From one of my favorite British authors, Iris Murdoch unravels the many guises of love and how it results to different types of violence us human beings are capable of. A Severed Head, Murdoch’s fifth novels starts with Martin Lynch-Gibbon enjoying a lazy afternoon together with his mistress Georgie, in her apartment as he ponders his life. Committing adultery for Martin doesn’t necessarily mean his love for Antonia -his wife- lessens. As he goes home after a wonderful conversation with Georgie, Antonia reveals a hideous confession concerning their relationship that makes Martin run for Antonia. Thus begin the start of a dizzying and the most tangled and entertaining of all relationships in modern fiction.
Decisions, hatred, revenge and the lack of self-control and other sobering things makes this novel seem depressing. But with Murdoch’s skill and observations it still manages to make the story highly entertaining and thought-provoking. It also contains one of the most profound conversations concerning human relationships, its stupidities and why doing nothing causes trouble and doing something makes the matter worse. With these realizations, I had somehow had the glimpse of what is right and what is wrong. For with any situation, incorporating of reasoning especially of psychoanalysis makes things normal and seems acceptable.
Murdoch entertainingly illustrates the era of the 1960’s revolution in values and sexual ethics. It is filled with a number of characters and the task of remembering them is quite easy for they are all uniquely illustrated and profoundly constructed. Filled with violence and surprise, melodrama and tragedy, her prose with poetic touch and quotable dialogue, Murdoch’s A Severed Head makes its contemporaries with the same theme seem uninteresting. ‘Are we all that vulnerable and is subject to temptation?’ is the question that continuously pops out of my head as I read through.
This is listed as one of my personal favorite from the author and one of my most favorite novels.
The novel is included on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die. The novel is also made into a 1970 film with the same title and Iris Murdoch also adapted her book for the stage in 1963 that runs for a total of 1,073 performances.
Opening Sentence: ‘You’re sure she doesn’t know,’ said Georgie.
Ending Sentence: ‘So must you, my dear!’