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The Message to the Planet by Iris Murdoch
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The Message to the Planet (original 1989; edition 1991)

by Iris Murdoch

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404641,025 (3.65)22
Describes the rise and fall of the metaphysician, Marcus Vallar, and the bewildered men and women surrounding him.
Member:geraldstanek
Title:The Message to the Planet
Authors:Iris Murdoch
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1991), Paperback, 563 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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The Message to the Planet by Iris Murdoch (1989)

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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I tried for almost half the book, but just couldn't get into it. I couldn't figure out when the story was set, didn't warm to any of the characters, and the plot just left me cold. So, I gave up. It's a little disappointing because I loved the other books I read by Iris Murdoch, all of which either had a gripping plot or, as The Bell, were littered with quite humourous scenes. ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
This is a big novel and exhibits the classic Murdochian imagery (motifs really) and themes and characters in abundance. What has begun, overall, to amaze me about her work is that each book offers a fresh approach to the same subject (nature of good and evil, within and without). In all her books, swimming (and specific swimming places), beautiful stones of all sizes, amazing houses, gardens and landscapes, women's (and some men's) clothing, especially dresses, and food, the occasional crucial cat or dog, to name a few motifs that recur and recur. One especially fine image/motif in this novel is a huge sarcen rock, called the Axle stone, on the grounds of a high end mental institution. The themes are simpler: infidelity and the converse, loyalty and the big questions of good and evil, innocence and depravity. She also, as often examines the link between genius, mental illness and the paranormal (if any) and faith versus rationality. In this novel two threads weave (although they only connect through one person, the main character, Alfred Ludens) one concerning the artist Jack and his attempt to get two women to consent to be his concubine-wives and the other concerning Marcus Vallar a man who has exhibited genius (early on in maths, then in painting) with whom he has been somewhat obsessed since meeting him as a student. There is a group of friends and Marcus, apparently, cursed one of them andIrishman and a poet who is now wasting away and on his deathbed. Ludens finds Marcus and begs him to come and lift the curse which Marcus does, in fact, do in a way that appears miraculous. Marcus' daughter will have none of it: she knows he is a man on the edge, close to madness. What is remarkable to me is that Murdoch convincingly portrays a man of genius in a mental torment - not an easy thing to do. Ludens is the agent who 'translates' what Marcus says and there is a constant tension between Ludens hopes and wishes that Marcus will break through into some critical insight into human nature that will help mankind progress and the fact that Marcus, while he has genuinely struggled to understand the nature of evil and suffering, has been broken by it. Sometimes you find yourself doubting Marcus only to be freshly presented with an example of his sincerity and anguish. Ludens, his acolyte, alternately seems loving and selfishly cruel and deluded. To trivialize what Murdoch is attempting to examine would be a shame. While the dresses and food and so on might seem to be in too great a contrast to the bigger theme, not at all. Such is the nature of being alive: being caught in the small details, as well as one's own emotional limitations. Ludens really is awful and naive and stupid a lot of the time, but you never doubt his love for Marcus and his sincerity and even a certain level of honesty with himself even though it doesn't make him behave any better. It is, ultimately, the story of one person growing up: Ludens, and he does successfully do this, so that is all to the good. I can't say I loved every minute - it took me two months, with several breaks, to get through. Jack is a terrible ass and you want to shake him by the scruff of his neck. It was hard reading, but the women do eventually get wise--with the help of a sensible Bostonian named Maisie (very funny!). I also found it poignant that Murdoch was examining the crumbling of a brilliant mind. This is her third from the last book, 1990, and while the next one The Green Knight is successful, the final one is shows signs, apparently of failing mental ability. I see none of that here, only perhaps, a sense of looming disaster on the far horizon. Fascinating as always. I don't really care at this point whether I 'like' a particular one of her books or not. **** ( )
  sibyx | Dec 3, 2014 |
Would any wife allow her husband to move his young mistress into the house? That’s what happens this long novel written when Murdoch was approaching the end of her illustrious literary career. Add to that a man raised from the dead and A mathematical genius worshiped by hippies, you might think you’re immersed in a fantasy novel rather than a story about wealthy academics and artists pursuing their egotistical desires. Murdoch wouldn’t claim to be a realist writer however and philosophy, the preternatural and cosy domesticity sit happily side by side in this thoroughly entertaining tale, that even has a happy ending for most of the characters. ( )
  BookMonk | Mar 28, 2014 |
Amazingly pretentious book filled with incredibly self-absorbed people. ( )
  Marzia22 | Apr 3, 2013 |
Iris Murdoch's twenty-fifth novel.
  MarieTea | May 29, 2012 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
TO
Audhild and Borys Villers
First words
'Of course we have to do with two madmen now, not with one.'
Quotations
This is a charming place, a beautiful place yet it is also a gateway into
hell. The diseased mind is in perpetual anguish, *they* suffer it, the
misery and mortality, the hopeless doomed limitation of the human soul,
usually hidden from us, audible only as a threatening murmur, a ground bass
of perpetual anxiety, the sound of contingency itself. Do you know what it
is to abominate the thing that one is, to be afraid of one's own mind, to
have a mind which is covered in rats, a mind which continually maims itself
and is smeared with its own blood? No, I can see that you don't, you are one
of the lucky ones, self-loving and self-satisfied, immured in innocence.
He could see the white dresses of nurses, and brownish figures sitting on garden seats. What was *that* like? The perpetual anguish of the diseased mind, the gateway into hell.
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