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Man Booker Prize Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Sea, The Sea , please sign up. One of my reading goals for this year is to read an Iris Murdoch. The Sea, The Sea seems to be her most lauded, but for Murdoch fans: is this your favorite, or the best place to start for a newby? My absolute favorite. I was very much engaged with the characters and found myself shouting at Charles.
A magnificent book which I highly recommend. Did Iris Murdoch have alzheimers when she wrote this book? She did seem to ramble and had trouble ending the story.
Mizannie Murdoch was diagnosed in The Sea, The Sea was published in and was a Booker prize winner; it was written at the height of her literary …more Murdoch was diagnosed in The Sea, The Sea was published in and was a Booker prize winner; it was written at the height of her literary career. See all 3 questions about The Sea, The Sea…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Feb 14, Jim Fonseca rated it it was amazing Shelves: booker-prize-winner , favorite-books , irish-authors , british-authors.
This book earned the author the Booker Prize in I had seen it forever at library sales and for years I thought I should read it. Finally, I did, and I wish I had read it earlier. He was a so-so actor, a better playwright, but a masterful director.
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In the last endeavor he achieved his fame and made his money. The main character is an ego This book earned the author the Booker Prize in The main character is an egotist. The press has called him a tyrant and power-crazed monster. Whatever will he DO there? He spends his time writing a memoir that is a kind of diary and autobiography mixed in with copies of letters he sent or received; basically that is this book. He feels that he has fallen in love with her again; or, that he never stopped loving her. Well, maybe, maybe not. Until they break up. Of course these are theater folks.
Many of the women he abused throughout his life, wooing them and then abandoning them, still seem to be willing to move back in with him, now that he is alone. I wonder if a male author could get away with this scenario as well as this female author has. They seem to still hate him, despite their willingness to come back to him. All his old loves he never married come back to haunt him with dramatic, unannounced entrances he has no phone. They come dragging their chains like the ghosts of Christmas past. They appear at his door at the most inopportune times, creating a theater-like farce.
One woman breaks into his house and smashes mirrors and vases. One enters the dining room while he is dining with a friend and spits on the floor. Another ambushes a car full of people he is traveling with, smashing all the windows with rocks. Murdoch can be considered an Irish author even though she grew up in and went to school in England. She was born in Ireland and both her parents were Irish. I intend to read more by Iris Murdoch. Photos from top: thewordtravels.
View all 30 comments. She said, "How is the Murdoch book? She tilted her head in her adorable way and said "Whatsitabout? I decided to sit down and come up with a laundry list of what it i 5 Jungian Stars! I decided to sit down and come up with a laundry list of what it is about: -the stars and earth -isolation, connection, misunderstandings, avoidance -narcissistic men and histrionic women -misunderstood boys and romantic girls -wine, cheese, mushrooms and biscuits -tea even when its not drunk -Buddhist demons and Christian saints -dreams, concussions, drownings, death -petty cruelties, belittlement and acts of supreme generosity -heterosexual passions and homosexual cravings -theatre, woodworking, cooking and music -merboys, seals, ghosts and sea dragons -vengeance and apathy -interpretations, neurosis and delusions -minutiae and momentary insights -sullen villagers and grandiose urbanites -dogs, cats and many roses -lost loves and childhood musings -churches, taxis and pubs -murderous rages and spiritual awakenings -vulgarities and tender exchanges -stagnation, repetition and momentary joy Most of all it is about the depth and changeability of the Sea.
The Sea that with one swoosh can take away all that we hold dear and understanding that we never held it in the first place. Absolutely amazing. Thank you Ms. View all 66 comments. His humble medium is on the side of truth. On the other hand, in a purely formal sense the theatre is the nearest to poetry of all the arts. I used to think that if I could have been a poet I would never have bothered with the theatre at all, but of course this is nonsense. What I needed with all my starved and silent soul was just that particular way of shouting back at the world.
The theatre is an attack on mankind carried on by magic: to victimise an audience every night, to make them laugh and cry and suffer and miss their trains. Of course actors regard audiences as enemies, to be deceived, drugged, incarcerated, stupefied. This is partly because the audience is also a court against which there is no appeal. Charles Arrowby has retired from the theatre to a damp, drafty, but dramatic home by the sea.
His plan is to live on his own, read, and eat well while he writes his memoirs. He is famous, certainly well known enough to be recognized on the street from his days acting and directing on the stage. He wants to be anonymous, but as I can tell anyone from personal experience the last place one can be anonymous is in a small town. The most peaceful and secluded place in the world is a flat in Kensington. I especially enjoyed reading about him figuring out this life of reading, eating, and writing. It sounds ideal.
As the plot advances it will take many shattering blows for me to let go of the Arrowby I liked and replace him with a man that is on the verge of lunacy. It all starts to unwind when he goes to the village and sees his first love, Hartley appear as if by magic. As it turns out he is the only one that calls her Hartley everyone else calls her Mary. He knew her briefly before the war and during the war, as happened with many people, he lost track of her. Her life is a Mary life not a Hartley life. Charles can not accept the person he sees before him.
