Family Business: A Memoir
Peter J. Conradi’s memoir Family Business includes a cast of characters ranging from his European Jewish forebears who came to Britain in the Victorian era to influential novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch, whose biography Conradi himself 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 the 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, becoming a kibbutznik, taking part in the early years of gay rights and becoming a writer.
In the final chapters Conradi explores his long and close relationship with Iris 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her carer, and has much to say on the nature of biography, and on the world of Murdoch and Bayley, including previously unpublished material on them both.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.
“I am at a loss for sufficient words: I love this book. The portrait of his parents and his relationship with them is a masterpiece. I don’t think this portrait of the nineteenth century Jewish diaspora in England will ever be bettered.” – Carmen Callil
“A mingling of charm, comedy, confessional and inevitable tragedy: all beautifully orchestrated. I can only congratulate you on a brilliant series of stories” – Michael Holroyd
“Will help scholars understand not only Murdoch herself but also the moral psychology that drives her characters” – Anne Rowe
“Wonderfully bound together by his fluent, elegant style” – Mark Amory