Iris Murdoch Accidental Man

ISBN 13: 9780099433569

Accidental Man

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9780099433569: Accidental Man

A scintillating novel of fate, accidents, and moral dilemmas

Set in the time of the Vietnam War, this story concerns the plight of a young American, happily installed in a perfect job in England, engaged to a wonderful girl, who is suddenly drafted to a war he disapproves of.

What is duty here, what is self-interest, what is cowardice? Austin Gibson Grey, the accidental man of the title, is accident-prone, also prone to bring disaster to his friend sand relations. He blames fate. But are we not all accidental, one of his victims asks. Fate and accidents make deep moral dilemmas for the characters in the long and complex tale.

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About the Author:

Iris Murdoch (1919 1999) is the author of twenty-six novels, including "Under the Net, The Black Prince, "and" The Sea, The Sea", as well as several plays and a volume of poetry. Murdoch taught philosophy at Oxford before leaving to write fulltime, winning such literary awards as the Booker Prize and the PEN Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

 

 

PENGUIN BOOKS

AN ACCIDENTAL MAN

Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919 of Anglo-Irish parents. She went to Badminton School, Bristol, and read classics at Somerville College, Oxford. During the war she was an Assistant Principal at the Treasury, and then worked with UNRRA in London, Belgium and Austria. She held a studentship in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, and then in 1948 became a Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she lived with her husband, the teacher and critic John Bayley. Awarded the CBE in 1976, Iris Murdoch was made a DBE in the 1987 New Year’s Honours List. In the 1997 PEN Awards she received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature.

Iris Murdoch wrote twenty-six novels, including Under the Net, her writing début of 1954, the Booker Prize-winning The Sea, the Sea (1978) and, more recently, The Green Knight (1993) and Jackson’s Dilemma (1995). She received a number of other literary awards, among them the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread Prize for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her works of philosophy include Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, Metaphysia As a Guide to Morals (1992) and Existentialists and Mystics (1997). She also wrote several plays, including The Italian Girl (with James Saunders) and The Black Prince, an adaptation of her novel. Her volume of poetry, A Year of Birds, which appeared in 1978, was set to music by Malcolm Williamson.

Iris Murdoch died in February 1999. Among the many who paid tribute to her as a philosopher, novelist and private individual was Peter Conradi, who in his obituary in the Guardian wrote ‘Iris Murdoch was one of the best and most influential writers of the twentieth century. Above all, she kept the traditional novel alive, and in so doing changed what it is capable of ... She connected goodness, against the temper of the times, not with the quest for an authentic identity so much as with the happiness that can come about when that quest is relaxed. We are fortunate to have shared our appalling century with her.’

IRIS MURDOCH IN PENGUIN

Fiction

 

Under the Net

 

The Flight from the Enchanter

The Sandcastle

The Bell

A Severed Head

An Unofficial Rose

The Unicorn

The Italian Girl

The Red and the Green

 

The Time of the Angels

The Nice and the Good

Bruno’s Dream

 

A Fairly Honourable Defeat

An Accidental Man

The Black Prince

The Sacred and Profane Love Machine

A Word Child

 

Henry and Cato

The Sea, the Sea

Nuns and Soldiers

 

The Philosopher’s Pupil

The Good Apprentice

The Book and the Brotherhood

 

The Message to the Planet

The Green Knight

Jackson’s Dilemma

 

Non-Fiction

 

Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues

Metaphysics As a Guide to Morals

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Victoria 3124, Australia

Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2

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Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

 

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

 

First published in Great Britain by Chatto & Windus 1971

First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press 1972

Published in Penguin Books 1973

 

 

 

Copyright © Iris Murdoch, 1971 All rights reserved

 

ISBN: 9781101495858

 

 

 

 

 

 

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copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

To Kreisel

‘Gracie darling, will you marry me?’

‘Yes.’

What?

‘Yes.’

Ludwig Leferrier stared down into the small calm radiant un-smiling face of Gracie Tisbourne. Was it conceivable that the girl was joking? It was. Oh Lord.

‘Look, Gracie, are you serious?’

‘Yes.’

‘But I mean—’

‘Of course if you want to back out of it—’

‘Gracie! But — but — Gracie, do you love me?’

‘Can you not infer that from what I said just now?’

‘I don’t want inferred love.’

‘I love you.’

‘It’s impossible!’

‘This is becoming a rather stupid argument.’

‘Gracie. I can’t believe it!’

‘Why are you so surprised?’ said Gracie. ‘Surely the situation has been clear for some time. It has been to all my friends and relations.’

‘Oh damn your friends and relations — I mean — Gracie, you do really mean it? I love you so dreadfully much—’

‘Don’t be so silly, Ludwig,’ said Gracie. ‘Sometimes you’re just a very silly man. I love you, and I’ve done so ever since you kissed me behind that tomb thing in the British Museum. I never thought I’d be so lucky.’

‘But you expected this?’

‘I expected it now.’

‘I didn’t.’

