Une des premières choses dont j’ai parlé ici, c’est de mon admiration pour le Territoire de l’homme d’Elias Canetti. Je considère d’ailleurs qu’un de mes meilleurs articles sur ce blog est un compte rendu de sa correspondance avec Marie-Louise von Motesiczky. J’y confiais que cette lecture m’avait fait prendre conscience que cet auteur que j’admirais était, dans sa vie privé, un sacré connard. J’ai depuis découvert, que Canetti n’avait pas non plus brillé par son élégance dans sa manière de parler, dans son autobiographie, d’une autre de ses maîtresses : la philosophe et romancière Iris Murdoch.

« The widower of Dame Iris Murdoch has launched a stinging attack on one of her former lovers, who described her as an intellectual lightweight and lousy in bed. Professor John Bayley, 80, [N.B. l’article date de 2005] said that he was unable to recognise his late wife in the autobiography of the Nobel Prize-winning author, Elias Canetti. […]

« I do not think it is worth paying any attention to what this man says about Iris, » he said. « I certainly do not recognise her from his description. I think people who know what sort of man he is will not be surprised by what he says about her. They will put it down to his pathological conceit and his jealousy. »

[…] The relationship was one of the most influential in Murdoch’s life and inspired many of her most famous works, including the Booker prize-winning The Sea The Sea, which was published in 1978. But in his memoirs, Party in the Blitz, which he began to write in the 1980s, Canetti launches a bitter attack on his former protege, claiming that it was impossible to take « her seriously any more » and describing her as an « illegitimate writer » who never suffered for her art.

His 20-page critique of his former lover begins: « Yesterday [I saw] the thick philosophical tome of Iris Murdoch, with her name on the cover in huge letters. I – unfortunately – sat down with it for a few hours. My antipathy against her has grown so strong that I must say something about her here. » Canetti continues: « You could call Iris Murdoch the bubbling Oxford stewpot. Everything I despise about English life is in her. You could imagine her speaking incessantly, as a tutor, and incessantly listening in the pub, in bed in conversation with her male and female lovers. » He is equally damning about their first physical encounter. « She lay unmoving and unchanged, I barely felt myself enter her, I didn’t sense that she felt anything, perhaps I might have felt something if she had resisted in some form. But that was as much out of the question as any pleasure. » He adds: « While her lack of hospitality may have chilled me, her love never did, for the simple reason that it wasn’t love, it was an indifferent act, endowed with a baffling significance for her. »

Canetti said Murdoch had a hunger for knowledge which knew no bounds and would actively soak up other people’s experiences. This eagerness to listen, however, is one of the few traits which appealed to the self-confessed egotist. »