Iris Murdoch, a Writer at War

Iris Murdoch, a Writer at War : Letters and Diaries, 1939-1945

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These never before published writings comprise Iris Murdoch's passionate wartime correspondence with two early intimates: the poet Frank Thompson, brother of the historian E.P. Thompson, who was killed in 1944, and David Hicks, with whom she had a dramatic affair, engagement, and breakup. It also includes the journal that Murdoch kept as a touring actress during August of 1939. The selection sheds new light on a brilliant young mind ("sharp and polished as a sword" as Frances Wilson describes it), while painting a vivid picture of life during the Second World War.

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  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 544.31g
  • 23 Apr 2011
  • Oxford University Press Australia
  • OUP Australia and New Zealand
  • Melbourne
  • English
  • New.
  • 0199756031
  • 9780199756032

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Author Information

Peter J. Conradi is the author of the critically acclaimed biography Iris Murdoch: A Life and, more recently, Going Buddhist and At the Bright Hem of God: Radnorshire Pastoral.

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Review quote

"The other truly remarkable thing about [Murdoch] was the freedom with which she shared her body and, as this book makes plain, there was nothing simplified about Murdoch's sex life . . . Reading Murdoch's letters during this period is something like being plugged into the national grid. Her subjects cover Proust ('delicious, subtle, beautiful'), Tacitus ('I tremble and adore'), politics ('I don't have a clear line on it any more'), the loss of her virginity ('in every way a good thing'), and her longing to write: 'Jesus God how I want to write. I want to write a long long & exceedingly obscure novel objectifying the queer conflicts I find within myself and observe in the characters of others.'" --The London Times "[Adds] to our picture of the vivid, unsettling, paradoxical nature of the young Iris Murdoch . . . We can see here the evolution of the novelist from the jejune chrysalis of her student experiences. Just as she later believed that true philosophy (metaphysics) could only be lived, so her dominant subject as a novelist-the interplay between intelligence and eros, reality and illusion, false magic and true-reached down into the intensity of her early adult relations." --The Daily Telegraph "[The] book dispels th[e] simplistic view and shows the extent of what Conradi calls "the freedom" of Murdoch's mind. It also makes me want to give her fiction another try." --Frank Freeman, First Things "The diary and letters demonstrate how deeply Murdoch mined her own life for the dilemmas, milieu, and emotion that emerge in her novels...Conradi has done an excellent job of editing and introducing these pages; what one ultimately takes away from them is a portrait of a complex young woman in the process of becoming a formidable artist." --Harvard Review Online

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