let the thing invent itself

January 12, 2018

Pedro Otero - Deshumanización del hombre

I knew very early on that I wanted to be a writer. I mean, when I was a child I knew that…

…I think it is important to make a detailed plan before you write the first sentence. Some people think one should write, “George woke up and knew that something terrible had happened yesterday,” and then see what happens. I plan the whole thing in detail before I begin. I have a general scheme and lots of notes. Every chapter is planned. Every conversation is planned. This is, of course, a primary stage, and very frightening because you’ve committed yourself at this point. I mean, a novel is a long job, and if you get it wrong at the start you’re going to be very unhappy later on. The second stage is that one should sit quietly and let the thing invent itself. One piece of imagination leads to another. You think about a certain situation and then some quite extraordinary aspect of it suddenly appears. The deep things that the work is about declare themselves and connect. Somehow things fly together and generate other things, and characters invent other characters, as if they were all doing it themselves. One should be patient and extend this period as far as possible. Of course, actually writing it involves a different kind of imagination and work…

…I do enjoy it, but it has, of course – I mean, this is true of any art form – moments when you think it’s awful, you lose confidence and it’s all black. You can’t think and so on. So, it’s not all enjoyment. But I don’t actually find writing in itself difficult. The creation of the story is the agonizing part. You have the extraordinary experience when you begin a novel that you are now in a state of unlimited freedom, and this is alarming. Every choice you make will exclude another choice, so that it’s rather important what happens then, what state of mind you’re in and what you think matters. Books should have themes. I choose titles carefully and the titles in some way indicate something deep in the theme of the book. Names are important. The names sometimes don’t come at once, but the physical being and the mind of the character have to come pretty early on and you just have to wait for the gods to offer you something. You have to spend a lot of time looking out of the window and writing down scrappy notes that may or may not help. You have to wait patiently until you feel that you’re getting the thing right – who the people are, what it’s all about, how it moves. I may take a long time, say a year, just sitting and fishing around, putting the thing into some sort of shape. The I do a very detailed synopsis of every chapter, every conversation, everything that happens. That would be another operation…

Iris Murdoch
Interview with Jeffery Meyers in Paris Review summer 1990


August 11, 2017

Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea

Iris Murdoch
The sea the sea

A basic truth

December 6, 2016


Of course reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too.

Iris Murdoch
The Sea, the Sea

casual malice

June 5, 2016

Whispering Sisters- Rose Freymuth-Frazier

We are all the judges and the judged, victims of the casual malice and fantasy of others, and ready sources of fantasy and malice in our turn. And if we are sometimes accused of sins of which we are innocent, are there not also other sins of which we are guilty and of which the world knows nothing?

Iris Murdoch
Nuns and Soldiers


Then I felt too that I might take this opportunity to tie up a few loose ends, only of course loose ends can never be properly tied, one is always producing new ones. Time, like the sea, unties all knots. Judgments on people are never final, they emerge from summings up which at once suggest the need of a reconsideration. Human arrangements are nothing but loose ends and hazy reckoning, whatever art may otherwise pretend in order to console us.

Iris Murdoch
The Sea, the Sea

Karel Appel - Face in a Landscape

I hate solitude, but I’m afraid of intimacy. The substance of my life is a private conversation with myself which to turn into a dialogue would be equivalent to self-destruction. The company which I need is the company which a pub or a cafe will provide. I have never wanted a communion of souls. It’s already hard enough to tell the truth to oneself.

Iris Murdoch
Under the Net


June 2, 2016


Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.

Iris Murdoch
Existentialists and Mystics Writings on Philosophy and Literature

Diary Extract

February 25, 2016

Diary_Dan Dos Santos Portfolio

22nd Feb

And so Mr Cameron announces, “A reformed EU…” I must have misheard, mustn’t I? It’s a bit like Gordon Brown saying he had “twenty-four hours to save the world!” You can never, NEVER reform the unreformable.

So, our Prime Minister has reached a deal that…“Protects the city of London” Did I mishear yet again? No, I didn’t. He’s got an agreement that’ll stop UK firms being forced to relocate into Europe, ensuring British businesses do not face “discrimination” for being outside the eurozone.

