Writers 2 Remember: Iris Murdoch

One of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945

Iris Murdoch was a philosopher and writer who made an impact on how we looked at characters as well as issues with good and evilsexual relationshipsmorality, and the power of the unconscious. She looked at writing in a way that dealt with the complexities and layers in ways that weren’t mainstream or formatted. She gave it freedom while still considering love vital and central to intimate relationships as well as morality.

“That’s the thing about Murdoch—there’s always another layer, one revealed through opposition and dialectic. She called literature a way to “re-discover a sense of the density of our lives,” and she revels in setting points of view, ways of being, perspectives on her themes against one another. And she refuses to take sides, letting the conflict that ensues create a deeper meaning than what would be possible if she indulged in moral clarity. It is this refusal to moralize, and her careful silence about her own beliefs, that sets her so deeply apart from contemporary writers.”


“Murdoch’s novels typically have convoluted plots in which innumerable characters representing different philosophical positions undergo kaleidoscopic changes in their relations with each other. Realistic observations of 20th-century life among middle-class professionals are interwoven with extraordinary incidents that partake of the macabre, the grotesque, and the wildly comic. The novels illustrate Murdoch’s conviction that although human beings think they are free to exercise rational control over their lives and behaviour, they are actually at the mercy of the unconscious mind, the determining effects of society at large, and other, more inhuman, forces.”


Iris Murdoch believed that literature should be expressed in a way that provoked imagination and was more enveloping than just a commentary, which is probably why many of her titles were translated into film. She tended not to stay within any particular genre, either. It was as if she felt nothing should be put into a box because that was too simplicist for reality. For this, I commend her and consider her a writer to remember.

Writing Philosophy vs Literature
Interview continued…

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