Iris Murdoch (1919–1999). Novelist, philosopher, and folk hero. Her later struggles with Alzheimer’s disease were made famous in bestselling memoirs by her husband, literary critic John Bayley. Bayley’s memoirs were themselves the inspiration for a feature film, titled Iris (2001), in which Murdoch is portrayed (at different stages of life) by two great English actresses, Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench. Murdoch was born in Dublin, and although her family moved to London when she was very young, her Irish identity remained important to her. She read “greats” at Oxford, then went on to work for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. In the mid-1950s, she published two works that demonstrate her commitment to different kinds of moral and intellectual inquiry: a critical study of existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and a novel, her first, Under the Net. Popular success and fame came to her a few years later, with the publication of The Bell. Murdoch wrote 20 novels in all, including The Sea, The Sea, for which she received the Booker Prize in 1978. It seems likely that she’ll be remembered as one of the greatest and most important novelists of the postwar period.
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]