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From highly anticipated annual events to weekly docent tours, plan to make the most of your visit. July 14 pm - pm. September 8 pm - pm. The past and the present are so close, so almost one, as if time were an artificial teasing out of material which longs to join, to interpenetrate, and to become heavy and very small like some of those heavenly bodies scientists tell us of. View 1 comment. Mar 18, Elena Holmgren rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites.
This great work shows how literary works, at their best, can serve a moral function, and how they can do so without explicit moralizing, as well as without taking sides in some ideological battle. It does so by illuminating the illusions and fantasies that are woven into the self-knowledge process.
In particular, it reveals to us that, in the end, much of what passes for self-knowledge - and for knowledge of others, as well as of God - is in the final analysis a consoling illusion. Our faith, ou This great work shows how literary works, at their best, can serve a moral function, and how they can do so without explicit moralizing, as well as without taking sides in some ideological battle.
Our faith, our love, our knowledge, is invariably an orientation to an ego-affirming illusion. Each ultimately only strengthens and affirms the prison-walls that enclose us in our personalities. Murdoch takes on here what is, arguably, among the most difficult of literary, spiritual and moral subjects, as well as one that is still rather poorly understood.
Hence the work's existential necessity. Exploring a way out of the self-enclosed system of illusions that feeds our ordinary sense of self is the work's focus. An aging actor, Charles Arrowby, gives up his fame and worldly standing in order to retreat by the sea and get some perspective on his life.
Shakespeare's Prospero, who gave up his magic in order to find out what it is like to dwell in reality, lurks in the background of Arrowby's story. Arrowby has been a successful Prospero, who has used his magic to earn his fame, prosperity, not to mention a great deal of sexual success. He has spent a lifetime weaving a glittering web of illusions that has left all those around him spellbound and utterly bound to his will. Now he wants out of the game of illusion-weaving, and experiments to see whether he can live outside of it. Yet the steps that he takes out of the overt illusionism of his younger days and into consciousness only deepen the illusion, or push it one level down as it were.
His efforts at attaining some kind of self-knowledge which he pursues by trying to put together some kind of story out of his life's senseless, chaotic happenings only involve him in a tyrannical revisionism of the past. He meets people from his past, including his first love, whose lives he strives to absorb, by force and by insidious compulsion, into his own solipsistic pattern. We are used to a simplistic, nostalgic image of the dreamer, but here, Murdoch reveals the dreamer as a tyrant intrinsically opposed to life, unable to reconcile himself to it, more than ready to brutalize it if it refuses to be subordinated to his pattern.
The freedom which is a proper human goal is the freedom from fantasy, that is the realism of compassion. What I have called fantasy, the proliferation of blinding self-centered aims and images, is itself a powerful system of energy, and most of what is often called 'will' or 'willing' belongs to this system. What counteracts the system is attention to reality inspired by, consisting of, love. In such a picture sincerity and self-knowledge, those popular merits, seem less important. It is an attachment to what lies outside the fantasy mechanism, and not a scrutiny of the mechanism itself, that liberates.
Close scrutiny of the mechanism often merely strengthens its power.
He is described as something of a lover of pyrotechnic displays in his direction of plays. He is not above the caking on of excessive effects if these will bow the audience in submission before his will. Arrowby's character reveals just how deep the human love for illusion really is. His commitment to illusion repeatedly degrades his love into a grotesque violence on the beloved.
The actor cannot meet life on anything but his own terms. And once the tale is told, we realize that we are all actors, and share in Arrowby's very human predicament. Like him, we find that we cannot love anything unless it is first coated by our illusions. We cannot accept the reality of others unless we first successfully coax them to act according to our image of them.
We can understand people only insofar as we have pegged them according to our private myths. Thus their reality passes our notice and fails to inform our actions. Arrowby has spent his whole life consumed by his private fantasy of what love should be, and yet ironically, it is this very fantasy that has kept him from ever seeing any of his many partners.
One gets the hollow, chilling feeling that after a lifetime of meetings, he has never achieved a single encounter with another person. As he points out on several occasions, it is as if he has passed life by, somehow failing to grasp it at any point. Yet life is the kind of thing that you cannot grasp if you do not allow yourself to be in turn grasped by it. Such is our human cowardice that we usually slink from that sort of self-giving that would make this sort of mutual holding possible.
