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Iris Murdoch
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 27 1987 Collected edition
Murdoch's 15th novel is a study of artistic inspiration, a love song to Shakespeare, and to a dark god, the Black Prince. Bradley Pearson, is an elderly "blocked" writer; his best friend, Arnold Baffin, is a bestselling author. Jealousy, fear, love, hate and misunderstanding bedevil the pair.

Product Details

Product Description


   • Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

   • With an Introduction by Candia McWilliam

   • "A source of wonder and delight... No summary can do justice to the rich intricacy of character and incident with which Miss Murdoch crowds every page." --Spectator

   • "This is great Murdoch. It rings as clear as The Bell... her humour is all the more achingly funny because she keeps it on the edge of our vision." --Daily Mail --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

IRIS MURDOCH was born in Dublin in 1919 of Anglo-Irish parents. She went to Badminton School, Bristol, and read classics at Somerville College, Oxford. During the war she was an Assistant Principal at the Treasury, and then worked with UNRRA in London, Belgium and Austria. She held a studentship in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, and then in 1948 she returned to Oxford, where she became a Fellow of St Anne's College. Until her death in February 1999, she lived with her husband, the teacher and critic John Bayley, in Oxford. Awarded the CBE in 1976, Iris Murdoch was made a DBE in the 1987 New Year's Honours List. In the 1997 PEN Awards she received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Iris Murdoch made her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net, and went on to write twenty-six novels, including the Booker prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978). Other literary awards include the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread Prize (now the Costa Book Award) for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her works of philosophy include Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992) and Existentialists and Mystics (1997) She wrote several plays including The Italian Girl (with James Saunders) and The Black Prince, adapted from her novels of the same name. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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It might be most dramatically effective to begin the tale at the moment when Arnold Baffin rang me up and said, 'Bradley, could you come round here please, I think that I have just killed my wife.' Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars life changing April 8 2001
Firstly, there are many fuller (& better) reviews of this novel elsewhere on this page. I would just like to say that this was the first Murdoch novel I ever read, & I've obsessively tracked down all the others since, although I'm afraid symptoms of her disease were becoming apparent from The Message To The Planet onwards. I have never read an author with such an ability to make unsympathetic characters interesting, or go so deep, but what really did it for me was the way that everything that occurs seems to be totally arbitrary & completely inevitable; i.e. real. This provided me with the final piece in my philosophical jigsaw. Nothing comes of nothing. Every action is contigent on every other action & the world is the consequence of googolplexes of such interactions. Free will is an illusion brought about by a complexity which is indivisible (even theoretically), with all the implications that has for guilt, innocence & morality in general
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By A Customer
Congratulations to Penguin on including the late Dame Iris Murdoch's novel The Black Prince to their Paperback Classics series. Now in print 30 years, this novel, to my mind one of the finest of the 20th century in English, certainly deserves the honor. It is a multi-layered page-turner, both exciting and dramatically profound.
What it doesn't deserve, however, is Martha C. Nussbaum's quite misleading introduction-and this is the reason I cannot teach the book in my college classes, as an introduction by a scholar is tacitly seen as somehow "correct" in its claims and observations, almost an appendage to the text it introduces, especially to students. Nor is there a forum for readers to write letters of rebuttal to an introduction, outside of what I am doing now.
But while Nussbaum's background is in philosophy, as was Murdoch's, this is a novel, a work of imaginative literature. Nussbaum treats the text as an expression of Murdoch's own philosophical beliefs. This is problematic in theory, and can be almost ridiculous in practice, as it becomes here-I wonder why Nussbaum (not a literary critic or novelist herself) was chosen to write the introduction in the first place?
Iris Murdoch's novels are "philosophical", but not in the way Ms. Nussbaum would have it-in short, she makes the cardinal error of attributing to Murdoch's characters the author's own philosophical convictions. The protagonist, Bradley Pearson, is in many ways a quite disturbed man, whose critisism of the work of Arnold Baffin is parodic of the negative reviews Murdoch herself received during the 60s (for her work as a prolific, popular novelist). But Pearson's litanies on platonic love in Part Two are not "philosophy"--they are the histrionic ramblings of a failed writer having a psychological breakdown.
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By A Customer
