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{Read Epub} ⛓ The Bell é A Lay Community Of Thoroughly Mixed Up People Is Encamped Outside Imber Abbey, Home Of An Enclosed Order Of Nuns A New Bell, Legendary Symbol Of Religion And Magic, Is Rediscovered Dora Greenfield, Erring Wife, Returns To Her Husband Michael Mead, Leader Of The Community, Is Confronted By Nick Fawley, With Whom He Had Disastrous Homosexual Relations, While The Wise Old Abbess Watches And Prays And Exercises Discreet Authority And Everyone, Or Almost Everyone, Hopes To Be Saved, Whatever That May MeanIris Murdoch S Funny And Sad Novel Has Themes Of Religion, The Fight Between Good And Evil, And The Terrible Accidents Of Human Frailty If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Rebarbativeness The Bell by Iris Murdoch Original Review, 2002 Toby had received, though not yet digested, one of the earliest lessons of adult life that one is never secure At any moment one can be removed from a state of guileless serenity and plunged into its opposite, without any intermediate condition, so high about us do the waters rise of our own and other people s imperfection In The Bell by Iris MurdochI first encountered the word rebarbative in The Bell. Interrupting RoutineI work as tutor and librarian at Blackfriars Hall Oxford, the smallest and most medieval of the University of Oxford colleges and also a Dominican priory A few years ago Blackfriars acquired a bell to call the friars to prayer The sound of the bell does indeed create a definite atmosphere in the place as also does its timing since it rings, like its larger fellow at Christ Church College, according to solar time about six minutes behind GMT The midday call to the Angelus therefore is somewhat disconcerting for passers by who nervously check their watches I have come to believe that this slight disruption, this interruption, is precisely the bell s function, intended or not Paradoxically a routine that interrupts routine One way to interpret Murdoch s novel is as just such an interruption in the lives of its characters.A.S Byatt in her introduction calls The Bell Murdoch s first English novel And it certainly creates a distinctive atmosphere, one so dense, thick, and humid in the Summer heat that it feels like green cotton wool simultaneously inhibiting and cushioning movement The characters, mostly middle class professionals, each might have issues but all are nevertheless cradled in the social solidity of a 1950 s bourgeois English culture that hopes against hope that it will remain 1939 forever They live in an existential routine that seems fixed they are stuck largely with themselves.People get on as if on a trajectory with the defined and relatively narrow limits of Oxbridge graduates in a post war world they find alien and confusing Their individual worries, however, don t inhibit their confidence, material or spiritual, in being English They are, of course, completely unaware of this How could it be otherwise But their Englishness is the necessarily unstated subject of the book The narrator would only spoil the narrative if she gave the game away introspection is not to be encouraged,A belief in Original Sin should not lead us to probe the filth of our mindsIrony is after all English group therapy.Opening with a very civilised adultery, leading to an evencivilised reconciliation for which the outgoing lover provides transportation to the railway station, there is no conflict which can t be solved if one just has the patience to wait it out And for heavens sake keep one s mouth shut Intimate communication is far too perilous a venture Much preferable to rely on one s friends to buoy one up without making a fuss, usually with a little GT, or possibly even a bit of evening Compline before bed.The High Church tradition, the antithesis of her Irish Presbyterian background, is something Murdoch became intimately familiar with in Oxford Her College, Somerville, is just past the end of St Giles , a street along which John Henry Newman started his career as an Anglican vicar at one end and wound up a Catholic Cardinal at the other Halfway along, and touching Blackfriars, is Pusey House, named for Newman s colleague in the liturgical revival of Anglicanism the Oxford Movement in fact Pusey House is oftenCatholic than the local Catholic churches since it can both anticipate the introduction of new ritual or revert to ancient practices without consulting the Vatican Pusey House also has the best collection of Vatican documents in Oxford.Some consider High Anglicanism to be a mimicry of Catholicism It s not It is true English Catholicism, or better said, Catholicism in the English mode Many Oxford colleges conduct Evensong and Compline services daily during term, using English Plainsong or Gregorian chant according to preference These are sensually pleasing, one might call them erotic, events They employ all the smells and bells of Catholic ritual but also emit a vaguely camp rebelliousness directed at both Low Church Anglicans as well as the straight laced historically Irish Catholic masses.This Anglo Catholicism provides a great deal of the dark green, cotton wool, comfort of The Bell The enclosed convent of Anglican nuns in Imber is not an antithesis to the repressed erotic desires of the characters who fetch up together across the lake in a half derelict country pile of Imber Court it is a spiritual celebration of the erotic One is reminded of Teresa of Avila and her swooning for Christ, her Spouse I know of at least three similar communities within 15 minutes