclusive painter Jesse Baltram. Funny and compelling, The Good Apprentice is at once a supremely sophisticated entertainment and an inquiry into the spiritual crises that afflict the modern world.
Swinging between his wife and his mistress in the sacred and profane love machine and between the charms of morality and the excitements of sin, the psychotherapist, Blaise Gavender, sometimes wishes he could divide himself in two. Instead, he lets loose misery and confusion and-'for the spectators at any rate-'a morality play, rich in reflections upon the paradoxes of human life and the nature of the battle between sacred and profane love.
The decline of religion and ever increasing influence of science pose acute ethical issues for us all. Can we reject the literal truth of the Gospels yet still retain a Christian morality? Can we defend any 'moral values' against the constant encroachments of technology? Indeed, are we in danger of losing most of the qualities which make us truly human? Here, drawing on a novelist's insight into art, literature and abnormal psychology, Iris Murdoch conducts an ongoing debate with major writers, thinkers and theologians-'from Augustine to Wittgenstein, Shakespeare to Sartre, Plato to Derrida-'to provide fresh and compelling answers to these crucial questions.
Set in London and in the South of France, this brilliantly structured novel centers on two women: Gertrude Openshaw, bereft from the recent death of her husband, yet awakening to passion; and Anne Cavidge, who has returned in doubt from many years in a nunnery, only to encounter her personal Christ. A fascinating array of men and women hover in urgent orbit around them: the "Count," a lonely Pole obsessively reliving his émigré father's patriotic anguish; Tim Reede, a seedy yet appealing artist, and Daisy, his mistress; the manipulative Mrs. Mount; and many other magically drawn characters moving between desire and obligation, guilt and joy. This edition of Nuns and Soldiers includes a new introduction by renowned religious historian Karen Armstrong.
This is the story of the comic and yet relentless struggle for survival of Austin Gibson Grey, the accidental man. Austin is one of those people who needs to survive through the destruction of others. The others, in Austin's case, include his successful elder brother, Matthew, and the women who, one after the other, are so touchingly convinced that they can 'save' him. In this latter role we meet Austin's estranged wife, Dorina, a crazed angel, and Austin's far from angelic alcoholic landlady, Mitzi. Other women interest themselves too in Austin's fate, with hilarious and appalling results. An Accidental Man is a novel of extraordinary scope and variety in which Iris Murdoch's astonishing fertility of mind and unerring narrative skill are most felicitously combined.
In the English town of Ennistone, hot springs bubble up from deep beneath the earth. In these healing waters the townspeople seek health and regeneration, rightousness and ritual cleansing. To this town steeped in ancient lore and subterranean inspiration the Philosopher returns. He exerts an almost magical influence over a host of Ennistonians, and especially over George McCaffrey, the Philosopher's old pupil, a demonic man desperate for redemption.
After his wife's death, Hugh contemplates returning to his former mistress. His son, Randall, longs to abandon his shapeless marriage for a perfect partner. Randall's young daughter, Miranda, is adored by her Australian cousin Penn, but has attachments elsewhere. Her mother Ann has her own private dream, while taking upon herself the strains and pains of all the others. Impelled by affection, lust and illusion, these characters search for love within a tightly woven web.
Iris Murdoch's first novel is set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers. Its hero, Jake Donaghue, is a drifting, clever, likeable young man who makes a living out of translation work and sponging on his friends. A meeting with Anna, an old flame, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures. Jake is captivated by a majestic philosopher, Hugo Belfounder, whose profound and inconclusive reflections give the book its title - under the net of language.
Annette runs away from her finishing school but learns more than she bargained for in the real world beyond; the fierce and melacholy Rosa is torn between two Polish brothers; Peter is obsessed by an indecipherable ancient script. This is a story of a group of people under a spell, and the centre of it all is the mysterious Mischa Fox, the enchanter.
The quiet life of schoolmaster Bill Mor and his wife Nan is disturbed when a young woman, Rain Carter, arrives at the school to paint the portrait of the headmaster. Mor, hoping to enter politics, becomes aware of new desires and a different dream of life. A complex battle develops, involving love, guilt, magic, art and political ambition. Mor's teenage children and their mother fight discreetly and ruthlessly against the invader. The Head, himself enchanted, advises Mor to seize the girl and run. The final decision rests with Rain. Can a 'great love' be purchased at too high a price?