This figure, which I had so vaguely, idly, noticed before was now utterly changing in my eyes. The whole world was its background.
And between me and it there hovered, perhaps for the last time, the vision of a slim long-legged girl with gleaming thighs. Now Clement, who he actually talks the least about of all his lovers seems to be the woman that made him into the successful man he is today. She kept him from his one true love by The Poor Bastard. Lizzie visits him, another one of his ex-lovers. She has decided to move in with their mutual friend Gilbert. Although she has the most adorable breasts of any woman I ever made love to, she is not really beautiful, and never was even when she was young, but she has charm.
She is a famous actress almost as obsessed with Charles as Charles is becoming with Hartley. She breaks into house not once, but several times and soon knows all there is to know about this silly Hartley business. It seems that Charles broke up her marriage and then casually tossed her aside, but Rosina as it turns out is not the type to be so casually flung anywhere. She is more likely to pick Charles up and fling him into the sea or run over him with her car or brain him with a rock.
Charles seems to have a most powerful effect on women, but his charms are having no influence on Hartley. Despite being resoundingly rebuffed his fantasy continues to grow. Perhaps that was what she used to do with her mackintosh collar in the days when we went bicycling. And even as I was listening intently to her words. I was all the time gazing with a kind of creative passion at her candlelit face, like some god reassembling her beauty for my own purposes. To wed his beggar maid the king would, and how gladly, become a beggar too.
The vision of that healing humility would henceforth be my guide. This was indeed the very condition of her freedom, why had I not seen this before?
I would at last see her face changing. It was, I found, a part of my thought of the future that when she was with me Hartley would actually regain much of her old beauty: like a prisoner released from a labour camp who at first looks old, but then with freedom and rest and good food soon becomes young again. They make the role their own and transcend the script.
This book won the Booker Prize in There is something so sad about a woman who thinks her writing ability has simply shut down only to learn that her body is failing her. She had more stories to tell us, but unfortunately they became locked up in the corridors of her mind with doors without knobs and crooked, meandering hallways. Iris Murdoch When we first meet Charles he seems like a man that we would love to know, a favorite uncle or a friend to grab a beer with occasionally.
As we get to know him better his selfishness, his egotism, his dramatic persona turns him into a person that I would avoid as if he were sporting bubonic plague. By the end he has proved to be as chimeric as the youthful Hartley. View all 52 comments. Ah the sea, that wonderful spectacle bringing joy to countless many, whether swimming, diving, surfing, fishing, boating, splashing about in waist high water or just simply strolling along the shoreline whist the tide tickles your feet.
But for some they won't go anywhere near it, all thanks to a certain Steven Spielberg film. For Iris Murdoch's fictional character Charles Arrowby, getting munched on by a shark is not likely and the last thing on his mind, after all, this is the British coast we Ah the sea, that wonderful spectacle bringing joy to countless many, whether swimming, diving, surfing, fishing, boating, splashing about in waist high water or just simply strolling along the shoreline whist the tide tickles your feet.
For Iris Murdoch's fictional character Charles Arrowby, getting munched on by a shark is not likely and the last thing on his mind, after all, this is the British coast we are dealing with here. The former theatre playwright and actor just wanted to escape and retire by the sea, away from London, away from everyone, to be left alone.
Could he have foreseen the life ahead of him? This Booker prize-winning novel was a feast of reading, rich, textured, deep characters and a story that keep me intrigued throughout. It was a study of vanity and self-delusion more than anything else, with Charles Arrowby the egomaniac narrator a most unlikable person, moving to Shruff End, a house with a tower by the cliffs "How huge it is, how empty, this great space for which I have been longing all my life," Arrowby writes.
He would clamber down the rocks and take to the sea come rain or shine for a swim, letting the calm of the water engulf him. Arrowby is writing his memoirs, and his attempt to chronicle his successful career in the histrionic arts, he wants to be a hermit and indulge in fine wine, gourmet food, whist pondering over his history. But with nothing but his writings, it is inevitable that Arrowby will create some sort of drama in his boring life, even in this isolated spot, and this he does, by attempting to draw his former lover Lizzie into his new life while trying to destroy the marriage of his childhood sweetheart, Hartley the one he really loves.
Other visitors would appear on the scene to congregate at his new abode, shedding light on Arrowby's past and present: including his Buddhist armed forces cousin, James, and various theatrical ex-lovers and ex-friends. Their relationships start to reveal the shallow ways of Arrowby's self-knowledge, as well as his ability to be a manipulating bully, and a complete belligerent asshole. Murdoch's subtly and blackly humorous digs, periodically build into waves of hilarity, and Arrowby although on the whole unlikable is without doubt a brilliant creation: a deeply textured, intriguing narrator that you just can't get enough of, leading to one of the finest character studies of the 20th century.
But Murdoch also uses a cast of supporting characters to great effect, Hartley, a gray, worn and distraught woman living through the pain of a marriage than doesn't seem just, the jealous, raging ex-lover Rosina, Peregrine, an old friend who may have alternative motives for his visit, Titus, a young man that turns out to be Hartley's son, and cousin James, who may or may not have some sort of Tibetan superhuman ability, they all work into the story tremendously well.