drive of Oxford And I lived in one of these while I wrote my doctoral dissertation This kind of community is not a place to escape desire but a place in which desire can be explored in a way that is uniquely English through patient ritual, agricultural and industrial as well as religious As the medieval philosophers taught through practice one can act one s way into a moral lifeThe great thing about a dogsays one of the residentsis that it can be trained to love youAnd not just dogs Humans too can be taught to love trough practice but not through conversation, idle or therapeutic So,Meals were taken in silence at Imber In a sense, therefore, sex is as much a religious practice in Anglo Catholicism as it is in the Buddhism of the Kama Sutra It needn t be advertised as such, that would require talk which would compromise the effort fatally But Murdoch makes the equivalence explicit in her description of the psychic state of her main character, a homosexualin some curious way the emotion which fed both his religious feeling and homosexual orientation arose deeply from the same source English resourcefulness is to be found in this dance of sex and religion, which is carried out as much to the rhythm of an English country house as of a Benedictine convent The mustiness of each is additiveThere was a stale smell, like the smell of old bread, the smell of an institutionA concise summary really of the English Baroque Everything is surface, but brightly lighted surface so that nothing is actually hidden,All the electric lights were so bright at Imber The inhabitants are essentially misfits, and are recruited as such,people who can live neither in the world nor out of it They are a kind of sick people, whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completelyEach of these defective characters has a place, a duty really, in the overall choreography of an operatic ballet in Imber Court, a definite role that fits snugly into an overall ensemble Dora is the dim beauty, the soprano of the piece She has no comprehension of religion and only the most instrumentally sterile view of sex but she is not malicious,That she had no memory made her generousShe is a central figure, a sort of goddess of creation and of course therefore sex , who tends to get lost in Murdoch s narrative turbulence Paul, Dora s husband, is the operatic baritone, for whom neither sex nor religion is about passion but domesticity He desires Dora as housekeeper and mother for his children and religion is part of an ordered family bliss His lust, such as it is, is paterfamilial and conventional not perverse.The director producer is Mrs Mark married to Mr Mrs Mark , a somewhat beefy person in long skirts, withwell developed calvesShe is a type of English proto hippie perhaps, an evangelical Mrs Danvers, living a life of gentile, procedural poverty on someone else s dime, never without a cause Without her, neither sex nor religion could flourish at Imber She is the liturgical and social hub, the enforcer of strict adherence to the rubrics,It s not like a hotel and we do expect our guests to fit in and I think that s what they like best too,she politely commands She also ensures that conversation never becomes intrusive,That s another little religious rule that we try to follow No gossipWhat takes place outside Imber, remains outside Imber.Mrs Mark is the agent of Michael Meade, the somewhat reluctant leader, whose family estate Imber Court is In subsequent decades Michael would have been identified as the cult leader of the residents, not as sinister as Jim Jones or as commercial as Werner Erhard perhaps but still of some unaccountably charismatic incompetence Michael has been inspired by the Abbess of the Benedictine convent to minister to folk who are neither clerical nor secular but what now might be called seekers He is a homosexual.Catherine is the mezzo soprano and, innovatively, the prima ballerina of the piece who is immediately identified by Dora as a rival Catherine is imminently to become a postulant in the convent or, as her twin brother perceives the situation, to be swallowed alive by the institutional monster of religious passion Toby, Catherine s male sexual counterpart, is the the pious, virginal counter tenor He is the unsure novice, spiritually as well as sexually unformed.The eponymous bell constitutes what Alfred Hitchcock called the McGuffin a motivating force whose function is to set the narrative in motion but that remains invisible Essential therefore, although apparently trivial It is Dora and Toby, at ends of the sexual spiritual spectrum, who release the bell from the primal waters in which it has been hidden Driven by the event of the bell, the characters carom around the confines of Imber Court, impelling each other to acts of spiritual lust and material folly in a marvellously English way And of course interrupting their lives profoundly, not just for them but for all of Murdoch s generation In fact this form of Anglo Catholic lay community was inspired by the so called Distributist Movement of the 1920 s and 30 s This was a Catholic attempt, promoted by the likes of GK Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc, to find a middle way between Capitalism and Communism It s ideal was a sort of medieval economy dominated by small agricultural producers who owned and worked their own land A few of Distributism s ideological remnants still exist in Britain, Canada and Australia. I love Iris Murdoch I ve come to expect certain things from her novels one astonishing, humorous transition here, it comes