‘So are you now dismayed?’

‘No! I’ve loved you for ages. But you’re so sort of grand. Everyone’s after you.’

‘I’m not grand. And that’s a very vulgar way of putting it.’

‘Sorry—’

‘I’m small and ignorant, whereas you know everything.’

‘As if that—! I thought I was one of hundreds.’

‘Well, you’re one of one.’

‘You’ve been so calm !’

‘A girl has her pride. Shall we now go hand in hand and tell my parents?’

‘No, please — I say, will they mind?’

‘They’ll be delighted.’

‘I somehow thought they wanted you to marry that guy Sebastian.’

‘They want what I want.’

‘They won’t mind my being American?’

‘Why should they? Especially as you aren’t going back to America any more.’

‘You said once they wanted you to marry an Englishman.’

‘Only because anyone else might take me away. But you won’t. We’ll be living in Oxford.’

‘I don’t know about Oxford. Oh Jesus, Gracie, I can’t believe it, I’m so happy — Darling, please—’

Gracie’s divan bed, on which they were sitting was very narrow and fitted in beneath a long white shelf. Small fat cushions, which Ludwig hated, and which Gracie referred to as her ‘pussy cats’, further reduced the sitting or lying area. Ludwig banged his head on the shelf. One hand burrowed under Gracie’s warm thigh. His head sank and he felt the roughness of his cheek against the smoothness of her taut dress. Crushed close together, two hearts battered in their cages. No screen of calm now. Ludwig groaned. He had never made love to her. The thing was anguish.

‘Mind the table!’

He began to fall off, twisting a rubbery leg to avoid a crash, and subsided embracing the coffee pot while Gracie above him stifled laughter. ‘Ssh, Ludwig!’

The Tisbourne’s house in Kensington, pretentiously called Pitt’s Lodge, was a narrow poky little gentleman’s residence cluttered with elegant knick-knacks masquerading as furniture. Ludwig had already broken two chairs. Behind the papery walls of the small rooms Gracie’s parents were omnipresent. Now just outside the door Clara Tisbourne was calling down to her husband, ‘Pinkie darling, the Odmores want us for the second weekend.’ It was an impossible situation even if Gracie had been willing. He could not take Gracie to his own apartment because Gracie disliked Mitzi Ricardo. Mitzi also disliked Gracie and referred to her as ‘little Madam’ until she realized that Ludwig loved her. Perhaps it would have to be the British Museum again.

‘Whatever shall we do?’ he said to Gracie.

‘About what?’

They had never discussed sex. He had no idea whether Gracie was a virgin. Must he now tell her about his campus amours? Oh Christ.

‘Here. Yes, I know. Dear Ludwig, just sit quietly and hold my hand.’

He looked into the mysterious guileless eyes of the girl to whom he had committed himself, his life, his future, his thoughts, his feelings, his whole spiritual being. She was so fantastically young. He felt centuries older than this opening flower. He felt coarse, gross, ancient, dirty. At the same moment it occurred to him that she was almost totally a stranger. He loved, he was engaged to be married to, a complete stranger.

‘Gracie, you are so pure, so true.’

‘That’s your silly talk.’

‘You’re so young!’

‘I’m nineteen. You’re only twenty-two.’

‘When shall we get married? How quickly can one get married in England?’

‘We’ve only just got engaged. Please, Ludwig. You know the way mama bounces in.’

‘What’s the use of being engaged? I want—’

‘It’s nice being engaged. We shall be a long time married. Let’s enjoy our engagement. It’s such a special time. I’ve so much liked the first five minutes of it.’

‘But, Gracie, how are we going to—’

‘Besides, mama will insist on a big white wedding and those things take ages to organize.’

‘Surely we don’t have to have all that crap? Gracie, you know you can always get what you want—’

‘Well, I want it too. It will be such fun. I’ll have Karen Arbuthnot as a bridesmaid—’

‘Gracie, have a heart—’

‘We couldn’t get married now anyway with grandmama so ill. Supposing she were to die on our wedding day?’

‘Is she very ill?’

‘Aunt Charlotte says she’s dying. But that may be wishful thinking.’

‘I feel so terribly afraid I’ll lose you.’

‘Don’t be idiotic. Here’s my hand here, feel it.’

‘Gracie, poppet, are you sure you don’t mind—’

‘What? Ludwig, you’re trembling.’

‘It’s all so sudden. I’ve been in such a state these last weeks.’

‘About little me?’

‘Yes, about you. And about — Yes. Gracie, you’re sure you don’t mind what I’ve done? I mean my not going back ever, my not going to fight, you know—’

‘Why should I mind your not wanting to fight in a wicked war? Why should I mind your choosing to live here in England with me and become English?’

‘Later on you might want to go to America and we couldn’t, I guess.’

‘I don’t want to go to America. You are my America.’

‘Dear Gracie! But — you don’t think it’s dishonourable?’

‘How can it be dishonourable to do the right thing?’

