Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger

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the theme of love

Last night I attempted once again to give a book review in my YouTube channel on the novel "The Good Apprentice" by Iris Murdoch. In my view on this wonderful novel by Murdoch I said that one of the themes of the novel was love. I came across this morning a review of Peter Conradi's biography "Iris Murdoch: A Life" by Susan Eilenberg and found this observation on the subject of love in Murdoch's novels.

"Her subject is love: obsessive, incestuous, adulterous, selfless, blind, lost and unlikely and remembered, its objects so various and so fungible, its appearances so fantastically symmetrical, its developments so entirely subject to accident on the one hand and the rigorous necessity of permutation on the other that, for all the damage it inflicts, the reader soon learns to regard it with something approaching amused disbelief. More sceptical readers might doubt that it is love at all. Those among her principal characters who suffer from it use a rhetoric in which the erotic is indistinguishable from the metaphysical or even the eschatological. In any other book a character who exclaimed that love promised salvation and its loss damnation, that the success or failure of romance raised the lover to heaven or cast him into hell, would be regarded by the reader as guilty of improper and rather tired exaggeration. But a Murdoch character means what he says when he announces that to be looked at by his beloved is like being seen by God, that his ‘black certain metaphysical love’ is ‘its own absolute justification’, or that ‘this is something very absolute. The past has folded up. There is no history. It’s the last trump.’ He is in the grip of a spiritual energy aimed at ultimates and absolutes partly Platonic and partly Christian. He believes (between intervals of hellish doubt) that love will redeem his sufferings, annihilate the obscure, guilty confusion of his finite chance-harried being, sublate his will into a necessity that governs accident and ordains significance. His old self will fall away, together with the vexation of innumerable wearying claims on his attention by contingent beings whom love has not so justified, and he will be saved, perhaps even deified. All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

The desire to be innocent again, the desire to be redeemed, the desire that all this should mean something: in Murdoch’s world, these are the great temptations and the great sources of spiritual corruption, particularly but not only when they offer themselves as cover for less acknowledgable motives. The loss of innocence feels to a Murdoch character like an injury for which he may reasonably demand a reparation not to be distinguished in its effects from revenge; his inability to bear his own guilt seems to require an act of self-restoration – or self-annihilation – that risks repeating his crimes. A character is cruel to others in proportion to the intensity of his lust for salvation: the myth of his own suffering and redemption obliterates everything it cannot absorb, as everyone around him is classified as an instrument of his salvation, an obstacle to his salvation, or an irrelevance, and used accordingly. Murdoch remarks through one of her characters that guilt ‘isn’t important, it may even be bad. One must just try to mend things, do better. Why cripple yourself when there’s work to do?’ But this is not what her protagonists want to hear. Whenever in Murdoch someone decides to become a ‘clean man’, bad things follow." Susan Eilenberg review of "Iris Murdoch: A Life" by Peter Conradi from in the London Review of Books

In my video I mentioned a review written by Harold Bloom on the novel "The Good Apprentice". Bloom writes, "Miss Murdoch's particular mastery is in representing the maelstrom of falling in love, which is the characteristic activity of nearly all her men and women, who somehow have time for busy professional careers in London while obsessively suffering convulsive yet enlivening love relationships. . ."

a book review "The Good Apprentice" by Harold Bloom

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