My only gripe, there were too many moments when I wanted to push Arrowby into the sea myself, for his constant whining, other than that it's writing of a virtuoso, tour-de-force nature. View all 17 comments. Dec 13, Adam Dalva rated it it was amazing. An extraordinary novel, at once page-turner and philosophic, comic and melodramatic, one of the best that I've read.
Murdoch is remarkably skilled at inhabiting the minds of her protagonists, and Charles Arrowby, a late-middle-aged, bumbling, morally dubious, veteran of theater, is a wondrous creation. The first pages of this novel shouldn't work, as Charles, in journal form, moves to Shruff's end and inhabits a lonely house by the sea, wanders around town, experiences visions that he blames An extraordinary novel, at once page-turner and philosophic, comic and melodramatic, one of the best that I've read.
The first pages of this novel shouldn't work, as Charles, in journal form, moves to Shruff's end and inhabits a lonely house by the sea, wanders around town, experiences visions that he blames on LSD about which, more soon , goes on lengthy diatribes about food: "For lunch, I may say, I ate and greatly enjoyed the following: anchovy paste on hot buttered toast, then baked beans and kidney beans with chopped celery, tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil. Though this early section is essentially pure exposition, it works, and I was oddly gripped. I was especially fascinated by what Murdoch left under the surface.
THE SEA THE SEA has to be record-holder for characters mentioned who never appear - you can track the sub-narratives of at least a dozen acquaintances of Charles, such as a chauffeur who he feels he's wronged who shows up for exactly three paragraphs pages in but is discussed incessantly beforehand.
And then, at the end of these pages, the twist, one of the greatest twists in literature. All along, the journal hints at a lost love from childhood, one who comes up over and over again. Hartley, my Hartley.
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Yes, I see her quickly jumping over a rope, higher and higher it was raised, Hartley still flew over, the watchers sighing each time with sympathetic relief; and I hugging my heart in secret pride. She was the champion jumper of the school…Hartley always first, and I cheering with the rest and laughing with secret joy. Hartley, in a breathless stillness, crouched upon a parallel bar, her bare thighs gleaming. The games master spoke of the Olympics.
And then a string of completely insane coincidences begins. It's a bit difficult to summarize - there's Charles's cousin James, who might have magical powers I can't believe this book pulls off a mysticism sub-plot ; Hartley's estranged adopted son; Hartley's husband, surely, surely the model for Albert in "The Bear Comes Over The Mountain," Lizzie the love obsessed actress, and her gay partner Gilbert Opian, the novel's saving grace, who has a 50 page lite-BDSM sequence where he intentionally debases himself as Charles's Butler; Rosina, who is also in love with Charles and wants to kill him, and HER husband who Charles stole her from, though their friendship is unaffected; Clement Makin, who is dead and quite possibly the actual love of Charles's life; and of course Hartley, who Charles stalks and eventually kidnaps.
It's as good a cast as I can remember in a book, and they function like Shakespearean ghosts. Shruff's End is clearly meant to be thought of as a stage, with exits on all sides and a clear set, and characters come crashing into it at all hours of the night.
An extraordinary night party sequence brings the energy back up, and the ending, totally bizarre, is virtually perfect. I regret, greatly, not reading Murdoch sooner. This is a big, sloppy, flawed book, and I couldn't sleep for 3 straight nights until I finished reading it. Make the time for it. View all 8 comments. Oct 30, Paul rated it it was amazing Shelves: english-novels. I struggled with this for a while, mainly because I was so irritated by Charles Arrowby, the main character and unreliable narrator.
Arrowby is a retired actor, director and playwright who has moved to a remote cottage by the sea and is tentatively writing his memoirs. Whole successions of characters, many of them former lovers, arrive and depart and Charles encounters his first love Hartley who has also retired to the area with her husband. I also found myself increasingly irritated by what he did with food nothing kinky here!
There is moral complexity and ambiguity as Arrowby tries to recapture his first love literally. The cast of secondary characters are strong and are not there for mere ornament. Cousin James is an interesting counterpoint to Arrowby. They have to fight their way through hostile areas to the Black Sea coastline near Greece. The cry of The Sea, The Sea is one of joy and relief; it is symbolic of home; the home Arrowby wants in his twilight years. The sea serpent is a strange addition and the Freudians have had a field day with that one.
Murdoch usually has purpose in her literature; she argued that religion and philosophy had lost their oomph a technical term and potency in explaining the human condition and can be described as dry see her essay called Against Dryness. It is up to literature to provide what religion and philosophy now cannot; an interesting argument. All our failures are ultimately failures in love.
Iris Murdoch Oh boy. This is deep, dudes. Far out and deeply deep, dudettes. Rather than trying my unworthy hand at a thorough analysis of a psychologically complex page novel, I shall lay track for a few grooves.
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Dig it. Near the beginning, I thought it might be a romance. No way, man. What is love? How is the idea or thought of it, especially young love, affected by the pas All our failures are ultimately failures in love. How is the idea or thought of it, especially young love, affected by the passage of time, what with our tendency to romanticize our youth? The painful paradox of the ego false pride , with its fang-ed sea serpent 'jealousy,' blinding us to reason, depriving us of patience and filling us with anger, all of which operates to ruin the very love that our innate sexuality tells us to cherish above all else.