I read Iris Murdoch's "The Sacred and Profane Love Machine" a year ago and didn't much like it. Too much talk, too little action and a plot surrounding a cast of strangely unsympathetic characters that goes nowhere. I thought I was in the same rut for much of the first third of "The Black Prince", when out of the blue, the black arrow of Eros struck and permanently altered the course of the novel. The unexpected change of pace and sudden focus on Bradley Pearce's relationship with the object of his desire at the expense of the adult (and mostly tiresome) characters was a clever Murdoch device that drew me inexorably into the plot. There was no let up in action from there on - the story played relentlessly to its dramatic but tragic conclusion. You see through the eyes of Bradley and form your judgement based on his version of the motives and designs of the unsavoury characters which envelop him but are thrown off guard by the radically different perspectives of the other players (shades of "Rashomon") in the postscript. You get the feeling that nobody's version encapsulates the whole truth (is there such a thing ?) and that everybody creates a best-fit truth that assuages his conscience. Murdoch is heavy on dialogue (nothing wrong with that) but there is a tendency for it to be repetitive (her characters are overly talkative) which can be hellavu irritating. I found that in The Sacred and Profane Love Machine too - must be a Murdoch trait. But whereas the latter is limp and soggy, The Black Prince has a highly intriguing plot and all the elements of a kitchen sink drama-cum-thriller that makes it a winner. A really great read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Big Ideas, good tale - too much talk Aug. 2 1999
By A Customer
Murdoch clearly knew a lot about Hell - just about every character lives there in this book. It has to be one of the most despairing depictions of the human condition in English. Yet I don't think she quite invites comparison with the greats. The characters are just too, well, knowledgable, too talkative about their conditions. Of course everything they, including the narrator, say, is unreliable - but that's not exactly the point: they lack weight, a certain verbal dexterity blights them all. Their words are slippery and they're bound to be wrong about themselves most of the time. That's probably part of Murdoch's intended effect. Still, however you slice it, too much verbosity is bad for the soul. You cease to care much what happens to these people because they're essentially trivial. You keep thinking you're in a french farce or Restoration comedy - but you know the narrator (and the author, too, I think) imagines something more ominous at the bottom of these wretched lives. Call it a perverse power (the Black Prince?) operating to destroy the few bits of happiness these people are capable of. That very power - especially in the case of the narrator, Bradley Pearson - may also be necessary to lift them out of the torpor of their lives. That's an interesting idea - this author is nothing if not daring and inventive. Still, in the end, the lives here are more willed than realized. I never quite believed in either the misery or the exaltation of the narrator - and certainly not in the transforming power his love is supposed to have over his youthful beloved, Christian. Yet the depiction of this love affair is not ironic and is uncharacteristically elevated in tone: Christian is part Beatrice, part Heloise - and wholly wish-fulfilment. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Prince
This book came in record speed, was in great condition, and was also a phenomenal book. For some reason it is out of print, so used is the best and only way to get it.
Published on Feb. 14 2012 by Jules123
3.0 out of 5 stars the black prince
self absorption and its consequences was a major theme in my perception of the characters with the strong exception of one character Julian. Read more
Published on June 30 2001 by MCLAUGHLINANNEMARIE
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
Regarding a previous review: Perhaps some of the characters are a bit prolix but this is not necessarily a defeat is it? Read more
Published on April 13 2000 by Joseph D. Mcquown
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best, but still well worth reading.
Iris Murdoch's books aren't for everyone: they are written for sensitive, intellectual, and introspective readers. The Black Prince is a very intelligent, well-crafted book. Read more
Published on Aug. 3 1999 by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars A versatile combination of narrative and meditation
Iris Murdoch took me on a roller-coaster adventure through a comic succession of surprises but also terrible blows of a sort of fate. Read more
Published on April 28 1999
"The Black Prince" is a repelling page-turner. I often found myself reaching to pick it up, then reaching past it for almost anything else. Read more
Published on March 23 1999 by Daniel J. Palladino
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest and most entertaining novels ever.
I've read about half of Iris Murdoch's books, and I believe this book represents the pinnacle of her achievement. The book is deeply satisfying from beginning to end. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book
Iris Murdoch is at her best here -- profound, funny, moving, deeply insightful. If you've never read her books and find yourself daunted by philosophical treatises, the first... Read more
Published on July 25 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid meditations on love and death
"The Black Prince" is my favorite novel, and I can recommend it unreservedly for its vivid characters, for its complexity, its wit, its drama, for its analysis of human... Read more
Published on Nov. 28 1996
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