The Sea, the Sea

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Sea, the Sea
TheSeaTheSea.JPG
First edition
Author Iris Murdoch
Cover artist Hokusai The Great Wave off Kanagawa
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Chatto & Windus
Publication date
1978
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 502 pp
ISBN 0-670-62651-1
OCLC 4136290
823/.9/14
LC Class PZ4.M974 Sd PR6063.U7

The Sea, the Sea is the 20th novel by Iris Murdoch. It won the Booker Prize in 1978.

Plot summary[edit]

The Sea, the Sea is a tale of the strange obsessions that haunt a self-satisfied playwright and director as he begins to write his memoirs. Murdoch's novel exposes the motivations that drive her characters - the vanity, jealousy, and lack of compassion behind the disguises they present to the world. Charles Arrowby, its central figure, decides to withdraw from the world and live in seclusion in a house by the sea. While there, he encounters his first love, Mary Hartley Fitch, whom he has not seen since his love affair with her as an adolescent. Although she is almost unrecognisable in old age, and outside his theatrical world, he becomes obsessed by her, idealizing his former relationship with her and attempting to persuade her to elope with him. His inability to recognise the egotism and selfishness of his own romantic ideals is at the heart of the novel. After the farcical and abortive kidnapping of Mrs. Fitch by Arrowby, he is left to mull over her rejection in a self-obsessional and self-aggrandising manner over the space of several chapters. "How much, I see as I look back, I read into it all, reading my own dream text and not looking at the reality... Yes of course I was in love with my own youth... Who is one's first love?"[1]

Title[edit]

Iris Murdoch's biographer Peter J. Conradi gives Xenophon as the ultimate source of the title.[2] According to Xenophon's Anabasis, "The Sea! The Sea!" (Thalatta! Thalatta!) was the shout of triumphant exultation given by the roaming 10,000 Greeks when, in 401 BC, they caught sight of the Black Sea from Mount Theches in Trebizond and realised they were saved from near-certain death.

Conradi states that the direct source of the title is Paul Valéry's poem Le Cimetiere Marin (The Graveyard by the Sea). A line in the poem's final stanza quotes the Greeks' shouts: "La mer, la mer, toujours recommencėe" (The Sea, the sea, forever restarting).[3] Murdoch refers to the poem in several of her books, and this stanza appears in full at the end of chapter 4 in her 1963 novel The Unicorn.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Murdoch, Iris (1999). The Sea, the Sea. London: Vintage. pp. 499, 502. ISBN 009928409X. 
  2. ^ Conradi, Peter J. (2001). Iris Murdoch: A Life. London: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 74. ISBN 0393048756. 
  3. ^ Conradi, Peter J. (1989). The Saint & the Artist: A Study of the Fiction of Iris Murdoch (3rd ed.). London: Harper Collins. p. 293. ISBN 0007120192. 
  4. ^ Murdoch, Iris (1975). The Unicorn. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin. p. 43. 
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Staying On
Booker Prize recipient
1978
Succeeded by
Offshore