The ways we lie to ourselves to enable the fantasy, even to the edge of sanity, that another loves us despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This is a thought provoker that goes down some murky places in the mind. Some readers may be turned off by what at times seems like a long-windedness of the first person narrator. Although it seemed to me, after finishing it, that 50 pages could have been trimmed, I haven't studied it enough to make conclude that those 50 were unneeded, and not the kick that pushed this novel into "classic" territory.
I could delve into all my thoughts triggered by the profundity of Iris Murdoch. It would be a ramble for it reminds me of how I languished in damaged love's lassitudes all the day I finished it. So, in that respect, I couldn't have read a more timely book. This is a surefire 4. View all 7 comments. What if your sighting was accidental, unexpected, and you were unprepared?
Do you really love them still - or is it your youthful self you love? Is stalking a passive act, a safety-valve? Or does it forge the innocent past into a twisted vision of the future? There are many interesting and worthwhile ideas, big characters, and some lovely phrases, but overall, a ludicrous number of coincidences, convoluted machinations, and individual or group introspections were dragged out over too many pages.
Even the title is twice as long as it needs to be! He bumps into his childhood sweetheart, Mary Hartley, who had disappeared in their teens. Cue quests, plots, reminiscences, and theatrical friends and ex lovers, plus mysterious cousin James, dropping in at crucial moments. Charles is a self-confessed unreliable narrator. He relishes the sight, sounds, and feel of the sea, as he looks back on his life and loves, including a formative relationship with a much older woman, Clement.
But there are several other contenders, and that was the most interesting puzzle for me: Rosina, James, even Titus or Hartley? Image : Marionette on a theatrical stage, by Daniel Beauchamp Source. There are no happy couples in this book, and marriage is a dark and unknowable institution. The inferno of marriage. James is a successful retired general, a Buddhist mystic, possible spy, and may be gay.
Bananas should be cut, never mashed, and the cream should be thin. Then hard water-biscuits with New Zealand butter and Wensleydale cheese. Of course I never touch foreign cheeses. They are especially good with anything made of almonds, and thus consort happily with red wine. The challenged blood rejoices with a new strength. Yes, this is my natural element. I have heard it called an ugly coast.
Long may it be deemed so. The rocks… are sandy yellow in colour, covered with crystalline flecks, and are folded into large ungainly incoherent heaps. But they have been at pains to exhibit indifference. Basil is of course the king of herbs. Then spring cabbage cooked slowly with dill. Boiled onions served with bran, herbs, soya oil and tomatoes, with one egg beaten in. With these, a slice or two of cold tinned corned beef.
Meat is really just an excuse for eating vegetables. Judgements of people are never final. View all 27 comments. The author famously was an academic; a professor of Philosophy at Oxford University, who also wrote novels with a philosophical focus. The novel is in the form of a journal. The viewpoint character throughout is a famous actor and director, Charles Arrowby. The impression we gain immediately is that he is a solitary, rather arrogant and egotistical individual.
In the novel he has decided to retire to "Shruff End" a dilapidated and creaky old house on a rocky promontory next to the sea. He tells us that he has decided to get away from London life once and for all, and to follow his dream of living in seclusion, much to the bewilderment and scepticism of all his theatre friends. The journal he writes, and which we are reading, is an attempt to form some structure to his life, and to be a memoir of sorts. But even though he professes to be writing details of the house and village, he seems to find it impossible to concentrate on the job he has set himself, which he says is the reason for being there in the first place.
He becomes distracted inordinately easily; even the food he prepares is an excuse. He rambles on about his culinary activities - both past and present, "guzzling large quantities of expensive, pretentious, often mediocre food in public places was not only immoral, unhealthy and unaesthetic, but also unpleasurable. Later my guests were offered simple chez moi. What is more delicious than fresh hot buttered toast, with or without the addition of bloater paste? Or plain boiled onions with a little corned beef if desired?
And given subsequent events in the novel, it is probably important for the author to get the reader on Charles's side, to enjoy his little foibles and forgive him what appears to be fanciful and conceited notions about himself. Increasingly Charles has little grumbles about the privations of his self-imposed exile, reporting spooky goings on. He half imagines there is a poltergeist, as things keep mysteriously getting smashed. An old girlfriend had been indulging in a spot of mischief-making. There is an ambiguous attitude to the supernatural here. Sometimes it seems as though there can be no logical explanation for the events; yet at other times a delayed reaction to LSD seems more than likely.
Several of the horrific and malevolent impressions Charles reports, are bound up with his feelings about the sea. The best parts in the first half of the book have to be the wonderful descriptions of the sea, which increasingly seems to have an organic, perhaps omniscient presence, "The sea was covered by a clear grey light together with a thick rain curtain. The rain was exhibited in the light as if it were an illuminated grille, and as if each raindrop were separately visible like the beads upon my bead curtain.