How indeed.

They were sitting side by side, precariously, as if they were on a boat. Ludwig held her right hand tightly in his. His left arm was stretched round her shoulder. His bony tweedy knees were pressed against her sleek knees, pale brown and shiny through openwork tights. She smelt of young flesh and toilet soap and pollen. Oh God, if they could only take their clothes off! Outside it was raining. Warm early summer rain playfully caressed the window. A bright subdued light showed the small pink and white houses opposite against a dark grey sky which shone like illuminated metal. There would be a rainbow somewhere above the park. Elsewhere that war was going on, high explosive and napalm and people killed and maimed. There were people out there who had been at war all their lives.

The crucial date had passed. He had torn up his draft card some time ago. But until lately there had been a way out. Now there was none. He had taken a carefully considered step and with it had chosen exile. He had no regrets, except about his parents. He was their only child. It had been the achievement of their lives to make him what they could never be, genuinely American. They would never understand.

‘Have some more elevenses,’ said Gracie. ‘Have some Tennis Court Cake. I know you like marzipan. Have some Russian gâteau.’

Her little bedroom, which she called her sitting-room, and in which indeed they had so far done nothing but sit, was cosy and prim. Its formality and order were those of a child. This schoolroom neatness, this bitty folky flowery charm, represented, Ludwig suspected, not only Gracie’s unformed taste but also some vanished era in the taste of her parents. He had once heard Gracie resisting Clara’s enthusiastic ideas about redecorating it. A growing miscellany of pictures now fought with the sprigged wallpaper: small Impressionist reproductions, engravings of hawks and parrots, photos of the Acropolis and Windsor Castle and the Taj Mahal. Yet Gracie knew nothing about architecture, nothing about birds, and constantly mixed Van Gogh up with Cézanne. Indeed she appeared to know very little about anything, having firmly left school early and refused any further education. What on earth is one to do, he had once thought, with a girl who has no idea who Charlemagne was and who doesn’t care? Later he admired her nerve and came to prize her calm ignorance. She was without the pretensions and ambitions which powered his own life. Her simplicity, her gaiety, even her silliness lightened his Puritan sadness. Yet he also knew that she was no mere kitten, this almost-child. There was a formidable will crushed up inside this unfolding bud.

‘No thanks, no cake.’

‘Have a jelly baby.’

‘No. I’m still feeling kicked in the stomach.’

“Well, I’m hungry.‘

Gracie was a great eater, but remained slim. She was a pale miniature-looking girl with a small well-formed head and a small eager face. She had glowing powdery flesh, very light blue eyes, and wispy half-long silvery golden hair. When she was petulant she looked like a terrier. When she was self-satisfied, which was often, she looked oriental. She was not coquettish, yet she was very conscious of herself as a young and pretty girl. Her tiny mouth was aware, thoughtful, stubborn. She seemed to Ludwig like a precious relic, an heirloom of vanished feminine refinement, something almost Victorian.

‘Do you think you’ll get the Oxford thing?’

‘Gee, I hope so. I try not to think about it. It matters so much.’

‘I’d like to live in Oxford. It’s such a pretty place. And you can get into the country.’

‘You won’t mind being the wife of a stuffy old ancient history don?’

‘Don’t be absurd, Ludwig. Do you think I want to marry an astronaut or something? I only wish I wasn’t such an ignoramus. I’ll just have to keep quiet and smile. I suppose there are wives like that in Oxford. Still the rest of the family will make a show. Papa was a Senior Wrangler and mama was at Bedford and of course Patrick—’

Anxiety about the Oxford job had c...

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This is the story of the comic and yet relentless struggle for survival of Austin Gibson Grey, the accidental man. Austin is one of those people who needs to survive through the destruction of others. The others, in Austin s case, include his successful elder brother, Matthew, and the women who, one after the other, are so touchingly convinced that they can save him. In this latter role we meet Austin s estranged wife, Dorina, a crazed angel, and Austin s far from angelic alcoholic landlady, Mitzi. Other women interest themselves too in Austin s fate, with hilarious and appalling results. An Accidental Man is a novel of extraordinary scope and variety in which Iris Murdoch s astonishing fertility of mind and unerring narrative skill are most felicitously combined. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099433569

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Book Description Vintage Publishing. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, An Accidental Man, Iris Murdoch, This is the story of the comic and yet relentless struggle for survival of Austin Gibson Grey, the accidental man. Austin is one of those people who needs to survive through the destruction of others. The others, in Austin's case, include his successful elder brother, Matthew, and the women who, one after the other, are so touchingly convinced that they can 'save' him. In this latter role we meet Austin's estranged wife, Dorina, a crazed angel, and Austin's far from angelic alcoholic landlady, Mitzi. Other women interest themselves too in Austin's fate, with hilarious and appalling results. An Accidental Man is a novel of extraordinary scope and variety in which Iris Murdoch's astonishing fertility of mind and unerring narrative skill are most felicitously combined. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099433569

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