Friday, May 07, 2010

THE FLIGHT FROM THE ENCHANTER



The Flight From the Enchanter, Iris Murdoch, The Viking Press, 1956, 316 pp



I don't personally know anyone who has read Iris Murdoch's novels. This is her second novel and only the second one I have read. I find her books so far, to be refreshingly unique. In this one she explores the hold a strong personality can have over other people, denying them the freedom to live by their own determinism.

Only gradually does the reader realize which character in the story is the enchanter and by then you are so invested in several of his victims' lives, that you fear for them and thus are happy for each one's efforts at flight. As in her first novel, Under the Net, the characters are beyond the ordinary with quirks and bizarre behaviors, though many are portrayed with a dark humor. She pits the laughable characters against the admirable ones, so it is the tensions between characters rather than the somewhat thin plot that moves the story and compels the reader.

The novel takes place in 1950s London amidst literary people, early feminists, government bureaucrats and immigrants, but the moral theme of how much power any individual should concede to another over one's life is universal. I found the book moving and enjoyable.


(The Flight From the Enchanter is out of print, as far as I can tell. Once again, libraries and used book sellers are your best source.)

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