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Under the Net

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  12,101 ratings  ·  588 reviews
Jake Donaghue, garrulous artist, meets Hugo Belfounder, silent philosopher.

Jake, hack writer and sponger, now penniless flat-hunter, seeks out an old girlfriend, Anna Quentin, and her glamorous actress sister, Sadie. He resumes acquaintance with formidable Hugo, whose ‘philosophy’ he once presumptuously dared to interpret. These meetings involve Jake and his eccentric
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Mass Market Paperback, 253 pages
Published 1970 by Penguin (first published 1954)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  12,101 ratings  ·  588 reviews


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Fabian
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The cocky narrator of "Under the Net" is precisely what all true antiheroes are made out of. Roaming the streets of London like some vagabond (though money frequently touches his hands) & interacting with vile people, THIS is a true perpetual ode to laziness, exactly the type of thing to spark my particular interest.

The story is organic, its flow envious. Precious few writers can get away with such subtle themes and sensual undertow. It is eerie, weirdly & mysteriously symbolic. A more
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Duane
I may be alone in thinking this, but Iris Murdoch's main character here, Jake Donaghue, reminds me of Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye fame. Both are seriously separated from normality, and both take us on their disjointed, almost chaotic, trips around their respective cities; Jake in London and Holden in New York. Salinger's novel was published in 1951, Murdoch's in 1954, but I don't think there was any influence there, at least consciously, but their similarities struck me. But now ...more
Trevor
Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I loved this book. A first person narrative about a young man on a picaresque quest for love and friendship, with a good healthy dose of philosophy added in for good measure.

The part of the story that stays with me is the story around Hugo. I think I liked most the idea that a friendship might end on the basis of an assumed betrayal and that the betrayal is one of the spirit and not one that occurred at all. Although, that is an interesting question in itself - does the person we feel we have
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Bionic Jean
Under the Net, from 1954, was the first published novel by Iris Murdoch, the distinguished academic, and professor of moral philosophy at Oxford University. As well as books on moral philosophy she wrote twenty-six critically acclaimed novels, one of which won the prestigious Booker prize. Yet Under the Net is sometimes dismissed as a light comic piece, in comparison with her later, lengthier novels. Certainly it can be read that way, as a humorous tale about a Bohemian young Irish man in ...more
Alex
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
You can't spend too much time figuring Iris Murdoch out. It's better to just buckle in with her. Her characters are basically insane, and so are her plots, and so are her sentences. They have a tidal effect; they pull you under.

Under the Net reminds me of Martin Amis's Money, or more accurately Money reminds me of it. They feature amoral protagonists in the entertainment industry, and they're both nuts. I actually think Money is a little better. It's certainly amped up, which is startling
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Rebecca
(3.5) I plan to dip in and out of Liz Dexter’s two-year Iris Murdoch readalong project to increase my familiarity with Murdoch and get through some of the paperbacks I happen to own. Even though I don’t own it, I decided to join in with Under the Net (1954) to see how her fiction career began.

Under the Net is narrated by Jake Donoghue, a translator who arrives back in London after a trip to France to find that he’s being kicked out of the flat where he’s been living for free with his friend
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Bettie
Description: Iris Murdoch's first novel is set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers. Its hero, Jake Donaghue, is a drifting, clever, likeable young man who makes a living out of translation work and sponging on his friends. A meeting with Anna, an old flame, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures. Jake is captivated by a majestic philosopher, Hugo Belfounder, whose profound and inconclusive ...more
Hossain Salahuddin
"I hate solitude, but I am 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"

Winner of the Booker Prize, Irish-born British author Iris Murdoch’s (1919-1999) 1954 novel 'Under the Net' is a philosophical fiction dealing with the exuberant spirit of existentialism and freedom in a postwar europe. 'Under the Net' is Murdoch’s very first novel, and remains one of her most popular. In 2005, it was
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Aly Lawson
Sep 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
When I read this in college our modern literature professor warned us against being hayseed critics. We need to have a basis for our criticism, a chunk of spoken reason, or thought, behind our critiques and accolades of each book we read. Otherwise we’ll end up looking like the foolish critic in Norman Rockwell’s painting, sucking on a strand of hay while we squint and furrow at a work of art still in progress.

