Vintage has unveiled a host of celebrations to mark the centenary of Iris Murdoch’s birth today (15th July), including a postcard philosophy project and newly designed special editions of her classics "to reintroduce Murdoch as a trailblazing writer”.
A pair of academics and debut authors, Dr Clare Mac Cumhaill and Dr Rachael Wiseman, are launching a project with An Post, Philosophy by Postcard, in tribute to Murdoch’s “philosophical genius”. Ahead of their forthcoming non-fiction book, The Quartet, which is based partly on Murdoch’s life, the campaign will run throughout summer calling on people to pose philosophical dilemmas. The Quartet was snapped up earlier this year by Chatto & Windus in a five-way auction, and also follows the lives of Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley and Elizabeth Anscombe.
The postcard project forms part of In Parenthesis, which is a research collaboration between Cumhaill of Durham University and Wiseman, who is based at the University of Liverpool.
“In Parenthesis is inviting people to dust off their fountain pens and to send a postcard, asking a philosophical question, to Murdoch’s birthplace in Dublin,” Cumhaill and Wiseman said. “One hundred postcards will be answered by 100 philosophers, who have been lined up globally to participate in this first ever #slowphilosophy ‘philosophy by postcard’ exchange. They will respond in Murdoch’s stead and hopefully channel a bit of Murdoch’s philosophical genius along the way.”
“Murdoch was a rampantly generous correspondent, spending up to four hours a day, with her preferred Mont Blanc. penning letters, postcards and even mini sketches to friends and fans.”
An Post, the provider of postal services in the Republic of Ireland, has produced a commemorative stamp for the Philosophy by Postcard campaign.
Meanwhile Vintage has republished a series of six novels by Murdoch earlier featuring illustrations by Bijou Karman and Daisy Johnson, Bidisha, Garth Greenwell, Sarah Perry, Charlotte Mendelson & Sophie Hannah, to “reintroduce Murdoch as a trailblazing writer”. The six paperbacks in the new special edition series were published on 5th July, costing £9.99. The titles include: A Fairly Honourable Defeat, The Bell, The Sea, The Sea, The Sandcastle, The Black Prince and Under the Net.
Vintage editor Charlotte Knight said: “People have a sense of Iris Murdoch as a person, a philosopher and an intellectual powerhouse, but too few read her novels these days. We want to change that. Her novels are funny, complex and powerful, filled with family dramas, love stories, humour, anguish and strong women. And all written with pure verve and energy.
"The fact she has been out of fashion is a crime against literature – she is a writer to read now.”
Murdoch’s centenary will be marked by commemorative events across Ireland and the UK including a forthcoming blue plaque, a plaque unveiling at her birthplace in Dublin, conferences at Oxford University, as well as a special event at the National Portrait Gallery and various other initiatives.
The novelist was born in Dublin in 1919 and spent most her life based in Oxford until her death in 1999.
For more information on the ‘In Parenthesis’ project, visit philosophybypostcard.com.