Yes, well written prose; yes, well drawn characters; but if there is a plot line to hold my interest I have missed it. So - I'm done. The Philosopher's Pupil is a Dante-esque tale of love - as in the Inferno kind, not the love of Beatrice. Murdoch has a mature nineteenth century novelist's depth to her characters; she is easily a match for Tolstoy, Trollope and Eliot, to name some of the giants of fiction. The novel explores in numerous varieties of love, from dishonest to honorable, self-defeating to masochistic, platonic to deviant, and never ever simply just one type at any one time.
But this review is not about the plot, as that's for you to enjoy in your own reading. Instead, this is an homage to the truly marvellous characters that Murdoch's genius has given life to in this novel. Her fictional beings are beautifully detailed, fully realised in scope and complexity, and each draws you in with their own personal world view, and reasoning and often troubled emotional life, and you are captivated in your watching and listening to them live and breathe and assert themselves in their muddled worlds.
But he is scarily human. He is, for me, the most fully realised and horribly convincing, nightmarish psychopath and sociopath I have read in fiction. Far scarier than Hannibal Lecter as a fictional creation, and more believable than a real-life monster like Ed Gein. With his extreme ranting and raving, his sheer loathing and violent, misogynistic fantasies as well as behaviour , he is apocalyptic in tone and revenge.
Yet he could just as well be one of your neighbours who has become utterly mad, yet within a framework of apparent sanity at the same time. He is the strongest case and example - though there are several others in this novel - of Murdoch's impressive ability to complex human beings that convey her passionate intellectual and creative interests, while never failing to be merely conduits or foils for her fictional plotting. There's never any sense of Deus ex Machina at work, here - her creatures spring from the page, and are all tremendously individual in language, thought and action.
As if psychotic George wasn't enough for one novel, there's also the philosopher of the novel's title as well, John Robert Rozanov George was once one of John's pupils: Then there are the brothers to George: Brian, who is just the most miserable, endlessly complaining and always irritable sod. He is absurdly comical and a foil for much of the novel's humour. Tom is the youngest of the brothers, at university and naive. He's delightfully happy, at one with his world and his peers, until corrupted by a Faustian task that John compels him to take up.
Then there's Gabriel, the fallen angel in the form of Brian's put-upon wife: There's the intellectual, yet remote, and incredibly martryrish Stella, wife of the monster George and target for his spleen, murderous rage, violence and misogyny. And we have Zed - probably one of fiction's most charming, delightful and convincing portraits of a clever little doggie, who is Zen-like and always understanding, even when he's clueless. He's both part of the natural world, yet connected with his human peers. His trusted companion is the other marvel in this novel, the boy Adam, offspring of Gabriel and Brian.
He's Francis of Assisi-like, as well as Buddhist, in his immediate and deep empathy with all living things. Murdoch clearly knows her Varieties of Religious Experience. If Gabriel, Stella and Zed weren't enough, you have Father Bernard, an Anglican priest who's an atheist, and who believes ultimately that the only hope and saviour for the world is religion without God. There's also plenty here for lovers of Plato and Dante, for example, and yet such references are never done in an ostentatious way, but flow seamlessly with the events and thinking of the novel and her characters.
And all these riches are carried through with zest right to the end and beyond, with you being totally immersed in and absorbed by the mess and muddle of these human lives a true Murdochian talent. You are left joyous and breathless and happy and utterly, utterly impressed by Murdoch for her philosophical wisdom, her mischievous wit, her darkness and light, her psychological insights, her innate appreciation of what it means to be human.
The philosopher's Pupil was the first Murdoch novel I read. It will always stand for me as her best. It starts with the best couple argument I've ever read insight, humor, cruelity, style and finishes with a perfect ending. You will find here Murdoch at her best: It is always a pleasure to read Iris Murdoch, but The philosopher's pupil, for me, outstands her other novels.