Instead, Arrowby's wholehearted involvement in his counterfeit images of perfection has immured him into a solipsistic world that he cannot seem to escape, even as he believes that he wants nothing more than to do so.
Does he? Do any of us? Could we face reality without the screen of illusions? Illusion perverts not only interpersonal relations, but more fundamentally, our relation to the ground of our being itself: "If even a dog's tooth is truly worshipped it glows with light. The venerated object is endowed with power, that is the simple sense of the ontological proof. And if there is art enough a lie can enlighten us as well as the truth.
What is the truth anyway, that truth? As we know ourselves we are fake objects, fakes, bundles of illusions. Can you determine exactly what you felt or thought or did? We have to pretend in law courts that such things can be done, but that is just a matter of convenience. Well, well, it doesn't signify. Being involved in Arrowby's unfolding narrative I often got the feeling of claustrophobia. Murdoch captures very well the broken record of an obsessive mind as it repeatedly recycles its absurd interpretations of events that seem to have no touch with the meager evidence we are given.
We see the terrible spectacle of an ego spinning up stories in a void around itself, and painstakingly repeating these to himself in an effort to justify his despair. He has a notion of love that manages to be both sentimental and egoistic. Acting on it leads to truly grotesque results for the beloved object, as anyone who reads this can see. Murdoch presents Arrowby's cousin James as a wiser counterpart who has managed to get some insight into this whole illusion-mongering process that is a human life.
James tries to show Arrowby that he is pursuing a counterfeit eternity that only imprisons him even more: "For us, eternity is an illusion. Insofar as we pursue completion, it is through the stories we make up and invest with power. This power is the only mark of the real that we are able to recognize. Arrowby does have his moments of realization. He lies on the shore at night by the sea, and manages to see "the universe turning itself inside out.
The vision of this is the seed of hope that the work plants in the reader, a dim marker of what real meaning and value might look like. It is hard to peg Arrowby in the end, but he seems to have finally become a self that has achieved greater light by voluntarily going under. There is a loss of personal glitter and glamour that seems disappointing, as well as a strange effacing of the character that is hard to make sense of while reading, but the rightness of which sinks in as time goes by.
In reality, any achieved meaning is a provisional guess, an attempt to shoot at an unknown target in the dark. But this might just be the truth that could be revealed by art's falsification in the end. Perhaps it is that Murdoch paints a picture that ultimately most reveals its truth when it displays its own insufficiency and falsity.
Like Wittgenstein, it seems that her story gives us a ladder that we must throw away upon climbing it. Elena Holmgren Thanks for the feedback Antonomasia. Glad it had something to offer you.
Sep 06, PM. Barnaby Thieme "Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. She is our great sweet mother. Come and look. Aug 05, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , audiobook , tbr-shelf Charles Arrowby, as he portrays himself in this "autobiography" is undoubtedly as tragic, as comic, as mercurial as any of the roles he played in his successful career as a Shakespearian actor.
He has come to the English seaside to peacefully retire but instead faces a series of tumultuous derailments. Charles is a spectacular character. He is self-centered, erratic, delusional, arrogant, disingenuous, impetuous, eloquent, exhausting, narcissistic, foolish, grandiose, tempestuous, obsessional, c Charles Arrowby, as he portrays himself in this "autobiography" is undoubtedly as tragic, as comic, as mercurial as any of the roles he played in his successful career as a Shakespearian actor.
He is self-centered, erratic, delusional, arrogant, disingenuous, impetuous, eloquent, exhausting, narcissistic, foolish, grandiose, tempestuous, obsessional, cunning, imperious, deceptive, self-destructive, magnetic. I hated him, I loved him, my feelings about him changed with every page. Ultimately, the novel is about one man facing his past and coming to grips with the truths in his life.
It is an extraordinary novel. I absolutely loved it! I highly recommend the audiobook which is masterfully narrated by Simon Vance. View all 21 comments. Introduction --The Sea, The Sea. Mar 17, notgettingenough rated it did not like it Shelves: will-be-regretted-on-my-deathbed.