early, on a train at least 2 abrupt sexually centered plot twists that make me exclaim out loud on the subway a few incredible lines that border on philosophy Most of all, there s the sense in her novels that anything is possible as the excellent A.S Byatt interview puts it, she has the instincts of the 19th century novelist, though she s thoroughly contemporary One caution DON T READ THE BACK JACKET or any info if you are interested in this book The first surprise in the book is wonderful if, like me, you don t see it coming.I didn t love THE BELL as much as THE SEA, THE SEA or A SEVERED HEAD, because it feels as if Murdoch is still shaking off some structural ghosts fromconventional fiction This was her 4th novel, and the set up is great, very reminiscent of Black Narcissus A lay community has set up camp in a mansion and founded a spiritual community outside the gates of an old Abbey, which is waiting for a giant bell In her eagerness to people the community, Murdoch s generosity with supporting characters occasionally left me a bit confused lots of boring male names , and the complexity of the set up and the slight wrapping up, mid century feeling of the ending slowed me down The three perspective characters Dora, a flighty aspiring painter with a harsh husband Michael, the leader of the community w a secret past Toby, a teenager of boundless energy carry this book, and Murdoch uses various bells, both metaphorical and actual, to great effect There s a spectacular sequence with birds, and the nuns, sitting invisible on the grounds, add a unique tension to the action.Once this gets going I don t want to spoil anything because it s so good , once it turns Murdochian, I was thrilled There is an incredible revelation from the headlights of a car a device she reuses almost identically in THE SEA, THE SEA and things proceed from there with a relentless sexual logic that I adored And the writing Toby had received, though not yet digested, one of the earliest lessons of adult life that one is never secure At any moment one can be removed from a state of guileless serenity and plunged into the opposite, without any intermediate condition, so high about us do the waters rise of our own and other people s imperfection Memories of the previous evening returned to him vividly, and he had a curious sense of being unfaithful, followed by a feeling of the utter messiness of everything Violence is born of the desire to escape oneself If you re interested in Murdoch, I d start with A SEVERED HEAD so you can build trust in her capacity for insanity I might have put this down after 40 pages if I didn t have faith in her, and I m very glad that I didn t. The main character is Dora, a ditz, but you gotta love her for her good heart She captures a butterfly from the floor of the subway so it doesn t get stepped on but then has no idea what do with it She wears high heels for a walk in muddy woods and then loses her shoes She forgets her bag at the railway station She has to take a long bus ride into town to retrieve it, takes the bus back home, forgetting the bag again in a pub She s an aspiring artist who is lazy and shows no signs of talent.Dora is married to a cold, cruel man who is an art historian They have an on again, off again relationship As the story opens she s returning to her husband from a casual affair with an old flame she could be happy neither with her husband nor without him It seemed to her that her husband was urging her to grow up, and yet had left her no space to grow up into Her husband, the snot, tells her Of course I don t respect you Have I any reason to I m in love with you, unfortunately, that s all How s that for a sad state of affairs Her husband is researching church records at a lay religious commune affiliated with an adjoining convent of cloistered nuns The religious commune serves as a buffer or an entryway depending on how you look at it between thereligious world of the convent and the material world It s for people who can t find a profession like teaching or nursing endowed with spiritual significance One of the other main characters is a gay man who initially saw no conflict between his Anglican religion and his sexuality they seemed to come from the same source until he decided he wanted to become a priest He was conscious of such a fund of love and goodwill for the young creature young man beside him It could not be that God intended such a spring of love to be quenched utterably The novel has a fairly frank discussion of male homosexuality given that it was published in 1958.The main action in the book revolves around a new bell that is to be installed at the abbey It is to replace one that has been missing for centuries and that supposedly sunk in the lake Dora and a young man find the old bell and raise it as a surprise in a comedic farce All that serves to move the book along but it s really a story of good and evil, morality, and people struggling to do the good thing Two quotes I liked Violence is born of the desire to escape oneself Here s a variation on the theme of rising to your highest level of incompetence One must perform the lower act which one can manage and sustain not the higher act which one bungles The blurbs call it a funny and sad novel and I think that is accurate A good read although not the author s strongest I still prefer Murdoch s The Sea, The Sea My GR friend Bionic Jean has written a muchdetailed and thoughtful review of the book here if you are interested of Buckfast Abbey, Dartmoor from britainexpress.comPhoto of the author from biography.com