There it hung, faintly vibrating in the brilliant grey air, while the house hummed like a machine with the steady sound of pattering. He tells us about his theatrical life with charm, and describes his many relationships with women, professing to not understand his undeniable attraction and appeal for any female he meets, yet obviously making sure he leaves us in no doubt about it. We are very aware that Charles may be an unreliable narrator. His conquests of women seems very fanciful. Is every woman he has ever met really in love with him? At this point he also waxes lyrical about an old childhood romance with a girl called Hartley, his only "true love", and the readers gets the impression that Charles is impossibly unrealistic, viewing the world almost entirely through his imagination.
The journal is a useful device, telling us much of the history we need to know, and developing our ideas about Charles's character, as well as giving us an indication of his attitudes towards some of the other people who will enter the novel. It is also presented in a totally believable and authentic way. An amateur, unpractised writer, starting with a vague idea in retirement, may well start off with one idea, and go off at various tangents, being diverted by other ideas.
However this early part of the novel does seem to be a little tedious and self-indulgent. It is rather too full of lengthy speeches and conversation; there are great long swathes of emoting from the characters, and it's all very angst-ridden. Nothing much seems to be happening, and a modern reader cannot help wishing this first part of the novel had been edited. In this way the novel is very much of its time, the s, when self-expression was all, with the Arts swamped with long unformed passages of "progressive" music, experimental literature, painting and sculpture. But then, to rescue the reader's attention, there are the magnificent and evocative descriptions of the sea in all its moods.
There is an impending sense of doom. There are so many descriptions of the sea, and the whirling cauldron of foam. It is very symbolic, sometimes for the emotions and moods of the characters, sometimes perhaps for their stormy relationships, sometimes it seems to be Charles's "id". He often goes in search of the sea when he is in mental turmoil - once even desperately "checking" on it through his binoculars, as if he could somehow get a portent of how things would be from a glimpse of its state.
Sometimes the sea seems like a live creature itself, "It was as if the sun were shining through a mist, but a mist made out of the dark blue globules of the sky itself. I remember the lurid impression of that evening, the vivid dark light, the brilliant vibrating colours of the rocks There was no breath of wind, not the softest breeze.
The sea was menacingly quiet, utterly smooth, glassy, glossy, oily, a uniform azure. Charles is not left in his isolation. Starting with a letter, his acting friends, all unbearable "luvvies" begin to descend on him in ones and twos. Parts of this are very funny, and one part where they are all wondering where on earth they can camp out in Charles's ramshackle house, is almost farcical.
The interrelation between characters is pure Iris Murdoch. Each seems absorbed in their own little middle-class world; each professing attitudes and ideas the reader suspects are dissembling. Who is manipulating whom?
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It is not clear. These events serve two purposes, because they also show another side to Charles. At one point, an ex-girlfriend remarks acidly, "you know you can't keep your hands off women" , yet throughout so far Charles has claimed he has a scrupulously fair and respectful attitude to females, even using the word "unsexed" to describe his fastidious, ascetic attitude. He will jettison the ever-faithful Lizzie without a thought, at the drop of a hat, as he has done several times before.
The reader now begins to wonder about the idolised Hartley. Could the relationship have possibly been as innocent, pure and altogether romantic as Charles has claimed? 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 does strain credulity. Yet this is a novel, and such deus ex machina abound, from Greek tragedies right through to the works of Charles Dickens, so perhaps we should allow Iris Murdoch this one. Neither they, nor, it has to be said the reader, can quite believe the tenacity with which Charles clings to his idealistic notions.
We quickly revise our opinion that he seemed to be a mildly eccentric but likeable ageing actor, who liked to have his ego massaged every now and then. His friend Perry tries to bring him back down to earth advising, view spoiler [ "What reality she has is elsewhere. She does not coincide with your dream figure.
You were not able to transform her. Certainly the fact that we have been told Charles "lost" Hartley at 18, when she ran away from him, makes us wonder about how honest he is being about himself, and how clear about his memories. Why did she leave him so irrevocably, so that there was no possibility she might be found? And indeed, is this really what happened? Hartley herself seems to be an enigma in the novel, sometimes professing love for Charles and actively seeking him out, yet constantly refusing to leave her husband.
At times she seems weak and ineffectual, at others she is reported by other characters to be unstable, and there do seem to be indications that this is true. And how does the reader interpret her final action? Charles claims that as a result of their idyllic childhood passion, all his future chances at happiness in love were destroyed. All his subsequent relationships with women had been paltry and sham, compared with the perfection of the love shared between him and Hartley. And the distorted rather overbearing relationship he had had with the much older Clement, could presumably have had a negative influence on him.
At each point the sea becomes more symbolic, both a portent and metaphor for both the action and the relationships. Take this powerful passage, which comes about three quarters of the way through the novel when arguably the most tragic event has taken place, and the viewpoint character is in despair, "The rain came down, straight and silvery, like a punishment of steel rods.
It clattered onto the house and onto the rocks and pitted the sea. The thunder made some sounds like grand pianos falling downstairs, then settled to a softer continuous rumble which was almost drowned by the sound of the rain. The flashes of lightning joined into long illuminations which made the grass a lurid green, the rocks blazing ochre. Surprisingly well, actually. It is not as dated as one might expect, perhaps since the "luvvie" actor types of personality which the author renders so accurately are, unfortunately, timeless.