Written after 28 of pages. Of course I will be thinking exactly what you think I will be thinking.
Of course, of course…. Well, some of you. Go away. Write crap in the first person and get it published. Of course, we could. Get it published, did I say? Heck, we can do better than that. We can get it a Booker Prize. Big mistake. And you know who you are. All fifteen or so of you. How she mulled over every word — for years, probably — picking at them, adding, subtracting, reconsidering. Of course she did. Maybe too important for merit to enter the equation. Or maybe this was just some seriously crap year for books.
There has never been even a whisper of bribery or corruption or influence, as with other internationally known prizes…. Every effort is made to achieve a balance between the judges of gender, articulacy and role, so that the panel includes a literary critic, an academic, a literary editor, a novelist and a major figure. Then, once they are appointed, they are in charge without the slightest interference from the administrator or the sponsor.
From this has grown the total independence and balance that lies at the heart of the choices made.
They hunt guanacos by ambush like tigers. Dial Range has mountains to climb I wonder if a male author could get away with this scenario as well as this female author has. We wheeled our bags out to the curb as This is information we are never actually privy to, but it is clear that Hartley herself will necessarily have to enter the story, and hide spoiler ] the way this is achieved is a whopping, fairly unbelievable coincidence.
It is that which gives the Man Booker Prize its very special distinction among literary prizes the world over. What was so wrong with the books of that The sea, the sea got the BP guernsey? View all 43 comments. May 29, Jo rated it it was amazing. The house he has bought is old, damp and faintly mysterious and the novel could feel claustrophobic with such a limited setting except that the sea in all its vastness is a constant feature of the novel.
There are numerous and beautiful descriptions of the sea, the sky and the rocks that give us breathing room from Charles and his thoughts many of which revolve around food. Much has been made of the meals that Charles describes in great detail and I loved these, Charles is a man who has very strong opinions on a number of things whether it be food, the theatre or relationships. As the novel unfolds we hear about his past including numerous romantic liaisons, many of which are still coming back to haunt him and one of which will be pivotal for the drama of the novel as a whole.
We meet several characters from his past who inexplicably adore or are obsessed by him and are all damaged in some way and some of my favorite chapters were when the house was filled with people who Charles is trying to get rid of, while attempting to grab hold of the one person he does want.
There is almost the sense that the house is a stage where Charles is still trying to direct his actors and with the constant comings and goings like the entrances and exits in a play. However, as Peregrine tells Charles, his luster is fading and his ability and power to entrance and control with it. It is more likely that Charles is living in a bardo. James, stands apart from the theatre crowd and is a slightly mystical and mysterious character who acts almost as a surrogate parent or protector of Charles.
As with other characters such as Hilary in The Word Child and Bradley in The Black Prince, he seems to be looking for something outside of himself that will change him for the better, purify him in some way and once fixated on the person that will achieve that, he pursues these ends entirely selfishly. Ultimately this book is a prime example of everything that characterizes Iris Murdoch's novels, dislikable characters, unreliable narrator, humor, drama, tragedy and of course wonderful writing but I think her portrait of Charles Arrowby might just be one of her best.
How untidy and ugly and charmless married people often let themselves becomes without even noticing it. I sometimes reflect on these horrors simply in order to delight myself by thinking how I have escaped them! Oranges should be eaten in solitude and as a treat when one is feeling hungry. They are too messy and overwhelming to form part of an ordinary meal. Feb 09, Terry rated it it was amazing Shelves: audio , favorites , brit-lit.
This will be among my faves this year! At the start of the novel, the unlike-ability of the narcissistic narrator made me wonder why I was reading it. I generally prefer a protagonist that I like and can relate to. But, hanging in there, I began to enjoy the way the unreliable narrator propelled the action of this novel. And there is a lot of action. I listened to the audible version read by Simon Vance. He was fantastic! But, moreover, he was so believably the main character. Someone must have optioned the book. It would make a great series. High on my recommended list, read this one!
