The Sea, the Sea

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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?"

Title[edit]

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 401BC, they caught sight of the Black Sea from Mount Theches in Trebizond and realised they were saved from near-certain death.

The phrase "the sea, the sea" also appears both in Greek and in English in James Joyce's novel Ulysses (see Thalatta! Thalatta!).

The title may also allude to a line in Paul Valéry's poem Le Cimetiere Marin (The Graveyard by the Sea): La mer, la mer, toujours recommencee (The Sea, The Sea forever restarting).[citation needed]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Staying On
Booker Prize recipient
1978
Succeeded by
Offshore