To Raymond Queneau.
St Anne’s Society
[29 October 1949]
I know you are very busy but may I nevertheless point out that I haven’t had a letter from you since (I think) July. I know too that I didn’t write for a long time, but I am hoping that you are not cross with me. Vous ne m’en voulez pas?
I am doing quite a lot of work too—apart from teaching, I mean, which doesn’t count. I hope to get this thesis organised soon. Something on meaning, based chez Hegel, bringing in Sartre, refuting Ryle. (Ryle is the reigning professor here. His book on Mind,1 just published, summarises the post-Wittgensteinian empiricism which is British philosophy at present. I’ll send you a copy.) [. . .]
What’s doing in Paris about peace? I suppose the PC [Le Parti Communiste Français (PCF)] is organising conferences and so on. But does it extend beyond Communist circles? (Does Sartre lend himself to any such organisation?) Here, regrettably, peace is regarded as a Communist racket. Everyone seems to be becoming madder and madder.
Write to me soon, dear Queneau. Ever affectionately yours
St Anne’s Society, Oxford [13 March 1951]
I notice with surprise and distress that I have owed you a letter since December 28th. Anyway, that is the date inscribed on what I take to be your last letter, now before me. I can’t remember that I have written to you since then, though I did get round to sending you Auden’s Romantic Iconography which stern colleagues here say is an irresponsible and unscholarly piece of work. […]
Everything has been mild hell here since I last wrote and before that too. A beastly term: I was lecturing, for the first time, an alarming experience (on ‘Meanings, Descriptions and Thoughts’). Before that I was bothered about trying to marry somebody, but it didn’t come off. Just as well maybe. If I could only stop thinking about marriage maybe I’d get some work done.
If I could see a means of doing it I’d slip over from philosophy into English literature—but this is difficult, probably impossible. (I might take a chair of philosophy at Bloemfontein or Tasmania and there I could do anything I suppose.) Next year I shall console myself by lecturing on imagination. (I’d like to work on Marxism too, particularly as no one here seems to understand this or care.) When I shall write a novel again I don’t know and this after all is the only important thing.
I doubt if I’ll get across the Channel this year. Short of cash. I’d love to see you (this is always a large part of the point of going abroad). But when I do see you I usually come away with the sad feeling that I haven’t communicated with you as I would have wished. However I don’t resign myself to non-communication, here or anywhere.
I’ll write again sooner I hope than last time. Raymond dear, as always, much love
Excerpted from Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934–1995 by Iris Murdoch, edited by Avril Horner & Anne Rowe. Letters © 2015 by Kingston University. Published in North America by Princeton University Press and in the United Kingdom by Chatto & Windus, an imprint of Vintage. Reprinted with permission.