Of course the flow of writing, that particular style, is of its time. During the s and 70s there was much interest in self-development and a search for meaning. The prevailing attitude, especially amongst the young, was that there was a purpose in finding a new approach to leading a good life. There seemed to be all the time in the world for such introspection. The Western world was not as concerned with acquisitiveness, and appearances, as it is now. Increasingly more people were searching for a deeper meaning, a significance, which would lead to a knowledge of one's purpose in life.
To some extent, we have lost the positive side of that now with our busy, materialistic 21st century world of superficiality, our overly competitive society where cooperation has been sacrificed for boastful procrastinations and gloss. Yet the downside of that time, was that there was scope for a lot of self-indulgence and pretentiousness amongst the search for deeper meanings.
Such philosophical and esoteric musings are at the core of this book. There are both supremely tragic and comedic events, yet we have a journey running though the novel. In many ways it is Charles's journey to becoming more self-aware, and beginning to stop his self-delusions, and gain a moral compass. Very near the end, he muses, "How much, I see as I look back, I read into it all, reading my own dream text and not looking at the reality Yes of course I was in love with my own youth Who is one's first love?
The coincidence of view spoiler [Charles moving to exactly the same small village where the elderly Hartley now lives is perhaps significant. Was there an underlying trigger for this? A hidden event, or a notion from their shared past, now forgotten by the conscious mind, but which Charles unknowingly latched onto when he bought the house?
Perhaps it is part of the thread of mysticism which runs through the book; the idea that we generally only perceive things in a limited, logical way, and cannot see the whole picture. That the mind is, unknowably for most of us, larger. Near the end of the book, Charles's older cousin James tells him about "bardo", a kind of limbo or holding place for souls who are in between their journeys on the wheel of life.
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He was displaced, his life was without meaning. Events were painful for him - especially one tragic event. Yet he would eventually be released from that place, that mental state. It is not only Charles who experiences this state in the novel either. Throughout many of the minor characters such as Lizzie, are falling in and out of love, and agonising over their tangled emotional relationships.
James's summing-up, before his possibly voluntary demise, can be seen as a commentary on the entire sequence of events. Through having a position of command in the Army, he has spent a great deal of his live travelling through Tibet. He is a Buddhist, deeply involved yet rather secretive about the various ancient religious traditions he has experienced there. Towards the end of the novel, view spoiler [perhaps when he knows that it will cease to matter any more, he becomes much more open.
He tells Charles that being able to change body temperature by force of will is a simple trick, like the Indian rope trick, and that anyone can learn it. We are invited to believe that James, by virtue of this power of "mind over body", has superhuman strength and control. He managed to save Charles's life, and almost saved Titus's life too, except that he was not in time. But there is an ambiguity. An alternative explanation is within an easy grasp. One had been a tragic accident, one due to a combination of a freak wave, lifting him up, allied to a flashback of a drug-inspired experience.
Was Charles's clouded memory to be relied on? He did not seem altogether sure himself, and by the end of the novel was open to many ways of thinking. At one point he himself says the sea serpent represents his jealousy. They may be full of in-depth analysis and lyrical writing, but are necessarily less elusive, contemplative and illusory.
The skill of the novel is that it is possible to read and understand the indication of an alternative mystical interpretation of events, all interconnecting and determining the wheels of others' lives. Or it can be read as completely explicable by earthly, known logical precepts. Iris Murdoch leaves it open to the reader to decide which. Yes, it resonated even more for the time it was written. But it is well worth reading now too. View all 28 comments. Sep 26, Alex rated it it was amazing Shelves: , rth-lifetime , reading-through-history , top Isn't it wonderful? Imagine how boring it would have looked on a shelf if it had just been called "The Sea.
It's just brilliant. Which is the boring first sentence of a book that should be called "The Sea. Blahhhh, lame, until you get to the next paragraph: I had written the above, destined to be the opening paragraph of my memoirs, when something happened which was so extraordinary and so horrible that I cannot bring myself to describe it even now after an interval of time and although a possible, though not totally reassuring, explanation has occurred to me.
And there's the first sentence of a book called "The Sea, The Sea. Off we go, madness and horror. View all 13 comments. The Sea, the Sea is the winner of the Booker Prize for good reasons. It is a brilliantly perspicacious exploration of human weakness in all its gory fullness. All the feelings that torment the soul are thrust into consciousness and displayed so well that the reading experience is so bad at times.
Very few books that serve up a detestable self-serving cad as the main protagonist have succeeded in becoming for me a five-star read. This is an exception. It is an account of his life, in particular, his obsessive pursuit of a childhood love that encapsulates for him an ideal so pure that nothing must stand in the way of its resurrection.
Other women, by comparison, are mere shadows. Or so he claims, too. Charles despises women, uses them for his pleasure and discards them at will. His old flames — Lizzie and Rosina — show up at his seaside cottage to lay claims on his love despite having suffered humiliation and grand heartaches.
