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Eulogy: Dame Iris Murdoch

2 minute read
Fay Weldon

Dame Iris Murdoch’s like will not be seen again. A beautiful woman with a brilliant mind, a divine innocent, philosopher and Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, winner of the 1978 Booker Prize for her novel The Sea, the Sea, living closely and in famous squalor with her husband, the eminent critic John Bayley, she was unmoved by the claims of publishers and fans upon her privacy and person. To the impudent question in a bookstore’s Visitor’s Book “What are you famous for?” she wrote, “For nothing. I am just famous.” And she would have believed it, seeing nothing special in what she did, as if the writing of great novels was child’s play in the universe that so intrigued her. She wore her carpet slippers to parties and was forgiven. She was a great stylist, breaking all the literary rules: 18 adjectives in a row were as nothing to her, forever confounding my own advice to would-be writers to go sparingly, that one at a time is enough. Her novels flowed in a glittery stream from the first, Under the Net, in 1954, to the last, Jackson’s Dilemma, in 1995, after which Alzheimer’s claimed her. Her graceful descent into the state of unmindedness was chronicled by Bayley in his tender book, Elegy for Iris, which serves as a memorial to her person. Her novels remain as a testament to Iris Murdoch, the writer.

–By Fay Weldon

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