Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time of the Angels by Iris Murdoch

I have just concluded reading Iris Murdoch's The Time of the Angels, a wonderful novel about spiritual grappling and metaphysical contemplation. I was disappointed at the end of the novel to lose a sense regarding the identities, the realities of being of Muriel and Elizabeth. Perhaps in a sequel...? Not certain. Rector Carel Fisher was an extraordinarily troubled person for reasons never clarified, unfortunately. Sometimes one meets a character without understanding altogether the psychological dynamics influencing him...or her. His brother, Marcus, is in many respects the more interesting character, one struggling to know the meaning of his life, to understand, perhaps, that which motivates him to write a philosophical work on what constitutes the good of life, the love of life...perhaps. What does a writer seek in the authoring of a book, that is to contribute to the advancement of humaneness?
In Murdoch's short novel (230 pages), principally she tells a story, one limited to a small world of characters, almost all of them living in two residences. How sad their existences in the rectory: the rector, his mistress/servant, his daughter, his niece who actually is his daughter with whom he has an incestuous relation, and a Russian and his son. What a diverse cast of dysfunctional actors!
Missionaries to this familial group are three people who seek to bring redemption to the rector and his entourage. Redemption does not occur, at least not for the rector. Regarding most of the others we must speculate. Are we hopeful? Yes, somewhat, in the same way that we always reserve some amount of hope in the midst of the human condition.
To my list of women authors with whom I find myself much in love are Iris Murdoch and Rebeccah Goldstein, both philosophical writers. O, thank you, Iris and Rebeccah!

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