The husbands of these actresses rock up as well. Their interactions are tense but marvelously hilarious. Charles has no qualms about exploiting each of his adoring colleagues until he bumps into Hartley in the village. This encounter with his lost love precipitated a devastating detour into unexpected experiences, which spin out of control.
Murdoch described the pain of yearning, confusion, jealousy, possessiveness, deception, manipulation and servitude with insightful candor. The internal chaos found a literal sounding board in the tempestuous sea, whose wildness and beauty were captured in myriad flashes of color and delight. It took Murdoch odd pages to sift the main protagonist until he is finally able to separate the wheat from the chaff and allow the reader to perceive truth in all the falsehood that has thickened over time.
Characters loom larger than life and understandably so because they are actors by profession. They leave a deep impression as friends who matter, imperfect though they are. They become for Charles a source of light in the murky muddle he created for himself. Lizzie, Gilbert, Peregrine, Rosina and James are stars in their own right and far more likeable than Charles.
Oh the weakness of the power of love. Like the fathomless sea, this novel has depth and profundity that promise to call forth a richer understanding of the natural impulses that underlie the best and worst in human behavior. This is a five-hundred page diary of a madman. Vain, heartless, jealous, rude; all of these, and more, apply to Charles Arrowby, the central character of the novel.
Charles is a retired actor who has left London and bought a house Shruff End hard by the sea, where he intends to write a memoir of his career, his life and loves. Low and behold he runs into his childhood sweetheart, Hartley, who lives nearby, and his little self-centered world runs completely off the tracks. He sets about trying This is a five-hundred page diary of a madman.
He sets about trying to convince her to leave her husband and run away to him, and this is the scenario that plays out over most of the novel. Murdoch may be one of the few writers who could create such an unlikeable cast of characters, and still keep the reader interested in the story. She is a good writer, make no mistake about that. Mice came to Marion with whalers and sealers in the 19th century. In the s, the South African government introduced cats to control them, and the cats quickly went feral.
Instead of killing mice, they proceeded to decimate the smaller seabird species nesting on the island. Seabirds are a poignant combination of extreme vulnerability and extreme toughness. Because of its longevity, it may survive 20 years of breeding failure and still produce chicks, once the danger to its nest is eliminated.
The murrelets are now secure on Anacapa, and ashy storm petrels have been recorded breeding there for the first time. To prevent the extinction of a species, you first have to know that it exists. You need ocular proof, and seabirds are especially adept at withholding it.
Consider the story of the Magenta petrel. In , an Italian research vessel, the Magenta, shot a single specimen of a large, gray-and-white petrel in the South Pacific. For more than a century, this remained the only scientific evidence of the species. Crockett had read accounts of latter-day Moriori collecting and eating a large petrel, known locally as taiko, as late as He suspected that the taiko was the Magenta petrel, and that it might still be nesting in burrows in the forest.
Some of the most endangered albatross and other seabird species breed in only one place: a rocky archipelago miles east of New Zealand. Some 5, breeding pairs nest there each year. During April and July, most fly 6, miles to the southwest coast of South America, following the current north to Peru. The tract of forest where the Moriori had collected taiko was owned by a sheep farmer of Maori descent, Manuel Tuanui.
Inspired by the prospect of discovering a lost native bird on their land, Tuanui and his teenage son, Bruce, helped Crockett conduct a series of arduous searches for the taiko, scouring the forest for burrows and setting up spotlights to attract seabirds flying in at night. On the night of January 3, , Crockett was rewarded with a spotlighted look at four birds that matched the description of Magenta petrel: ocular proof. But he also wanted to capture taiko and find where they nested, and this was even harder than seeing them.
For the Tuanuis, this was still only the beginning. On a hot day in January, I joined a British seabird specialist, Dave Boyle, and a British volunteer worker, Giselle Eagle, on a long trek to the burrow of a female taiko known to them as S She was incubating an egg fertilized by a male that had lived in the area for 18 seasons before attracting a mate.
Boyle wanted to examine S64 before her egg hatched and she began to spend more time foraging at sea. The terrain was rugged, the forest dense and intermittently boggy. Boyle knelt down and removed the lid of an underground wooden nest box previously installed at the back end of the burrow. Peering in, he shook his head sadly. Chick death is not uncommon, especially if the mother is young and inexperienced, but every breeding failure is a setback for a species whose total population is still only about Boyle reached into the box and lifted out S She was big for a petrel but seemed small in his hands, and she had no idea how rare and precious she was; she squirmed and tried to bite Boyle until he slipped her into a cloth bag.
To discourage her from hanging around the burrow any longer, he removed the dead chick and the crumpled shell that had trapped its legs. The few taiko that survived after centuries of predation and habitat loss nested deep in the forest because it was relatively safe, not because it was an optimal site. To get airborne, even adult taiko need to climb a tree, and it can take a new fledgling several days to fight its way out of the forest, a struggle that may leave it too weak to survive on the ocean.
When the Tuanui family created a formal organization, the Chatham Islands Taiko Trust , in , one aim was to raise off-island money for a predator-proof enclosure closer to the water. The first Sweetwater-imprinted taiko returned in ; many more have come back since then. The Taiko Trust has also transferred chicks of the Chatham petrel, a bird smaller and scarcely less endangered than the taiko, from a nearby island to Sweetwater, to create a secure alternate nesting site for the species.
