The nine characters in this novel are all looking for love; and so closely is the web woven that the actions and passions of each are constantly affecting the others. The irony and pathos of this tangled situation has extended Iris Murdoch's powers to the full, but her mastery of it is complete. Impelled by affection, lust, lost scruple, illusion and disillusion, wanting to be free yet needing to be involved, these characters perform the linked figures of their destiny.
Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919 of Anglo-Irish parents. She went to Badminton School, Bristol, and read classics at Somerville College, Oxford. During the war she was an Assistant Principal at the Treasury, and then worked with UNRRA in London, Belgium and Austria. She held a studentship in Philosophy at Newham College, Cambridge, and then in 1948 she returned to Oxford where she became a Fellow of St Anne's College. Until her death in February 1999, she lived with her husband, the teacher and critic John Bayley, in Oxford. Awarded the CBE in 1976, Iris Murdoch was made a DBE in the 1987 New Year's Honours List. In the 1997 PEN Awards she received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Since her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net, Iris Murdoch has written twenty-six novels, including the Booker Prize-winning The Sea, The Sea(1978) and most recently The Green Knight (1993) and Jackson's Dilemma (1995). Other literary awards include the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread Prize for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her works of philosophy include Satire: Romantic Rationalist, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992) and Existentialists and Mystics (1997). She has written several plays including The Italian Girl (with James Saunders) and The Black Prince, adapted from her novel of the same name. Her volume of poetry, A Year of Birds, which appeared in 1978, has been set to music by Malcolm Williamson.
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