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Elegy for Iris (1998)

por John Bayley

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

Séries: John Bayley's Memoirs (1)

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
1,0432114,347 (3.75)53
With remarkable tenderness, John Bayley recreates his passionate love affair with Iris Murdoch--world-renowned writer and philosopher, and his wife of forty-two years--and poignantly describes the dimming of her brilliance due to Alzheimer's disease. Elegy for Iris is a story about the ephemeral beauty of youth and the sobering reality of what it means to grow old, but its ultimate power is that Bayley discovers great hope and joy in his celebration of Iris's life and their love. In its grasp of life's frailty and its portrayal of one of the great literary romances of this century,Elegy for Iris is a mesmerizing work of art that will be read for generations.… (mais)
  1. 10
    Little Black Book of Stories por A. S. Byatt (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: The behaviour of the sufferer from Alzheimer's in "The Pink Ribbon" resembles that of Iris Murdoch as recounted by Jon Bayley.
  2. 00
    My Bonnie: How dementia stole the love of my life por John Suchet (KayCliff)
  3. 00
    Have the Men Had Enough? por Margaret Forster (KayCliff)
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In this poignant memoir, looking back to their meeting, "courtship" and marriage, Bayley eloquently describes his marriage to Iris Murdock as separateness, yet togetherness, each pursuing their illustrious academic careers. Never overly romantic but never estranged, it is a comfortable companionship, made up of common interests - a swim in the river ( they take their honeymoon on the continent searching for rivers to swim in, with delightful and comical experiences), radio broadcasts at lunchtime and walks in the spring. As dimentia sets in, Bayley becomes Iris' sole caretaker. He writes about the delights, anxieties and anger he experiences as she descends into Alzheimer's disease and how it somehow makes them much closer. His literary style is reflected in the elegantly constructed sentences, and myriad references to authors (many of whom the couple knew personally) and English literature. ( )
  steller0707 | Aug 25, 2019 |
2019 is the centenary of her birth. Twenty years have passed since Iris Murdoch died of Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband, Oxford literary scholar John Bayley (1925-2015), published this elegy for his wife in the year of her death. A copy turned up at our local charity bookshed and the time seemed right to end my reluctance to invade the privacy of a writer whose novels I read with pleasure. My copy, with its squarish format and subdued cover design in tones of cream, lilac and grey, has the understated appeal of a funerary tablet. It has a pale cover image of Iris Murdoch looking back, a little distrustfully, as if departing.

The Elegy is a retrospect of their 45 years together in two sections: ‘Then’, which is by far the longer and ‘Now’, a selection of Bayley’s journal entries beginning on January 1 1997 when dementia was far advanced and concluding with his reflections on Christmas Day of that year. It was one of the good days, when calm descended. Iris lived another year after the last diary entry. The Elegy is a record of a husband’s kindliness, courage and grace under the appalling pressures of caring for a wife still dearly loved who has lost her mind.

In the early pages of the Elegy, Bayley writes of their shared solitudes, ‘the inward self-isolation of a couple from anything outside their marriage’. He takes a line from the Australian poet AD Hope as a motif for their marriage in which love draws them ‘closer and closer apart’. It is a strange and unsettling trope for a marriage and even more evocative in its original setting in Hope’s poem, ‘The Wandering Islands, which Bayley would have known well:
The Mind has no neighbours and the unteachable heart
Announces its armistice time after time, but spends
Its love to draw them closer and closer apart.

I thought of their shared solitudes when I returned to read her novel, The Bell (1958), which was published in the early years of their marriage. Bayley confesses that he had no idea what was going on in Iris’ mind when she was writing. The Bell was a rare exception of their brief, creative collaboration. The abrupt opening of The Bell intrigued him: ‘Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason’. He wondered what might happen to Dora and Paul, her husband, as the novel progressed. Iris surprised him by suggesting he write something for her and his reflections on what Dora and Paul might have done appear early in the opening chapter at page 10 of the Penguin edition. The paragraph remains as a faint reflection of a direction not taken for the novel takes an entirely different course. Bayley writes that he had no idea of the Iris' inner life or, indeed, of her relationships with her friends. The love that drew them closer apart, before Alzheimer’s, had its origin in the gradual realization that they lived in alternative realities. That was 'Then' in Bayley's record of a long and companionate marriage. In the 'Now' of his diary near the end of their life together, ‘The closeness of apartness has necessarily become the closeness of closeness’. It was a fate for which he remarks, their marriage had left them utterly unprepared.

