I discovered Iris Murdoch’s novels around the same time that I was becoming immersed in Powell. I had read a few in England, starting with The Bell, before my move to Japan in the mid-1980s. And so, I became a Murdochian as well as a Powellian.
In the years since I became a Quaker by convincement, no one has ever mentioned Iris Murdoch as a representative Quaker sensibility and thinker. In that same period of time I’ve also been convinced that the, shall we say, post-supernatural, post-fundamentalist condition is naturally Quaker, and is a reasonable contradiction of Sigmund Freud’s position that there’s no future for ‘illusions’ of the religious sort.
Following a successful Centenary Conference at St Anne’s College, Oxford in 2019, and given the difficulties of meeting in person, the first online Iris Murdoch Conference will take place at the University of Chichester in 2021.
I don’t know whether Murdoch is right about God, but I’m pretty sure that she’d have struggled to understand my reasons for getting up at 6 a.m. to watch soccer. Unlike the old lady in her story, I’m under no illusions. The empty stadiums and canned crowd noise of the pandemic might have brought it home more forcefully, but on some level I’ve always known the game is just a dog’s tooth. The interesting question is why that doesn’t stop it from glowing.
Iris Murdoch met the painter Harry Weinberger (1924-2009) by chance in the mid-1970s and in him she instantly recognised a kindred spirit. For more than two decades, they maintained an intimate friendship and rigorous intellectual discourse, centred on sustained discussion of the practice, teaching and morality of art.
Congratulations, Arka Basu, on being the first-ever recipient of a fellowship from the Barbara Stevens Heusel Research Fund for Early-Career Scholars!
In this blogpost Arka Basu, the first recipient of the Barbara Stevens Heusel Early-Career Fund, discusses his doctoral work and future research in the UK