Iris Murdoch – Prolific Perfectionist

Day 277 of Colourisation Project – February 8

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Ranked twelfth on a list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945’ by The Times in 2008, Irish-born British author and philosopher, Dame Iris Murdoch was was one of the most influential British writers of the twentieth century. She was best known for her novels which dealt with everyday ethical or moral issues; about good and evil, love and sex, and the power of the unconscious.

Iris Murdoch Bef & Aft

Photographer unknown  ~  Iris Murdoch ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

A  perfectionist in her writing, she wouldn’t allow editors to change her text. Murdoch was a prolific writer producing four books of philosophy, five plays, a volume of poetry, a libretto, and numerous essays and 26 novels in 40 years, including The Sandcastle (1957), The Bell (1958), A Severed Head (1961), A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970), A Word Child (1975), The Sea, The Sea (1978), which won the Booker Prize for that year, The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983), The Good Apprentice (1985), The Book and the Brotherhood (1987), and The Message to the Planet (1989).

Her first published novel, Under the Net, was selected in 1998 as one of Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Murdoch has received numerous honors and awards. In addition to the Booker Prize, she won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread Literary Award for Fiction for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974).  She was named a companion of the British Empire in 1976. She received the Booker McConnell Prize, 1978 (for which 6 of her novels had been shortlisted). She won the Royal Society Literary Award in 1987, and in the same year was made a dame of the British Empire. She was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Bath (1983), University of Cambridge (1993) and Kingston University (1994), among others. She was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1982.

In 1995, at age 76, Murdoch’s 26th and last novel Jackson’s Dilemma was published. That same year, in one of life’s cruel twists, one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, Iris Murdoch, for whom the word was everything, involuntarily surrendered her creative mind to Alzheimer’s disease. She died four years later on this day, 8 February 1999 in Oxford at the age of 80.


“Human affairs are not serious, but they have to be taken seriously.”   ~   Iris Murdoch

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