A jewel between good jobs. Your recently viewed items and featured recommendations. View or edit your browsing history. Get to Know Us. Delivery and Returns see our delivery rates and policies thinking of returning an item? See our Returns Policy. Visit our Help Pages. Interesting narrative overlaid with philosophical commentary. This is not a book for those who do not enjoy the discussion of ideas; but if you do enjoy fiction interlaced with philosophy this book should be on your list.
It is not surprising that the author, Iris Murdoch, was an academic philosopher before she was a novelist. Aug 31, Stephen P rated it liked it. Apr 28, Gila Gila added it Shelves: I'm a diehard Murdoch fan, and couldn't really get into this - ended up actually skimming through pages, which I've never done, ever with one of her novels. I'm filing this under Return To for a re-read, because it may be a case of Iris dear, it's me, not you.
Oct 11, Lauren Albert rated it really liked it Shelves: I felt very meh about this one. I usually love Murdoch, but this one I really struggled to finish. I did much of this yesterday, lost to Goodreads, which flickers. It's the narrator says he knows 'Delphi is empty. The gods might as well be in Britain.
The author's playful, 'If George was in a novel he would be a comic character.
His use of the term 'semi-conscious will' indicates he knows nothing of the unconscious will as distinct from that of conscious will which, left to itself, acts immaterially eg choosing one toothpaste over another and is if ignorantly informed by th I did much of this yesterday, lost to Goodreads, which flickers.
His use of the term 'semi-conscious will' indicates he knows nothing of the unconscious will as distinct from that of conscious will which, left to itself, acts immaterially eg choosing one toothpaste over another and is if ignorantly informed by the unconscious will when it's acting spiritually eg desiring one person over all others, otherwise interchangeable. One gets some idea of the animus the philosopher bears his pupil from his excoriation of the pupil's brother, Tom. Who the fuck does he think he is! It wouldn't take much psychology on Tom's part to realise if he says he's going to a party the crowd will follow, his use of the excuse to leave them an example from the novel itself of an unconscious will acting through consciousness to effect something, the author's in the guise of Tom's.
There's many a hint of killing. Pearl's confession is wonderful. I liked the detail of 'a piece of the cracked glass That he 'felt vaguely unwell and feverish' indicated he was the one like to die. I thanked god that 'Tom McCaffrey was standing outside. He had 'the assistance of a certain lady. It's a brilliant way to justify the rationale of the novel, with one mighty leap, she is free. The introduction I read afterwards. It's a good analysis of her oeuvre. In quoting her he repeats the misspelling of 'pedlar', maybe because the publisher is American.
He may be wrong about murder and accidents. It's fairly clear the first was attempted murder, as was the last. What's interesting is the would-be murderer can't remember what he did ie he did it unconsciously, precluding its registering on conscious memory, giving plausible deniability. That's how your unconscious takes advantage for your benefit of conscious ignorance. Maybe the introducer doesn't know this of himself. Jun 29, Jesse Field rated it really liked it Shelves: There are women characters, too, drawn with a distinctly less nuanced palette.
A droll, gently comedic plot spins around a family, the McCaffreys of Enniston, that would certainly make for a decent Wes Anderson film, with Ben Stiller as the brother who complains too much. They are in a novel after all. The tool of an omniscient third person narrator, called N. Indeed, some of the best writing is about the town of Enniston, with its old Roman baths that were a tourist institution in the high pseudo-science days of the early twentieth century, its Ring of Druid stones, its citizens like the McCaffreys quietly living off investments from Victorian factories.
Tiny Enniston is effectively the entire two millennia history of Europe, the moral and intellectual backdrop against which some citizens pursue knowledge, but most just try to survive and get by with, if not happiness, some certain stages of satisfaction. Kudos to reader Gildart Jackson, with his subtle, touching renditions of all the characters voices. Well, this was a bit of a struggle - the first 'serious' fiction I've read in years. Being so steeped in story-driven stuff and anything with exploding robots, something so character-focused sometimes had me yelling mentally FFS make something happen.
