Under the Net
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Under the Net

By (author) Iris Murdoch , Introduction by Kiernan Ryan

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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.

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  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 124 x 196 x 22mm | 258.55g
  • 28 May 2002
  • VINTAGE
  • Vintage Classics
  • London
  • English
  • 0099429071
  • 9780099429074
  • 36,511

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Author Information

Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919. She read Classics at Somerville College, Oxford, and after working in the Treasury and abroad, was awarded a research studentship in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1948 she returned to Oxford as fellow and tutor at St Anne's College and later taught at the Royal College of Art. Until her death in 1999, she lived in Oxford with her husband, the academic and critic, John Bayley. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987 and in the 1997 PEN Awards received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Iris Murdoch made her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net. Her twenty-six novels include the Booker prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978), the James Tait Black Memorial prize-winning The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread prize-winning The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her philosophy includes Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953) and Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992); other philosophical writings, including The Sovereignty of Good (1970), are collected in Existentialists and Mystics (1997).

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Review quote

"Under the Net announces the emergence of a brilliant talent " Times Literary Supplement "Of all the novelists that have made their bow since the war she seems to me to be the most remarkable-behind her books one feels a power of intellect quite exceptional in a novelist" Sunday Times "A dazzling story, light and comic in touch" The Times "Iris Murdoch has imposed her alternative world on us as surely as Christopher Columbus or Graham Greene" Sunday Times "This is a comedy with that touch of ferocity about it which makes for excitement" -- Elizabeth Jane Howard

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Review text

Iris Murdoch has gained most publicity in recent times for her descent into Alzheimer's, chronicled by her husband John Bayley and the subsequent film. The welcome republication of this, her first novel, serves as a timely reminder of exactly why she originally became a household name. Under the Net works brilliantly on three levels: as a superb evocation of time and place (London in the 1950s); as an entertaining, well-plotted romp among the demi-monde of the time; and, more seriously, as an exploration of the power of language and philosophy. Jake Donaghue is a likeable, feckless young intellectual whose talent for translating obscure French authors is matched only by his ability to live rent-free, mainly at the expense of a succession of girlfriends. When his current 'landlady' accepts a proposal of marriage from a wealthy bookmaker, Jake renews his acquaintance with an old flame, a glamorous but melancholy actress, Anna, and her film-star sister. Their contacts soon plunge him into an absurd sequence of adventures, mainly involving an elderly canine movie star, but all the while he is haunted by his memories of an old friend, whose musings he once passed off as his own, achieving minor fame as the author of a slim volume of philosophy. His quest for forgiveness coincides with his resolution to make his own way in the world, and so Jake achieves redemption - of a kind. This is more than just a charming period piece: it is a sharp, well-crafted and affectionate novel that serves as the perfect introduction to the work of one of our greatest modern writers. (Kirkus UK)

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