Their solitudes took on a different and more terrible quality in the last years. He was left alone with memories that could no longer be shared. Only the cadences and melodies of communicative speech remained for them; the ‘terrible expectancy’ of her unfinished questions, requests and exclamations without context or application and his answering reassurances, endlessly repeated. He was tormented by the apprehension that there might be some remnants of an inner lucidity, revealed in occasional flashes of apparent intelligibility. Several times she told her biographer, Peter Conradi, that she felt she was ‘sailing into the darkness’. These rare utterances seem to have been reserved for old friends. For Bayley and Iris however, words had almost ceased to matter. In the closeness of closeness, ‘nothing meaningful gets said’.

Bayley treads lightly over the record of Murdoch’s indiscriminate infidelities, his jealousy, the squalor of their housekeeping and, in the final years, when Alzheimer’s took hold, his own occasional blinding rages and despairing sense of being trapped by her uncomprehending dependence. AN Wilson, a one-time friend of the couple published a waspish account of their marriage in 2005: kindliness and grace will rarely survive completely unscathed by such close and malicious scrutiny. Bayley’s endurance, however, the other quality evident in the Elegy, remains. Read Wilson if you will. But read it after the Elegy which provides a moving and far more revealing exploration of their inescapable individuality. ( )
1 vote Pauntley | Jun 28, 2019 |
Certain passages in this book seemed so familiar to me that I went back and checked the little book I started keeping in 1998 of books that I wanted to read. Sure enough, Elegy to Iris was there in 1999 with a line through it indicating that I had read it. Rather ironic given that this book is about a woman who succumbed to Alzheimer's; however, I don't think I have yet slipped into the grips of dementia. It does reinforce the reason I keep doing reviews of books now because the act of writing down a short description and my thoughts on the book seem to cement them in my mind better.

Iris Murdoch was a celebrated novelist who wrote 25 novels from 1954 until 1995. She won the Booker Prize in 1978 for The Sea, The Sea and has four books listed in all three editions of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (as well as two that were in the 2006 edition but dropped in later editions). John Bayley and Iris married in 1956 having met as professors in Oxford. They continued to live in and around Oxford for the 43 years of their married life. In 1994 Iris started to show signs of memory loss and problems speaking; in 1997 a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease was pronounced. Bayley continued to care for Iris without help throughout her decline. This book recounts their first meeting, courtship (if such an old-fashioned word can be applied to them), marriage and life as a couple. Bayley was tremendously in love with Murdoch and also appreciated her intellect and writing skill. He is open about the frustration he felt as Murdoch started asking the same question over and over again and how difficult it could be to get her dressed and undressed. This woman who was a towering intellect became hypnotized by the Teletubbies TV show. As an account of a disease this book is disturbing but as a love story it is inspiring.

Bayley died a year ago and The Guardian's obituary fills in some gaps that he left out of this book. ( )
  gypsysmom | Feb 3, 2016 |
Een combinatie van 2 boeken die criticus en echtgenoot Bailey schreef over zijn leven met Iris Murdoch (*1919, 1 jaar ouder dan mijn moeder, die veel van haar romans had gelezen; ikzelf indertijd ook), vooral tijdens haar Alzheimer, die zich in 1994 voor het eerst openbaarde. In 99 stierf ze. Maar eigenlijk gaat het boek over Bailey zelf (*1925), die ik, het spijt me, een geborneerde, conservatieve zelfbewierokende oude zak vind. Van de verhouding tussen de twee voor 1994 snap ik eigenlijk niets, van dat hele huwelijk niet, enerzijds doordat B. voortdurend met zoveel meel in de mond praat en er een blad voor neemt (discretie, discretie), anderzijds omdat het blijkbaar twee heel vreemde mensen betreft. Waarom er twee boeken zijn, begrijp ik ook niet helemaal, al is het eerste meer op Iris, het tweede op Bailey's biografie en zijn omgang met haar Alzheimer gericht (waar ik op zich bewondering voor heb). Veel mensen vonden het prachtig, maar misschien in eerste instantie de film? Ik had veel meer details over Murdoch als schrijfster, filosofe en intellectueel, maar ook over haar aftakeling en en de maniet waarop beiden dat aanpakten, willen horen, minder geneuzel. ( )
  Harm-Jan | Aug 23, 2014 |
Fijngevoelig boek waarin de liefde en het respect van John Bayley voor zijn overleden vrouw uit elke bladzijde ademt. ( )
  judikasp | Aug 9, 2014 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
John Bayleyautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculated
Case, DavidNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Groen, HeinTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Went, GijsTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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With remarkable tenderness, John Bayley recreates his passionate love affair with Iris Murdoch--world-renowned writer and philosopher, and his wife of forty-two years--and poignantly describes the dimming of her brilliance due to Alzheimer's disease. Elegy for Iris is a story about the ephemeral beauty of youth and the sobering reality of what it means to grow old, but its ultimate power is that Bayley discovers great hope and joy in his celebration of Iris's life and their love. In its grasp of life's frailty and its portrayal of one of the great literary romances of this century,Elegy for Iris is a mesmerizing work of art that will be read for generations.

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