I shall probably try something more straight-forward next, but I might look at Murdoch again in my loooooooooong retirement: Aug 10, Alex Crossley rated it liked it. Like reading a soap. Went on a bit long. Jan 11, Maria White rated it it was amazing. Mesmerising, extraordinary, absolutely beautiful. Jan 07, Italo Perazzoli rated it really liked it.
Following the discussion we have the clear idea That George is a womanizer, he hates the women, and he is suffering so tremendously That Father Bernad Jacoby wants to help him. The dilemma is to understand if this accident was a dream of George or he has tried to kill her wife. After some pages we see That there is a strong contrast between George and John Robert Rozanov, the philosopher. It is clear that the humans are imperfect, even the philosopher, a victim of jealously is not immune.
If we are conscious that we are victim of envy and we hate a person because we cannot have a girl or man to love we will search the help of a priest. In this case the priest does not believe in God because Father Jacoby does not believe in a personal God but he believes is a spiritual reality. The other philosophical questions are if love can win over the evil and if we can define the borders between the good and Evil not being Gods, if envy is a form of love George - Rozanov.
A part of this novel is dedicated to the question if a philosopher can arrange a marriage between Tom and Hattie Meynell his granddaughter, and why her future husband cannot be a philosopher. The most interesting passages are the letters, as the most intimate form of communication, because it seems that there is a direct dialogue between souls.
The last chapter "What Happened Afterwards" is not a simple summary of the main characters, but it opens, in the mind of the reader, new philosophical questions, under the point of view of "N". These questions have not a solution This is philosophy due to their complexities. It is like to live inside the Plato's cave, this is positive because, if we will go out we will suffer more. It is better to have a "personal God" rather that a "spiritual God" because this imply a profound reasoning about the "nature of god" having not an answer the world will be worse, the perfect balance is the cave.
This novel ends with a monologue of N "As I know and this one, somebody may say, But how on earth do you know all these things about all these people?
Well , where does one person end and another begin? It is my role in life to listen to stories. I also had the assistance of a certain lady. Feb 18, Wendy Capron rated it liked it. With all the agonizing, over-thinking and mental turmoil, this could have been a Russian novel. George and John Robert, especially, would have been right at home in the Karamozovs' neighborhood. Except there was more or less a happy ending. May 04, Jim Puskas rated it it was ok Shelves: I have to confess to a morbid fascination with it, even though there is much to detest about Murdoch's style, her content and especially her characters.
The only saving grace I've discovered in this collection of unpleasant people is their vaunted cleverness -- which renders them even more abhorrent.
And there are so damn MANY of them: Murdoch gleefully explores the entire family history of each resident of her screwball imag The greatest shortcoming of this book is its terrible lack of ECONOMY. Murdoch gleefully explores the entire family history of each resident of her screwball imaginary town, back to at least two or three generations, whether they have any relevance to the narrative or not. I kept hoping that at least one sympathetic character would emerge out of this menagerie of misanthropes, sycophants, schemers, sociopaths, misfits, social climbers, whiners, poseurs Or that someone would do the right thing and murder George, the disgusting, drunken psychopath before long even though he appeared to be the main protagonist.
Murdoch spends nearly a hundred pages exploring George's personality and motives, even though her one sentence "He saw the world as a conspiracy against him and himself as a victim of cosmic injustice" probably would have sufficed. Murdoch's self-indulgence permitted by her editors, to their discredit impairs what could otherwise have been an engrossing story, namely the complex relationship among George, Tom, Hattie and Rozenov. Apr 28, Tracy Kendall rated it liked it. What I loved best about this book was Murdoch's depiction of the strange balancing between George and Rozanov; George ramming himself against the philosopher in order to provoke a reaction and gain validation for himself; Rozanov's refusal to bite.
I've been on George's end of the stick and I so appreciated how Murdoch got it, and layed it out for the reader.
