Ninety-Nine Novels: The Bell by Iris Murdoch
In 1984, Anthony Burgess published Ninety-Nine Novels, a selection of his favourite novels in English since 1939. The list is typically idiosyncratic, and shows the breadth of Burgess’s interest in fiction. This podcast, by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, explores the novels on Burgess’s list with the help of writers, critics and other special guests.
In this episode, Graham Foster of the Burgess Foundation talks to Avril Horner about The Bell by Iris Murdoch, a novel Burgess calls ‘intensely poetic’ and ‘beautifully organised’.
First published in 1958, The Bell tells the story of Dora Greenfield, an impulsive young woman, who moves with her husband to a lay religious community in the grounds of Imber Abbey. There, she discovers an old bell at the bottom of a lake, and sets in motion events that will expose secret desires and lead to tragic consequences.
Avril Horner is Emeritus Professor of English at Kingston University, London. She specialises in women’s writing and gothic literature and has published widely on authors such as Daphne du Maurier, Edith Wharton, and Iris Murdoch. Her latest book is Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995, which she edited with Anne Rowe, with whom she has also edited books on Iris Murdoch and morality and the texts and contexts of Iris Murdoch. She is currently working, with Sue Zlosnik on the book Comic Gothic, which will be released by Edinburgh University Press in 2023.
Books mentioned in this episode
By Iris Murdoch:
- Under the Net (1954)
- The Flight from the Enchanter (1956)
- The Sandcastle (1957)
- A Severed Head (1961)
- The Unicorn (1963)
- The Time of the Angels (1966)
- The Nice and the Good (1968)
- A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970)
- The Sovereignty of Good (1970)
- The Black Prince (1973)
- The Sea, The Sea (1978)
- Nuns and Soldiers (1980)
- The Book and the Brotherhood (1987)
- The Message to the Planet (1989)
- Existentialists and Mystics (1997)
- The Need for Roots by Simone Weil (1952)
- The Notebooks of Simone Weil (1954)
- Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns (1954)
- The Skin Chairs by Barbara Comyns (1962)
- The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (2016)
You can join the conversation and tell us which 100th book you would add to Burgess’s list by using the hashtag #99Novels on Twitter.
If you have enjoyed this episode, why not leave us a review and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Listen to this podcast below or on your audio platform of choice (Apple Podcasts / Soundcloud / Spotify / YouTube), or use the streaming links below.
The theme music for the Ninety-Nine Novels podcast is Anthony Burgess’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Piano in D Minor, performed by No Dice Collective.