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Elegy for Iris by John Bayley

Elegy for Iris (1998)

by John Bayley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This memoir about Iris Murdoch is written by her husband John Bayley - while it includes some interesting details about the origins of her works, it is increasingly dominated by recording her developing Alzheimer's. While Bayley writes very lovingly, it wasn't compelling enough for me personally to hold on to this one - interesting to have read, but not a favourite (especially as it revealed for me very little about how Murdoch's creative mind worked). ( )
  Kirstie_Innes-Will | Apr 18, 2014 |
I reread this because I had recommended it to a friend whose wife also has Alzheimer's. I had remembered it as more about the hard times, the personality changes and the constant caretaking, but it was indeed an elegy. Very beautiful and moving. ( )
  bobbieharv | Apr 7, 2014 |
a most moving remembrance

if I was to lose my wife I would hope I had the patience and understanding of Iris' husband ( )
  bigship | Nov 25, 2012 |
[Iris] is more than a memoir, it is an homage to a marriage, to a union of two souls, enduring and reshaping itself when Iris, John's wife, develops Alzheimer's. The romance starts when he spots a determined looking woman on a bicycle and simply falls in love with her..... He then meets her at a party and is truly smitten, there is no one like her! She is steady as a rock, in her own way, and for the next couple of years their relationship develops, he full of hope and then despair, but then they marry. They do not have children, Iris, 'had other things to do'. "We were together because we were comforted and reassured by the solitariness each saw and was aware of in the other." The strength in the book, besides the almost staggering sweetness and innocence of the two, is John's constant return to the question of what a marriage is, what makes it a true union. In their case it is enjoying each other with no sense of ownership. They do not practice what he calls 'telegamy' - marriage where the couple rarely are together and essentially live in different places, but something different of which he says: "Apartness in a marriage is a state of love; and not a function of distance, or preference, or practicality." The full acceptance of the other as a mysterious and complete individual. Humor, shared interests, and some fundamental trust in each other, - water -- buoyant and embracing, is a metaphor in the book and for some essential quality of their relationship --. Only with John, Iris, who had a terrifyingly acute intellect, was silly and safe, they could go from joking about badgers to discussing Dostoyevsky in the blink of an eye. I found it rich, poignant, and inspiring. John's tenderness and acceptance of Iris's mental decline staggered and moved me, deeply. They do, during this time, he admits, change, and become strangely one. Could I be so tender with my husband? I cried a little when I finished, which I don't do often! ****1/2 ( )
10 vote sibyx | Mar 1, 2012 |
This is a memoir of Iris Murdoch written by her husband after she's been overtaken by Alzheimer's disease. Judging by the fact that I have Judi Dench on the cover of my copy rather than Iris herself I'm guessing it's been made into a film. Murdoch was a favourite writer of mine for a long time. That makes it sound like I don't like her any more, I'm sure I do. I just haven't read anything of hers for a long time. Probably because she wrote her last book in 1996ish just before the Alzheimer's diagnosis--I haven't read that one as it seemed to be a sad coda to an illustrious career--and also because I've read most of them already, mostly when I was in college and haven't had much desire to reread them (until now). Anyway, I like her books. This is a lovely engaging look back over her life intertwined with a look at how the couple cope with her Alzheimer's. It seemed to have a few editing anomalies, e.g. the death of Diana being referred to in a diary entry dated before she died. I enjoyed reading this a lot though, and mostly now I want to seek out any o her books I haven't already read and maybe reread some I have.
  nocto | Dec 8, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Bayleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Groen, HeinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Went, GijsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Iris ( [2001]IMDb)
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For Peter Conradi and James O'Neill
First words
A hot day. Stagnant, humid. By normal English standards, really hot, insufferably hot.
One needs very much to feel that the unique individuality of one's spouse has not been lost in the common symptoms of a clinical condition.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
This book is the story of the marriage of two enormously intelligent writers, John Bayley and Sam Murdoch, including the years in which Sam suffered from Alzheimer's.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312253826, Paperback)

In one of literary history's ghastlier ironies, Iris Murdoch, the author of such highly intellectual and philosophical novels as A Severed Head and Under the Net, was diagnosed in 1994 with Alzheimer's disease, which slowly destroys reasoning powers, memory, even the ability to speak coherently. Her husband, English literary critic John Bayley, unsparingly depicts his wife's affliction in prose as elegant and accessible as hers always was. Readers may wince at the spectacle of Murdoch glued to the TV watching the Teletubbies program, unable to perform tasks as simple as dressing herself and prey to devastating anxiety as the world becomes less and less comprehensible to her. We understand Bayley's occasional fits of rage when his caretaking chores overwhelm him. Yet in the end his memoir is touching, even inspiring. As he recalls their first meetings and marriage in the 1950s, it becomes clear that theirs was always an unconventional union, in which solitude was as important to each of them as togetherness and Bayley was content to let Murdoch keep her inner life to herself. He loves Iris, the woman, not the intellect, and he conveys an essential sweetness about his wife that endures even as her mental faculties deteriorate. This totally unsentimental account of their life and her illness is nonetheless a heartbreaker. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:51 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A tribute to author Iris Murdoch, now stricken with Alzheimer's disease, written by her husband of over forty years, in which he discusses their passionate love relationship and traces the progression of her affliction.

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