Friday, 22 March 2013

Elegy for Iris




Bayley, John. Elegy for Iris. 1999.


Written by Iris Murdoch's husband; Bayley remembers their life together as lover and husband and wife; the memory is mingled with the sad and inevitable present in which Iris is suffering from the Alzheimer's Disease. Recounting a trip to Bangkok when the first signs of AD starts to lurk in the background, Bayley mentions in passing the still overwhelming presence of Maugham in Southeast Asia (not unlike Hemingway in Spain, I would say):
Our suite, furnished in ornate colonial style, advertised itself as the favourite stopping place of Somerset Maugham on his Far Eastern trips. His chilly presence certainly seemed to pervade it. [...] After the Far Eastern trip, the sardonic face of Somerset Maugham, smiling from signed photos all round the hotel room, still haunted me at moments when I was telling Iris that all writers at some time suffer from writer's block. I never had writer's block, he seemed to be saying, with an air of contempt.  
The book is humorous, honest, and sadly moving at times. Sharing the feelings of Salinger, Bayley sees Maugham as distant, cold, and unapproachable. 

4 comments :

  1. Hi, I was trying to find a most appropriate place on your blog to write this. I believe this is the most. I have a thin, hard-cover book that was printed privately (by L.C. Page nonetheless) on the life of Nelson Doubleday, on the occasion of his passing. Many famous authors of the time (1949) have little blurbs in there, but W. Somerset Maugham wrote a two-page tribute to the man, which starts the book. A cool thing about it is inside there was an old business card belonging to a Doubleday employee. Just a cool, little nick-nack to have. I believe the contents of Maugham's tribute is reprinted (or at least parts of it) in Ted Morgan's largely fictitious biography.

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    1. There is one "Nelson Doubleday" in the collection A Traveller in Romance, but only one paragraph is printed. The one you mention must be the original longer version. I wonder why it's not printed full by Whitehead. Sounds like a very nice book to have. And the cool business card of course!

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  2. Actually, looking at it again I think it actually is just one rather large paragraph. In this tiny book it takes up 2 pages. The last sentence is: "The recollection of it is a treasure that can never be takn away from me." Is that how yours ends?

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