Iris Murdoch, by Peter J. Conradi

When Iris Murdoch died in 1999, Harold Bloom, custodian of the literary canon, proclaimed that there were no serious writers left in Britain. John Updike calls her the preeminent English novelist of the second half of the 20th century. Murdoch's 26 novels and half-dozen works of philosophy have been the subject of numerous critical studies, conferences and interviews.

Some people may know Murdoch only through John Bayley's moving Elegy for Iris (1999), parts of which appeared in the New Yorker--or through Iris, the recent film based on Bayley's writings about her and starring Judi Dench and Kate Winslet. Bayley, a critic and professor of literature at Oxford, describes their courtship and long marriage and Murdoch's "sailing into the darkness" (her words) of Alzheimer's disease.

Peter Conradi dedicates his book to Bayley and to Iris's best friend, philosopher Philippa Foot. Bayley dedicated Elegy for Iris to Conradi and his partner, James O'Neill, a psychotherapist. The two were his and Murdoch's close friends during Murdoch's difficult last years.