To bolster the population of the Chatham albatross, a species whose only colony is on Te Tara Koi Koia, a constricting offshore cone of rock also known as the Pyramid, the trust has ferried chicks to a second predator-proof enclosure on the main island, above the majestic sea cliffs on the Tuanui farm.
Liz has now spent four decades in the vortex. She chairs the Taiko Trust, and she and Bruce have fenced 13 tracts of forest altogether, seven at their own expense. This has benefited both seabirds and native land species—the splendid Chatham pigeon, once near extinction on the main island, now numbers more than a thousand—but Bruce prefers to emphasize the synergy between conservation and farming.
Fencing the forest, he told me, also protects his waterways, shelters his stock during storms, and makes it easier for him to muster his sheep. Finding the taiko was a huge effort. It was part of us but part of the Chathams, too. There, on vertiginous slopes, above blue ocean swells heaving against kelp-covered rocks, stern-browed albatross parents tend to their downy gray chicks. Overhead, in such numbers that they confuse your sense of scale and seem no bigger than seagulls, the albatrosses circle and ride the wind on their immense wings.
Very few people will ever see them. Thanks to sustainable fishing practices, annual bird bycatch off South Africa now numbers only in the hundreds. Globally, however, more than , seabirds are killed by longlines alone. A scalped gray-headed albatross chick on sub-Antarctic Marion Island gruesomely conveys the threat seabirds face from invasive species.
For reasons not entirely understood, mice brought to the island by humans years ago have begun feeding on birds at night. With no instinctual fear of this new danger, a bird will sit passively while mice nibble into its flesh, until it succumbs. This story appears in the July issue of National Geographic magazine. A lone common murre flies above thousands more tending eggs and young in the Farallon Islands off California. Since the mids, restrictions or outright bans on gillnetting have allowed the Farallon murres to thrive again. NGM Maps. This photograph captures the first evidence top of underwater kleptoparasitism among Cape gannets: one bird caught heisting a fish from another.
Seventy miles south of Cape Town, South Africa, albatrosses and shearwaters find plenty to eat; sardines tossed from a vessel chartered for seabird photography have momentarily trumped the discards thrown from a longline fishing vessel. Thanks to cooperation in recent years between local fishermen and Birdlife South Africa, the number of seabirds inadvertently caught on longlines has been greatly reduced. African penguin chicks nest in guano on Mercury Island off the coast of Namibia. On most southern African islands, where guano has been harvested down to bedrock, scientists must provide artificial nests.
Each of the nine orders of these birds—from transoceanic voyagers such as albatrosses to shore-hugging penguins—is facing at least one of four key threats. Range and number of seabird species in danger of extinction. At sea, commercial fishing accidentally kills at least one bird every minute. Leading threats. Invasive species and human activity ravage nests. Light pollution can fatally disorient fledglings.
Spilled oil fouls feathers, making them less waterproof. Oil and plastics cause a buildup of toxins. Sea-temperature rise forces birds to forage farther, abandoning nests; severe weather can be fatal. Fishing depletes seabird food sources; birds feed at different depths and can drown when caught in nets or hooked on longlines. Tropic birds. White-tailed tropic bird. Phaethon lepturus. Length: 30 in. Habitat disturbance. Peruvian pelican. Pelecanus thagus. Length: 57 in.
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Horned grebe. Podiceps auritus. Length: 14 in. Commercial fishing. Loons, divers. Yellow-billed loon. Gavia adamsii. Length: 33 in. African penguin. Spheniscus demersus. Length: 26 in. Ducks, eiders, mergansers. Velvet scoter. Melanitta fusca. Length: 22 in. Frigatebirds, cormorants, boobies, gannets, shags.
Abbott's booby. Papasula abbotti. Length: 31 in. Gulls, terns, skuas, puffins, murrelets. Atlantic puffin. Fratercula arctica. Length: 12 in. Albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels, fulmars, storm petrels. Magenta petrel. Pterodroma magentae. Length: 16 in. Tristan albatross. Diomedea dabbenena.
Length: 43 in. Trawl fishing. Gill net fishing. Longline fishing. FERnando G. Baptista and Matthew W. Each of the nine orders of these birds—from transoceanic voyagers such as albatrosses to shore- hugging penguins—is facing at least one of four key threats. Threatened seabird species on islands. Presence of invasive mammals. Nanpo Islands. Farallon Is. Channel Is. Christmas I. Marquesas Is. Fiji Is. Lobos de Afuera Is.
Chatham Is. SOUth America. Kerguelen Is. Mercury I. Crozet Is. Prince Edward Is. Gough I. Falkland Is. South Georgia. How they feed. On or near surface. Diving from flight. Deep pursuit. Number of species. Under threat. In late afternoon, sooty terns come back to roost on Bird Island in the Seychelles, one of the most important nesting grounds for the species in the Indian Ocean.
The island was formerly dominated by coconut plantations, leaving no room for terns, which require open space for nesting.