Irish Murdoch, author of 26 intellectually rigorous novels, is born on this day in Dublin.
Murdoch’s family moved to London when she was still an infant. Her father, who worked in the civil service, encouraged her to read and discuss books, and she resolved at an early age to become a writer. After earning her degree at Oxford, she worked for the British Treasury and the United Nations until the end of World War II, then returned to academia to become a philosophy professor.
She began teaching at Oxford in 1948, where she met her future husband, John Bayley. Several years younger than Murdoch, Bayley fell in love with her at first sight as she rode by his room on a bicycle one day. The pair married in 1956. Murdoch published her first book, a philosophical study of Sartre, in 1953, and her first novel, Under the Net, was published the following year. She wrote two dozen novels as well as numerous scholarly works and several plays. She won the Booker Prize for The Sea, the Sea (1978). Many of her works were turned into plays.
Murdoch was named a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1987 and won many other awards during four decades of writing.
In the mid-1990s, Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and died in 1999; not long after, Bayley published Elegy for Iris, a critically acclaimed memoir of their marriage and her decline.