May 28, Gemma rated it it was amazing Shelves: uk. A fabulous investigation into ego and vanity and sexual stalking. Charles Arrowby, a theatre director, retires to a tower by the sea in order to be close to his childhood sweetheart. The novel is narrated by Arrowby himself, who has decided to write his memoirs. Murdoch has created a brilliant unreliable narrator in Arrowby and we, as readers, are forever straining to read between his lines. When he sets out to destroy the marriage of his childhood sweetheart the novel takes on the allure of a t A fabulous investigation into ego and vanity and sexual stalking.
When he sets out to destroy the marriage of his childhood sweetheart the novel takes on the allure of a thriller. Arrowby is like an inverted 20th century Prospero, blinded by narcissism and a bullying predisposition to control everyone within his sphere of influence. My favourite Iris Murdoch novel.
Why is it weird? It is not a typical fiction. It tries to bridge both fiction and biography together. The novel begins with the intention of the main character - writing a memoir. It continues in this stream and suddenly the memoir takes the turn of fictional events and the reader gets enclosed in it. And the end, when the fiction part seems to be ending the memoir part comes up again and acts as the concluding part. The writer tries to give the reader that the taste of both fiction and reality. It is a novel about some philosophical questions. It is a bridge between the philosophy and fiction.
What is the final salvation? Is it the complete detachment from all attachments? Interestingly one of the main characters in the novel is a believer in Buddhist philosophy. If complete detachment is the sign of Nirvana, then where do we place the fact of love?
Can one stop loving the other? If not, can loving other not considered as attachment? All these questions are raised in the novel. The philosophical musings found in the novel can be at times tiring to the mind. It is a novel about some moral questions. It is a novel that speaks of a bridge between morality and a happy life.
Can morality and moral values decide one's happiness? The author seems to be saying in a subtly way, yes. The moral degradation can act as a serpent that can torment you with its poisonous bites at the end of your life span. What to do?
Try doing simple acts of goodness. Try changing the serpent monster into harmless sea-seals. It is a deep analysis of the vice, jealousy and irrational obsession. Jealousy and its incarnations in life are very well analysed through characters and the actions of the important characters. In the same line, the novel also makes clear the harmful effects an obsession can bring to a person and to those around him.
Time is the great healer. Time makes us change perspectives. Time helps us to see through our earlier foolish mistakes. Time makes us realise that we had been simple fools obsessed with wanton things or vanity. Only time can help us see everything clearly. But then, we had to go through the ordeal till time passes and brings us to the future peak from where the vision of past can be seen with calming effects.
View all 9 comments. Jul 01, Lavinia rated it it was amazing Shelves: , fiction. Truth be told, I was scared of the book. Scared of its length, scared I might not like it enough to finish it I'm very frustrated when I can't finish books - I always feel it's my fault. Thank goodness Murdoch really knows how to write, I actually loved reading "The Bell" a couple of years ago and I promised myself I'd keep on reading Murdoch.
But I never knew which one to continue with, and, yes, I was scared of their length :. And I chose this one because it was mentioned in a really nice in Truth be told, I was scared of the book. And I chose this one because it was mentioned in a really nice interview with Murdoch's translator into Romanian and her friend for 25 years. What's new here possibly in some of her other novels too, no idea! The woman had published about 18 novels before this one, one would think she must have tried that already, don't you think?
I both loved and hated Charles throughout the novel. There are a lot of things going on, which disturb Charles' peace and quiet; past and present mingling together, twisting with his mind, playing tricks on him, friends who love and loathe him equally. Not one thing that was in a certain state at the beginning remains the same at the end. Well, maybe the sea. Buuut, I would have loved the book even if Murdoch hadn't done anything else but describing Charles every day, cooking, sipping wine, going swimming and mending his house - this is how much I liked it.
By the way, if a director thinks about turning the book into a film, I hope they'd consider Alan Rickman for Charles' part. Really nice portrayal of the characters - James Arrowby deserves an entire novel to himself! View all 12 comments. Jan 14, Lubinka Dimitrova rated it did not like it Shelves: romance , general-fiction , complete-waste-of-time , verbose , pointless , modern-classics , not-my-cup-of-tea , me-myself-and-i , female-author , award-winning.
