This piece was performed at the University of East Anglia on the 6th December, 2014 as part of an event entitled ‘An Afternoon with Iris: Life, Thought, Writing’.
The ideal of living ‘in community’, of creating an ideal world in miniature, was an underlying leitmotif of late Victorian and 20th century English literary culture, and was of particular interest to Iris Murdoch, author of The Bell. To my mind this is one of her best novels, being the most open to the eddying currents of belief, faith and doubt in the post-war climate of political and social reconstruction. This principally resulted from her ambivalent relationship to the Anglican faith – Peter Conradi at one point describes her as an ‘Anglo-Catholic retreatant’ – and her fascination with the monastic tradition.
I looked out Under the Net from our bookcase and found a lovely old Penguin with Margaret Foreman’s beautiful painting of Jake in his chair. I was captivated again and found we had The Bell, The Nice and the Good and about four or five more. I had to read all of them and then, being something of a completist, had to read the rest of the novels, most of which I had never heard of or seen in print.