Having finished my Iris Murdoch Readalong in good time, I’ve had time to add in a couple of IM-related books, this being the first. I bought this back in August when the Iris Murdoch Society advertised some books that had been sold at the Centenary Conference (which I’d been unable to attend because of running an ultramarathon that weekend, as you do) and being reminded of it made me snap it up but also think that this time of year would be the perfect time to read it.

Miles Leeson (ed.) – Iris Murdoch: A Centenary Celebration

(26 August 2019)

A collection of biographical essays/memoirs about various people’s encounters with IM, which it’s explained in the Preface originated from a collection Peter Conradi put together for IM’s 80th birthday. When she didn’t make it to 80, the collection was filed away in various archives, to be brought out again and revitalised for a centenary volume, happily. This leads to slightly odd moments when the contributors describe IM in the present tense, but also allows us to experience a deep and rich telling of different stages and aspects of her life from people who are in large proportion also no longer with us (from Roy Jenkins to Lady Natasha Spender).

Although I always claim to espouse the reader-response (or Death of the Author) theory in reacting to texts through my own lens, not that of the author or subject, of course once reads this for the tiny insights and fascinating impressions. I did love details like the parts around the Spenders; house in France that informed “Nuns and Soldiers”, the wartime lack of proper hot water bottles that led to them being mentioned often in the novels, and the connection between the former English cricket captain Mike Brearley and Murdoch, via the report of Indian academic Saguna Ramanathan. Stones appear, particular stones, too, pleasingly often, and of course I loved the piece by Carmen Calil about being IM’s editor. It was also good to revisit A.N. Wilson’s chat with Leeson from the Conference before last.

A lovely companion for any student of Iris Murdoch or fan of her novels or philosophy, with something for everyone (and, of course, useful biographical notes on the contributors).