By the time Murdoch’s book was assigned that quarter, I was trying hard not be caught
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Cecily
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Her first published novel, set in "contemporary" 50s London. Aimless youth gets philosophical. He oughtn't to be a sympathetic character and nothing much happens, but it's strangely compelling.
Daniel
Aug 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It seems to me that most male authors have male central characters, and female authors female central characters, especially when the novel is in the first person. It also seems to me that female authors (in general) create more believable female central characters, and male authors (in general) more believable male characters, especially concerning central characters and particularly when in the first person narrative. This shouldn't be surprising. That said, this novel, for me, is the best ...more
Jonfaith
Containing all the requisite hilarity and pathos of a first novel, Murdoch succeeds where others fail, by aiming at one person and finding half-measures which translates into a fleeting philosophy but little transformation. This will likely spur me to read more of Murdoch’s books over the summer.
Deea
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iris Murdoch is among my favorite writers. I’ve read 4 books by her so far (this is the 4th) and I was amazed with her capacity to touch psychology and philosophy at the same time, while focusing on crucial moments from the lives of her characters. I read “The Sea, The Sea” (her Man Booker Prize work) and I considered it stunning, but the other books I read by her were even more powerful than her award-winning novel.

“Starting a novel is opening a door on a misty landscape; you can still see very
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Barry Pierce
At the beginning I was enjoying this semi-farcical/semi-philosophical novel. I love the ridiculousness of the entire plot and the characters but after a while it just became a bore. Once I hit the last hundred page stretch I found myself picking it up, reading ten pages, and putting it down again ad nauseum. It was a bit of a struggle to finish. However this book has not put me off Murdoch's work thankfully so I will be revisiting her again sometime in the future.
Zaki
Nov 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I'll ever tire of Iris Murdoch and am on a mission to read every book in her oeuvre.

Under the Net is a brilliant book about language and its inability to express certain things. It's leitmotif is that life is an amalgamation of meaningless events to which only the individual gives meaning.

It's a very British book and is full of sounds and rhythms of London life.
Paul E. Morph
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Iris Murdoch novel (although I've been meaning to read something of hers for years) and I was half expecting it to be dense and somewhat stuffy (literary award winning author and all that jazz). Much to my great delight, it was no such thing.

This book has a likeable, somewhat puckish, picaresque protagonist who leads you through a few days of his life in a conversational, easy-to-read style. We see the carousel of his relationships as the people in his life dance around him, we
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Kirsten #benfranklinday #nationalhotheadschiliday
I really find it hard to put in words why I have come to love Iris Murdoch. I was first exposed to her writing with The Black Prince.

It isn't the plot or even really the characters that draws me in. In point of fact, I really don't like the people in her books. In this book, however, there is a lot more humor to be had. It is like a slow, drawn out Wodehouse novel.

So, it must be something about her writing that I like. That must be it. It's a comfortable style. A soothing style. I will have to
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Doug H - On Hiatus
I found it impressive for a first novel, but I only semi-liked it. The First Person POV misanthropic antihero reminded somewhat of Salinger; the highly detailed descriptions reminded me somewhat of A. S. Byatt, and the semantics/linguistics philosophy reminded me strongly of Alfred Korzybski and S. I. Hayakawa. I admire all of these other writers and thinkers, so I'm surprised I didn't like it more than I did. Maybe the wandering nature of the plot left me wanting more narrative pull? Whatever, ...more
Sandy
Only a few weeks late, I finished this book for a July literary birthday read. What an odd book. At first, I took it seriously - that is, until I realized that it was meant to be funny.

Parts of it were totally absurd and reminded me of that crazy movie that the Beatles put out in 1964 (A Hard Day's Night), which was a madcap romp around London. No particular destination, just following whims and the needs of the moment. Running from people; racing around trying to find other people. It was
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Angie
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely loved reading this again - it was a hoot from start to finish. What an entertaining experience this was.

Witty, sharp, hilarious and colourful are the only words I can use to describe this tale of the hapless anti-hero, Jake Donaghue. At times this reminded me a little of Richard E Grant's wonderful Withnail character of the film; theatrical, fully versed in the power of the English language, sponger, all-time heavy drinker and leading the most charmed existence possible in 1950's
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Matthew Appleton
I wasn't expecting to love this so much. It's the best feeling when a book unexpectedly impresses you. I bought this in London with a friend, who I lived with at university, so reading it then about these young men drinking together and talking politics, it was very relatable to my time at University, which is sadly now over. Of course, the plot then takes wind and some semi-mad, but wholly serious, events happen. I've never been more in love with a dog in any film or book before than I am with ...more
Chris Chapman
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zz-yr-2019
A lot of fun. Beautifully written. It does feel like a first novel though. Not sure if the philosophising - mostly about people’s need to create a global theory for things that happen to them - really merged successfully into the story. Another thing was the really absurd coincidences in the plot. This could’ve been intentional, like in Lodge’s Small World, but it wasn’t clear If this was so or why. Still, there were moments of incredible insight, which could inspire you to see the world ...more
Laura
I wasn't aware that this was the first book written by Iris Murdoch. But certainly it isn't by favorite book by one of my favorite writers.

4* Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995
5* Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch
5* Iris Murdoch: Dream Girl
4* A Severed Head
4* The Sea, the Sea
4* The Black Prince
4* The Bell
3* Under the Net
TR The Sacred and Profane Love Machine
TR A Fairly Honourable Defeat
TR The Nice and the Good
TR The Philosopher's Pupil
TR The Sandcastle
TR The Italian Girl
TR The
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Mark Joyce
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a wonderful book, though apparently the author herself didn't rate it very highly. The central character, Jake Donaghue, is a deeply flawed, self-absorbed artistic underachiever of the type that Murdoch went on to develop so memorably in later novels like The Black Prince and The Sea, The Sea. Under the Net is not as savagely funny as those books but has a greater innocence and vitality, probably because of the main character's (and the author's) relative youth. Because of ...more
Lee Foust
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unpredictable and charming novel.

I'd never read Iris Murdoch until this little hardcover 1955 reprint caught my eye in a second hand shop in Venice a couple of weeks back. (Yeah, only a week before the extra-high aqua alta of a few days ago, so I'd like to think I saved this lovely little tome from being lagooned before its time.) Opening the cover (to get a good whiff of the aging, thick, yellowing hardcover paper--mnmnmnmn), I spied that the novel was dedicated to Raymond Queneau. That
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Val
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iris Murdoch is very good at contemplative, philosophical novels. This one, her debut, is also very funny.
It follows the wanderings of a young man called Jake, through London, through his thoughts and through his attempts to understand other people. He is not very good at relating to others, Jakes' world revolves around Jake. He is self-centred in a way many young men are, not because he is selfish, but because he cannot empathise, however much he might like to. This makes Jake both irritating
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JacquiWine
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first experience of Iris Murdoch’s fiction but hopefully not my last. Under the Net – Murdoch’s debut novel, first published in 1954 – is a subtly clever blend of the picaresque and the philosophical, all set within the bohemian milieu of London and Paris in the early 1950s.

The novel is narrated by Jake Donaghue, an impoverished hack writer who scrapes a living by translating mediocre French novels into English when in need of some ready cash. As the story opens, Jake arrives back in London
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Jo
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In doing a little prereading about Iris Murdoch before attempting her first novel, inspired by Liz Dexter’s (librofulltime.wordpress.com) Iris Murdoch readalong, I was growing intimidated. Nominated for the Booker six times, won with The Sea, The Sea, a philosophy teacher at Oxford! This did not bode well for a simple, fun read and yet…it was. Philosophical icons like Kant and Plato are mentioned in passing, Hugo and Jake’s conversations skirt philosophical issues and towards the end even truth ...more
Charlie Rosenthal
Irish novelist Iris Murdoch's debut novel Under the Net is, at least in theory, one of those thrilling On the Road-style chronicles of youth spent without responsibility, thus creating interesting adventures populated by larger than life characters. However, what separates Under the Net from other, similar novels is, simply, that the characters are--with the exception of Jake--not interesting in the slightest. Murdoch spends a great fraction of the book explaining to the reader precisely why ...more
Celia
Synopsis (from Wikipedia)
Under the Net is a 1954 novel by Iris Murdoch. Set in London, it is the story of a struggling young writer, Jake Donaghue. Murdoch's first novel, its mixture of the philosophical and the picaresque has made it one of Murdoch's most popular novels.

What the heck is picaresque?? Wikipedia says!!

The picaresque novel (from Spanish pícaro, for "rogue" or "rascal") is a genre of prose fiction that depicts the adventures of a roguish, but "appealing hero", of low social class,
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Snippets That Ins...: What Is It About Silence? 1 4 Nov 05, 2016 03:17PM  
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Boxall's 1001 Bo...: July {2010} Discussion -- UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch 26 177 Aug 16, 2010 04:34AM  

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Dame Jean Iris Murdoch

Irish-born British writer, university lecturer and prolific and highly professional novelist, Iris Murdoch dealt with everyday ethical or moral issues, sometimes in the light of myths. As a writer, she was a perfectionist who did not allow editors to change her text. Murdoch produced 26 novels in 40 years, the last written while she was suffering from Alzheimer disease.

"She
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“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.” 243 likes
“For most of us, for almost all of us, truth can be attained, if at all, only in silence. It is in silence that the human spirit touches the divine.” 55 likes
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