I didn't understand the power that Rozanov held over everyone he met. I was glad of her character choice for the obligatory death; happy wit What I loved best about this book was Murdoch's depiction of the strange balancing between George and Rozanov; George ramming himself against the philosopher in order to provoke a reaction and gain validation for himself; Rozanov's refusal to bite. I was glad of her character choice for the obligatory death; happy with how each of the characters sorted out in the end which doesn't always happen in a Murdoch book.
Tom's scene in the boiler room was intense. Some of my favorite random quotes: Yes, but that doesn't matter. This is a poem. We don't want wives in poems. Jul 24, Ali rated it really liked it. Of all the Iris murdoch novels I have tackled during our murdoch a month challenge, this is one of only about 3 or 4 I had read before - although I had absolutely no memory of it either before or while I read it this time.
I can't say it is my favourite - or anyway near to being a favourite Murdoch, but it was enjoyable, and at times, really quite a page turner. I thought John Robert to be absolutely the vilest of her characters so far - except for maybe Julius in A Fairy Honourable defeat - the Of all the Iris murdoch novels I have tackled during our murdoch a month challenge, this is one of only about 3 or 4 I had read before - although I had absolutely no memory of it either before or while I read it this time.
I thought John Robert to be absolutely the vilest of her characters so far - except for maybe Julius in A Fairy Honourable defeat - there was just something so utterly repelent about him, and his odd relationship with his granddaughter. Many typical Murdoch themes - a good deal of philosophical chunterings which is no surprise given the title, but I did get a bit fed up with the constant inward exammination of everyone's motives and preoccupations. I really liked the character of Gabriel - she is just mad enough to be likeable - and also Adam and his adorbale dog - the dog was my favourite character - much more likeable than most Murdoch humans who are all just a bit peculiar -even the nice ones.
As always there were serveral characters developing unlikely passions for one of the other characters, amazing how often IM has some repellently ugly bully being mooned over by at least two other seemingly sane normal people. Brian was vile, and George pathetic, but then there has to be at least one really pathetic male in an Iris Murdoch novel. What an impressive book. In short it's about love, religion, philosophy and relationships.
There's a lot of back story and very detailed character descriptions. It takes about pages to set the scene, but if you're willing to make the effort you will be amply rewarded. The characters are all complex people who seem to be at a stage where they've mislaid their lives and can't seem to move on. They are not who they want to be. Only Tom is happy, but he does get lost as the book progresses. Really What an impressive book. Really very little happens and yet the plot is both tense and interesting.
The juxtaposition of demonic George and the selfish philosopher Rozanov is interesting. I can't work out which one of these characters I dislike the most. The descriptions of George are subtle, but manages to make him out to be a complete madman and Rozanov is depicted as a revolting man. And yet everyone seem to be in love with one or the other. The baths, which is a focal point in the novel where characters interact and meet, is a place that I wish existed here. And last, but not least, there's N, the narrator. A conceited figure who proceeds to name the town after himself Ennistone and who can hear and see everything.
A very difficult trick to pull off, but it worked for me. Jul 13, Catherine rated it really liked it. This has been my first revisit to an author I was mildly obsessed with about 20 years ago. I must have read it at the time, but interestingly had not the faintest recollection of anything about this book. To read it in my 40s made me wonder what on earth I made of it in my 20s.
Characters who must have seemed wildly exaggerated inventions now exhibit all sorts of recognisable traits, and elicit sympathy as much as horror. I found the evocation of a small town community amusing, but as always wi This has been my first revisit to an author I was mildly obsessed with about 20 years ago.
I found the evocation of a small town community amusing, but as always with Murdoch there is a suggestion of greater, even eternal, forces at work. I enjoyed her usual preoccupation with the allure of the young for the older characters. There was also the reverse obsession in the relationship between George and John Robert. I was disappointed that only one of her excellent meal descriptions appeared, but fortunately it was a particularly fine example, involving 2 separate thermos flasks of cocktails, one gin and fresh orange and one soda syphon for a seaside outing.
I will probably do another of hers soon. I seemed to get past the clunky dialogue to enjoy the characters' struggle with each other and their attempts to control one another.