Published Jun 2019
Peter J. Conradi’s memoir includes a cast of characters ranging from his European Jewish forebears who came to Britain in the Victorian era to novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch, whose biography Conradi wrote. The arc of Conradi’s story travels, unusually, from the relative integration of his ancestors to his rebellion against this and his long association with Murdoch, another outsider in English society.
Against he upwardly mobile successes of his immigrant ancestors – with their exotic, multifarious stories – and his relationship with his beloved grandmother, came the more immediate dysfunction of his parents’ marriage. Young, clever, bisexual Peter became a ‘knight errant’ protecting his mother, and set a precedent repeated later in his friendship with Murdoch. In between Conradi relates his public school education, being a kibbutznik, taking part in the early gay rights movement and becoming a writer.
In the final chapters Conradi explores his long and close relationship with Irish Murdoch and her husband John Bayley. Conradi was both Murdoch’s biographer and, on several occasions, her carer, and has much to say on the nature of biography, and on the world of Murdoch and Bayley, including previously unpublished material on them both.
Family Business is an enthralling book – a biographer’s autobiography – with numerous strands sensitively and thoughtfully explored, and including almost fifty previously unseen photographs.