Sunday, January 15, 2006


British writer Iris (Jean) Murdoch was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1919 and was yet another one of those literary giants whose work I strongly admire. Educated at the University of Oxford in England, later in 1948 she was appointed there as a fellow and tutor in philosophy.

She began her career as a successful fiction writer with Under the Net (1954). A decade later, with Murdoch’s adaptation of her own novel A Severed Head she also became a noted dramatist. And what I have always admired most is her complex style combining realism and the macabre, along with the familiar and the mystical. As such, she presents a cast of characters who struggle with the discovery that they are not truly free but loosely fettered, for the most part, by themselves, society, and sometimes, by natural forces.

Murdoch’s many novels include The Italian Girl (1964; play, written with James Saunders, 1967); A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970); An Accidental Man (1972); The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974); The Sea, the Sea (1978), which won the Booker Prize; The Good Apprentice (1986); The Green Knight (1994), a story incorporating many elements of and references to the 14th-century anonymous romance poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Jackson’s Dilemma (1996), a story set in 20th-century Great Britain but loosely based on the play Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare. Another notable milestone in Murdoch's career was when she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987.

Subsequent to her death on February 8, 1999, what can only be seen as a well-deserved addendum to the work she leaves behind, is the expert portrayal of her life and the bittersweet turmoil of her later years by actress Judi Dench in a biographical film made 2001.

So even if you never have the opportunity to read her work, I would also highly recommend seeing her recreated in the film simply titled, Iris.


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