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: 25

Replies to This Discussion

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

RSS

ITZI Conference 2017

Blog Posts

Medicine Buddha

Posted by Satya Robyn on April 24, 2017 at 13:57 0 Comments

Colleague Buddhists - I'm getting to know Medicine Buddha as I haven't met him before and he's come into my life at just the right time.

Anything you'd be willing to share about your personal relationship with him / stories/ facts / books etc. I'd be very grateful. Deep bow.

Two Songs

Posted by Andrew Ralph Cheffings on April 12, 2017 at 21:28 4 Comments

Wrong

I am about to do, or have already done, something wrong,

Which will cause me to be responsible for something terrible.

How can I prevent this from happening, or undo what is already done?

I even feel responsible for others' atrocities I don't even know.

Lamb

There are accidents,

There are mistakes,

And there is deliberately doing wrong.

Why do I feel responsible for others'…

Continue

Continue, Improve, Practice and Try.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on March 29, 2017 at 14:27 0 Comments

 

The last three steps of the twelve step program are commonly known as the ''maintenance…

Continue

Kindnesses

Posted by Andrew on March 23, 2017 at 9:07 1 Comment

The love your neighbour campaign in Birmingham came about after the decision to leave the EU. There was an increase in racist attacks and the Church of England hierarchy felt they should take action. What they did was encourage schools and other community venues to put free of charge bright orange banners on fencing etc with the words love your neighbour on them. At the moment funding has been obtained to make more banners to replace any of the 1000 that have gone up already and to encourage… Continue

© 2017   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service