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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

The Sea, the Sea - Iris Murdoch, Mary Kinzie Sigrid Undset, Marguerite Duras, Marguerite Yourcenar, Pearl S. Buck, Elsa Morante, Grazia Deledda, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison, Banana Yoshimoto, Elfriede Jelinek.
It's time to confess that I've never read anything by all of them.

(Saying nothing about poetry. May Emily Dickinson, Wislawa Szymborska and Anna Akhmatova forgive me!)

These omissions lead me to a question:
do I have a problem with well known, critical acclaimed female novelists?
Either, I am -strictly literary speaking- a mysoginist or it's just a coincidence. To justify me I can barely name Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and a couple of Bronte sisters. Plus Iris Murdoch, from now on.

In fact, pretty conscious of my desire and need to bridge the above mentioned gap, I bought a second hand edition of what is considered one of the most significative books of Iris Murdoch in such a nice a British bookshop embellished by a smooth black cat with long whiskers.

The novel turned out to be an engaging, satisfying reading. Actually, I expected something harder to get into. I expected more an essay than a story. Well, I was wrong.
On the one hand "The Sea, The Sea" reminded me a feuilleton because of Iris Murdoch adding on purpose some quite characteristic elements of that genre in the plot. On the other hand, I found masterful the way in which a female author puts herself in the shoes of a man. On the contrary, whenever a male author pretended to talk as a woman in most of the books I read so far, the result was particularly unrealistic.

Whereas Murdoch is less brilliant it's in drawing the English and Londonese "theatrical background" of her fictional male voice, the retired playwright Charles Arrowby. Come on! I can understand he's very much into Shakespeare considering him as the zenith of theatre, but apart from a few references to Chechov and Ibsen there's nothing else as Mr Arrowby only source of inspiration were the most obvious one ever.

Anyway, I consider this as a very interesting and sometimes surprising book, being able to portray a fauna of formerly successful actors and nymphomaniac actresses in a great way. To make the novel even better there's the phantom of a childhood love that haunts Mr Arrowby retirement plans and house, mesmerizing his peaceful post-theatre life .