The Saint and the Artist: A Study of the Fiction of Iris Murdoch By Peter J. Conradi

My main take-away was my agreement in Conradi's choices of Murdoch's strongest novels. Excepting perhaps 'The Philosopher's Pupil' (which I rate highly) and 'The Word Child' (which I don't), I think Conradi does a good job in explaining why those books from the 1970s and early 1980s feel more satisfying.

Broadly speaking - for this is a densely academic book - Conradi's argument is that Murdoch managed from 1970 to more effortlessly combine the cold sterility of her philosophy into the warmth of her fallibly human characters' lives. For me there are still some novels where there are stilted Platonic dialogues that impede narrative flow. However, I would agree that there are fewer of them. Barring 'The Bell', and perhaps 'A Severed Head' and 'The Unicorn', it is only with the post-1970 novels that the action becomes more consistently exciting.

I would not recommend this book to every generalist (it's really intended for literary scholars I think), but as a generalist myself it helped unpick the complexity of the inner workings of Murdoch's thinking and writing. Peter J. Conradi Thoughtful, exceedingly well researched analysis, intended mainly for academic readers. Many references to both classical thought and Murdoch's nonfiction publications, interviews and lectures. This author may be the most qualified commentator about Dame Iris Murdoch's oeuvre. He of course wrote an excellent biography of her, so together the two books are invaluable for the Murdoch fan. Peter J. Conradi

Iris Murdoch, who died in 1999, was the author of 26 novels, including The Bell, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, The Black Prince, and the Booker Prize-winning The Sea, The Sea. In The Saint and the Artist, now fully revised and updated, distinguished literary critic Peter J. Conradi offers a lively and valuable critical appreciation of her works of fiction. He traces the way in which the zest and buoyant high spirits of her early novels gave way to a more deeply and darkly comic achievement in the novels of the 1970s. Conradi, who knew Murdoch well, suggests how her own life, wonderfully transmuted into high art, provided the raw material for her novels; he also argues that they should be read as serious entertainments and as important fictions in the Anglo-Russian tradition, and not as disguised philosophy. Peter J. Conradi is the author of the highly acclaimed biography Iris Murdoch: A Life. The Saint and the Artist: A Study of the Fiction of Iris Murdoch

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