A seven year “emergency break” on migrants’ in-work benefits for four years when there are “exceptional” levels of migration (how do you define exceptional, I wonder?).

Child benefit for the children of EU migrants living overseas will now be paid at a rate based on the cost of living in their home country – applicable immediately for new arrivals and from 2020 for the 34,000 existing claimants. In the scheme of things the cost of this is peanuts when compared to overall UK budgetary spend; it’s penny pinching and frankly embarrassing.

Ever-closer union will “not apply to the United Kingdom”, meaning Britain “can never be forced into political integration”. A really minging agreement that will please a few of the little Englander’s, I s’pose, but not many. Ultimately, I suspect, it’ll prove worthless.

Not exactly what was promised in the Conservative Manifesto, is it? But dear old Mr Cameron has said it again:

“The British people must now decide whether to stay in this reformed European Union or to leave. This will be a once-in-a-generation moment to shape the destiny of our country.”

The EU has NOT been reformed. Any “reform” would require an EU-wide referendum. No EU leader in his or her right mind would countenance such an action at this point in time…it’d be far too risky with so many euro-skeptic people in the mix…In Spain, Greece, Ireland and now even Germany.

Instead the UK government has protected (once again) the banks and financial services industry from any nasty EU legislation, or so they hope! We won’t have to join the Euro, but one day we might anyway because it makes life so much easier for firms selling and buying goods within the EU. No political integration – but Europe will still be our lawmakers, will still control our fishing and agricultural legislation, for example. Business will still be wrapped up in miles of red tape, courtesy of the gnomes of Stasbourg…

Actually, nothing very much will change. It’s a shite deal, and if you were really looking for reform, you’ll feel very disappointed. This whole sad fiasco smells very dodgy indeed to my sensitive nose.

24th February

Morning ablutions. I have a “toilet book” which I read each morning while sitting on the loo. At the moment it is Brian W Aldiss’ “Billion Year Spree” (I have his updated version “Trillion Year Spree somewhere, but can’t find it just now; so I’ve gone with the earlier version). Aldiss’ prose is quite fine, and this is a wonderful book for a bowel movement. Unlike “My Life” by Leon Trotsky which it replaces. I found Trotsky quite constipating. Not a good book for the toilet at all.

Conversation (Last Saturday)

She said to me, ‘What was that?’

Glancing up from my drink, I said, ‘Sorry, pet?’

‘What did you just say to me, Peedeel?’

‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘I didn’t speak.’

Frowning at me, she said, ‘You think I’m hearing things, do you?’ She turned to L as she returned to the table from the washroom. ‘I know he thinks I’m a little mad,’ she said. ‘I know he does. Now he’s trying to convince me I’m hearing voices…’

‘No, I don’t think you’re mad,’ I said. ‘I’ve never ever said anything of the sort. I just didn’t speak, is all. I was miles away, yeah. Off with the fairies.’

‘But I heard you.’

‘You couldn’t have. I didn’t speak.’

‘So I’m hearing things, am I? Hallucinating? Is that what you’re accusing me of?’

‘Christsake. I’m not “accusing” you of anything. If I spoke out loud, I wasn’t conscious of doing so. I was daydreaming. I’m not aware of having spoken…but perhaps I did. Perhaps that’s what you heard.’

‘Okay. So what did you say…?’
On reading “The Bell” by Iris Murdoch:

Realistic novel but overflowing with symbols. Including the bell of the title, of course. Inscribed: Ego Vox Sum Amoris. Gabriel vocor. – “I am the voice of love. I am named Gabriel. Which is the central theme of the novel. The bell, however, has drowned in the lake, situated in the grounds of a convent. Its drowning was miraculous…and this bell is central to so many complex problems, not least of which is the character of Michael Meade’s conflict between his homosexual tendencies and his desire to become…yes, you guessed it…a priest!

The main question of the novel: how should you best live as a spiritual being is ineffectually answered by Michael Mead and James Tayper Pace (both lay preachers) in separate sermons, but is nailed down by the Abbess whose advice is: We should all learn to love one another.

Intensely poetic, well constructed novel of ideas and emotions. Highly recommended.