Sunday, March 27, 2011

An unreliable narrator

The Kindle informed the world (or at least Twitter and Facebook) when I finished Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea" yesterday.

It is a difficult book to love because Charles Arrowby, our unreliable narrator, is so blinkered and deluded. I don't like playing peek-a-boo with the author like this, laughing up my sleeve whenever we catch her story teller out. How about good old "free indirect style", woman? Combining a more reliable third-person narration with your anti-hero's inner voice, so I don't have to read it like a bleedin' detective story.

The weird thing is however, unconvincing as I found Arrowby's voice in the novel, the tone in which casually misogynist cupidity mistakes itself for keen psychological insight, is precisely that of Elias Canetti's astonishingly caddish take on Ms Murdoch herself in Party in The Blitz.

You sir, were no gent, and perhaps she knew more about men than I allow.

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