Definitely not my cup of tea. The ramblings of a completely self-absorbed, delusional and unbearably verbose person left me absolutely indifferent. I forced myself to finish it, because I'm a sucker for self-punishment, and also because I hoped for an unimaginable twist at the finish line that would make it all worth it, but I was left none the wiser, if you don't count the bizarre self-inflicted death not suicide though that came out of the blue.
I suppose the author should be considered very Definitely not my cup of tea. I suppose the author should be considered very talented, after being able to fill pages upon pages with what was essentially the same ideas, over and over again. I do hope that my next readings this year will turn out to be more satisfying Back in the 80s, both my wife and I read a number of Iris Murdoch novels.
We always enjoyed them, but looking back, they're not exactly the kind of novels you remember much about.
They were all similar. Usually they involved several friends academics or artists or both thrown together over something, some cheating, love, jealousy, funny dialogue, and usually a tragedy to cap things off. The Bell an early effort , I vaguely recall liking the best. I couldn't tell you why, though I do recall it being shorter and more to the point, and that at the time I felt I should read more of her earlier novels. It's a good novel, but a long one. It tells the story told in the first person of recently retired actor and theater director Charles Arrowby.
Arrowby has recently purchased a strange, vaguely sinister house by the sea. It makes little noises and creaks at night, has a bizarre windowless red room at its center, and no electricity. He has started to settle into the life of recluse. Swimming every day, making simple meals, enjoying the sun, writing his observations of the sea, and recalling bits and pieces of his life, and his previous lovers.
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One day, while looking at the water, he sees a sea serpent, complete with looping black coils and green eyes, break the surface of the sea. This event is quite upsetting because it is so concrete and real. Arrowby doesn't know what to make of it, and is reluctant to mention it. In Murdoch's world, all of this stuff red room, the sea, the serpent, etc. Still, no reason to get bogged down since Murdoch is a frothy writer who keeps you laughing while she pulls you into something deeper and darker. Arrowby of course has a huge ego, and the serpent is clear warning of the man's raging jealousies, which soon will concentrate on the figure of his long lost and recently rediscovered teenage love, Hartley.
Hartely is older, heavier "bearded" one character calls her , and married to an unpleasant, probably abusive husband. She's unhappy, but she's also not exactly enthusiastic about meeting Charles again. Even though Charles remembers her as magical and "fey," she remembers Charles as being "bossy. There are other characters, other dilemmas, spiraling out from Charles' insane pursuit of Hartley, some of them quite funny, some not. But the Hartely thing does wear on you.
Late in the book I felt I might barf if I ever heard her name again. That said, the story does rally toward the end, with some expected turns involving Charles' mystical cousin, James. Overall, the novel is something of a meditation on aging and memory. It's interesting that Murdoch, who was in her late 50s when she wrote The Sea, The Sea , was also close to the age of Arrowby This was also interesting for me, at age 58, and my reading, which kept me going through the seemingly endless"Hartley" portion of the novel. I don't know if my patience would have held out if I was reading back in the 80s.
Nov 17, David rated it did not like it Recommended to David by: david-giltinan sbcglobal. Shelves: hideously-vile-protagonists , intellectual-con-artist-at-work , read-in , mind-numbingly-boring , disappointing , never-gonna-finish , utter-dreck , embarrassed-to-own , book-er-danno. This is another one for the "What were they thinking?!? Doubly so, in fact. It's not just another lapse by the Booker selection committee, whose judgements we already know to take with a large grain of salt.
But to be let down so abominably by Dame Iris, someone we know is capable of writing interestingly, though sometimes at the expense of prolixity. Regrettably, in "The Sea, The Sea" we see her giving free rein to her multiple vices, with little of the compensatory acuity that is there This is another one for the "What were they thinking?!?
Regrettably, in "The Sea, The Sea" we see her giving free rein to her multiple vices, with little of the compensatory acuity that is there in some of her earlier books. Poor writing choices all around. Or at least none that favors the hapless reader. So we are treated to the first person narrative of a monomaniacal narcissist. One who is delusional sea-serpents haunt him when he swims and who seems intent on tormenting us with the weird details of every bizarre meal he fixes for himself in his crumbling 'squalid to a degree only an English person would tolerate' surroundings.