I have just finished reading An Unofficial Rose by Iris Murdoch. The book is about a complex mesh of intersecting would-be romances and the tension of the plot is held by the question, common to this genre: who will end up with who? However, the book is superbly well written with deep insight into the mentalities of the diverse characters, especially the complexity of what it means to 'be in love' and the ways there are of confronting the fundamental existential question of relating to others who may fascinate yet remain unknown. The romantic intentions of the characters lead them into plotting and scheming and make them vulnerable to rejection, torment and manipulation. The question hangs: is happiness really to be found in this manner? Murdoch has a great talent for unwrapping the internal thought and feeling processes of the characters, both male and female, young and old. One can learn a lot more about psychology from reading such a book than one is likely to get from a textbook. A line of thought that one is left to ponder upon is: Is goodness a kind of unconsciousness? There are no out and out bad characters in the book. The wickednesses are prosaic and 'normal', all inflicted by the ordinary characters. This is what makes the book profound rather than trite. It brings out how ordinary life is shot through with wayward passions and given form by their untoward consequences. In the end, most of the characters are broadly satisfied, though not always in the way that they expected or intended, and life will go on. The wheel of karma will continue to turn and it is not difficult to imagine a sequel novel with the same characters continuing in their virtues and follies and reaping the almost inevitable consequences. I enjoyed it hugely and shall read another of her works soon.

The book also tackles the tension between desire and duty, or, perhaps, not so much the tension as the fact that some people are more shaped by one and some by the other. It occurs to me, in passing, that much contemporary psychotherapy is on the side of desire. The therapist is a consultant in getting to know what your desires are and how to satisfy them or, in the jargon of the trade, how to get your needs met, the 'needs' in question not really being necessary at all, but being things that one thinks (probably erroneously, one reflects after reading IM) will make one feel better. It is certainly open to question whether such a strategy really is a key to any kind of lasting satisfaction in life. The book is wholly couched within a pre-therapy era Englishness that was undoubtedly more pronounced in the 1960s when it was written then is apparent today. Has culture declined? Nonethelessn the lessons for the heart are still as true as they were then and perhaps easier to discern than in our contemporary age of false certainties.

After reading the book one can ask oneself: which of these characters would one most like to be? One might answer, none of them, but then reflect that, in fact, one is all of them, and that is the genius of the book.

Views: 39

Replies to This Discussion

Do let me know when you start reading "The Sea, The Sea"

RSS

Events

ITZI Conference 2017

Blog Posts

WHAT NEXT?

Posted by Susthama Kim on January 7, 2018 at 22:30 0 Comments

As far as my life goes, it is pretty boring; nothing too exciting or too adventurous. We had a ‘minor scare’ over Christmas, however, but it turned out to be nothing but a change in hormones. Had it come to fruition it would have meant another three years of my life doing nothing but the same thing that I have been doing for the past six years, and boy oh boy, I am so relieved that it was just a scare. You can never be too careful, and at the same time you can’t even plan the perfect time to…

Continue

ITALIAN DAYS

Posted by David Brazier on January 7, 2018 at 16:00 2 Comments

I am currently in Milan - a fine city. This is the commercial hub of Italy, home of many big names and innumerable small enterprises that attract shoppers from all over the world. There is quite a strong sense of energy here. The biggest tourist attractions are La Scala and the Cathedral.

I have rented a…

Continue

Johnny Halliday: la mort d'un monstre sacré

Posted by Tamuly Annette on December 18, 2017 at 21:45 1 Comment

L'engouement quasi mystique qu'a suscité la mort de Johnny Hallyday m'a incité à réfléchir sue un phénomène qui m'est apparu comme un substitut de religiosité...

Un monstre sacré

La mort de Johnny Halliday et ses obsèques le 8 décembre 2017

Il y a eu comme une sorte de fièvre médiatique lors de la mort – pourtant attendue – de notre chanteur national Johnny Halliday (Jean-Philippe Smet). Il venait de décéder un jour, après Jean d’Ormesson, et le dernier événement a en…

Continue

JOHNNY HALLYDAY

Posted by David Brazier on December 6, 2017 at 10:08 1 Comment

Johnny Hallyday died just after midnight this morning.

A vous autres, hommes faibles et merveilleux

Qui mettez tant de grâce a vous retirer du jeu

Il faut qu'une main posée sur votre épaule

Vous pousse vers la vie, cette main tendre et légère

On a tous quelque chose en nous de Tennessee

Cette volonté de prolonger la nuit

Ce désir fou de vivre une autre vie

Ce rêve en nous avec ses mots à lui

Quelque chose de Tennessee

Cette force qui nous…

Continue

© 2018   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service