IRIS MURDOCH Biography - Writers


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Iris Murdoch (1919-1999), British writer and philosopher, born in Dublin,   
Ireland, and educated at the University of Oxford. In 1948 she was           
appointed a fellow and tutor in philosophy at Oxford. Murdoch’s first     
published book, Sartre, Romantic Rationalist (1953), is a study of French   
existentialism. Her other nonfiction works include Metaphysics As a Guide   
to Morals: Philosophical Reflections (1992).                                 
Murdoch began a career as a successful writer of fiction with Under the     
Net (1954). A decade later, with Murdoch’s adaptation of her own novel A   
Severed Head (1961; play, written with British writer J. B. Priestley,       
1963), she also became a dramatist. Her style is complex, combining         
naturalism and the macabre, the familiar and the magical. Regarded as a     
master stylist, she presents in her fiction a cast of characters who         
struggle with the discovery that they are not truly free but are fettered   
by themselves, society, and natural forces. Murdoch’s many novels include 
The Italian Girl (1964; play, written with James Saunders, 1967); A Fairly   
Honourable Defeat (1970); An Accidental Man (1972); The Sacred and Profane   
Love Machine (1974); The Sea, the Sea (1978), which won the Booker Prize;   
The Good Apprentice (1986); The Green Knight (1994), a story incorporating   
many elements of and references to the 14th-century anonymous romance poem   
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Jackson’s Dilemma (1996), a story set 
in 20th-century Britain but loosely based on the play Much Ado about         
Nothing by English playwright William Shakespeare. Murdoch developed         
Alzheimer's disease several years before her death. Her husband, literary   
critic John Bayley, wrote touchingly about his wife's career and her         
struggle with the disease in Elegy for Iris (1999).