Dame Iris Murdoch has played a major role in English life and letter for nearly half a century. As A.S. Byatt notes, she is "absolutely central to our culture". As a novelist, as a thinker, and as a private individual, her life has significance for our age. There is a recognizable Murdoch world, and the adjective "Murdochian" has entered the language to describe situations where a small group of people interract intricately and strangely. Her story is as emotionally fascinating as that of Virginia Woolf, but far less well-known; hers has been an adventurous, highly eventful life, a life of phenomenal emotional and intellectual pressures, and her books portray a real world which is if anything toned down as well as mythicised. For Iris's formative years, documented by Conradi's meticulous research, were spent among the leading European and British intellectuals who fought and endured the Second World War
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