Iris Murdoch

(15/07/1919 - 08/02/1999)

Novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin and brought up in London and Bristol where she attended Badminton College. After completing a degree in Classics, Ancient History, and Philosophy at Somerville College, Oxford, Murdoch pursued postgraduate studies in Philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. She taught Philosophy at St Anne's College, Oxford from 1948 until 1963, when she retired to devote her time to writing. Murdoch's first novel, Under the Net, appeared in 1954 and was to be followed by 25 others. Her awards include the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Dark Prince (1973) and the Booker Prize for The Sea, the Sea, a retelling of The Tempest, in 1978. In 1987, Murdoch was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Iris Murdoch died from Alzheimer's disease on 8 February 1999.

Books
© Riva

A Fairly Honourable Defeat

Chatto & Windus, 1970

In this 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.

Translated into

Bulgarian

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© Naklada Ljevak, 2013

A Severed Head

Viking Press, 1961

Set in London at the beginning of the sexual revolution, Murdoch's novel exposes the mixture of liberality and conventionality that governs the relationships between her cast of middle-class characters. Martin Lynch-Gibbon, a 41-year old well-to-do wine merchant, is conveniently married to Antonia and happily pursuing a secret affair with Georgie when his wife announces her wish to divorce him and marry her psychoanalyst, Alexander Palmer. Rather than seize the opportunity to disclose his own trespass and live openly with his mistress, Martin falls head over heels for Palmer's half-sister, Honor Klein - a woman whose demonic splendour arouses a consuming and monstrous passion.

Translated into

Croatian

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© Riva

An Unofficial Rose

Chatto & Windus, 1962

The nine characters in this novel are all looking for love, and so closely is the web woven that their actions and passions are constantly affecting the others. Impelled by affection, lust, lost scruple, illusion and disillusion, wanting to be free yet needing to be involved, these characters perform the linked figures of their destiny.

Translated into

Bulgarian

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© Zvaigzne ABC, 2007

Henry and Cato

Chatto & Windus, 1976

Murdoch's eighteenth novel tells the story of Henry Marshalson, the recently returned heir to Laxlinden Hall, and his childhood friend Cato Forbes, a Catholic convert and priest whose faith is in crisis. Cato's attachment to a petty criminal, Joe Beckett, leads to disaster when Joe kidnaps him and holds him to ransom in an attempt to extort money from Henry and sexual favours from Cato's sister, Colette. 

Translated into

Latvian

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© Polirom

The Bell

Chatto & Windus, 1958

A lay community of thoroughly mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, home of an enclosed order of nuns. A new bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered. Dora Greenfield, erring wife, returns to her husband. Michael Mead, leader of the community, is confronted by Nick Fawley, with whom he had disastrous homosexual relations, while the wise old Abbess watches and prays and exercises discreet authority. And everyone, or almost everyone, hopes to be saved whatever that may mean. Iris Murdoch's funny and sad novel is about religion, the fight between good and evil and the terrible accidents of human frailty.

Translated into

Romanian

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© TRI Publishing Centre, 2013

The Black Prince

Chatto & Windus, 1973 (Vintage, 2006)

Bradley Pearson, a 58-year-old tax inspector, is the author of three unsuccessful books. In order to be able to devote himself fully to writing his fourth, he leaves his job and rents a cottage on the coast where he hopes to compose his materpiece. Yet instead of the quiet seclusion he envisioned for his retirement, he finds himself besieged by demands made on him by family and friends:

Bradley's unbearable ex-wife Christian is back from America with a view to rekindle their relationship. His distraught sister Priscilla seeks refuge in his home following the breakdown of her marriage. And his friend Arnold Baffin, a younger and decidedely more successful writer, solicits his help with marital troubles. To add to his plight, Arnold's daughter Julian pesters him to tutor her on Hamlet, the black prince. This chore at least soon turns out to be a source of happniness, as Bradley falls in love with his 20-year-old student and she returns his feelings. Yet their bliss is short-lived and precipitates a chain of calamitous events that will lead to Bradley standing accused of a crime he did not commit.

Translated into

Macedonian

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Zlatorog

The Italian Girl

Chatto & Windus, 1964

Edmund Narraway has escaped from his family into a lonely life. Returning for his mother's funeral, he finds himself involved in the old, awful problems together with some new ones. He also rediscovers the eternal family servant, the 'Italian girl', who was his and his brother's nursemaid. The family reunion holds some surprises for Edmund.

Translated into

Bulgarian

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© Riva

The Sacred and Profane Love Machine

Chatto & Windus, 1974

Montague Small, an obsessive writer of detective thrillers, mourns his dead wife who may or may not have been unfaithful to him. His interest in his neighbour's difficulties and his neighbour's wife appear to be his only consolations after all. The neighbour, Blaise Gavender, is an amateur psychotherapist who has seen through himself. Has Blaise the courage to change his life and become an honest man? Blaise's wife Harriet lives for love, love of her husband, love of her son. She if fond of Monty too. Emily McHugh is quite another matter. She too lives for love: for love and justice and revenge, aided and incited by her ambiguous friend Constance Pinn. Edgar Demornay, a distinguished scholar, also blunders into the fray; he adores Monty and falls in love with Monty's women. A deed of violence finally solves many problems. This is a story of different loves; and of how a man may need two women in such a way that he can be happy with neither.

Translated into

Bulgarian

Rights Contact
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© Edicions de 1984, 2017

The Sea, The Sea

Penguin, 1980

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.

Translated into

Catalan

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© Naklada Jesenski i Turk

The Sovereignty of Good

Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970

This volume contains three papers Iris Murdoch published in the 1960s: 'The Idea of Perfection' appeared in the Yale Review in 1964, 'The Sovereignty of Good over Other Concepts' was the 1967 Leslie Stephens Lecture in Cambridge, and 'On God and Good' was published in The Anatomy of Knowledge in 1969.

Translated into

Croatian

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© Riva

The Time of the Angels

Chatto & Windus, 1966

Carel is rector of a no longer existing City church which was destroyed in the war. In the rectory live his daughter, Muriel, his beautiful invalid ward, Elizabeth, and their West Indian servant, Patti. Here too are Eugene, a Russian émigré, and his delinquent son, Leo. Carel's brother, Marcus, co-guardian of Elizabeth, tries to make contact with Carel but is constantly rebuffed.

Translated into

Bulgarian

Rights Contact
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© Ednorog

The Unicorn

Chatto & Windus, 1963

Marian Taylor, employed as a companion to a lonely woman in a remote castle, becomes aware that the latter is a prisoner not only of her own 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?

Translated into

Bulgarian

Rights Contact
Ed Victor,
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© Relógio D'Água Editores, 2011

Under the Net

Vintage, 1954

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 off his friends. He is is captivated by a majestic philosopher, Hugo Belfounder, whose profound reflections prompt the title - under the net of language. However, a meeting with Anna, an old flame in love with Hugo, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures.

Translated into

Portuguese

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