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Under the Net

The Title

Wittgenstein’s image of the net is the one IM has spoken of in association with this book: (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.341). The net becomes a symbol of the way over-arching concepts are used to give unity to contingent reality: but the net is merely a way of measuring, of dividing reality into small enough pieces that they can be assessed, in a purely arbitrary framework, for their belonging to either ‘black’ or ‘white’ colour. But the net is not the reality – it is a way of dividing up reality. Under the net, is the real object. Hugo’s assertion that every thing is different, that there are no patterns, that there should be no classification, identifies him as somebody who does not acknowledge the net.



Prefatory pages


p. 3 Dedication – To Raymond Queneau. Queneau was a French writer whom Iris Murdoch admired enormously. Jake, the hero, also loves Queneau, according to Conradi, (p. 33). Queneau is difficult to characterise, having been a surrealist but later a very experimental writer with a liking for puns and verbal jokes. For example, one of his books rewrote the same situation 99 different times (Exercises in Style). His books are not difficult to read and are often very funny. According to Conradi, (p. 50), “Murdoch noted that in writing the novel she was copying Beckett and Queneau as hard as she could, but that it resembles nothing by either of them”.


p.5 – Dryden, The Secular Masque. Mentioning a chase, wars, lovers and a beast, we might speculate after reading, to whom in the book each of these refers. Is Mr Mars the beast? Is the chase the pursuit of Anna? And the lovers untrue? To read the whole thing (a masque is a short play, presented for the entertainment of court), see:

It features the character Mars, amongst others. Malcolm Bradbury suggested in the Critical Quarterly that the myth of Vulcan - betrayed by his wife Venus, with the god of war, Mars - is “a kind of scaffolding” for this novel. IM denied this was ever her intention, which A.S. Byatt chooses to take at face value (p. 9, DOF). However, as Priscilla Martin has pointed out, there were plenty of occasions upon which IM seems to have embroidered such circumstances.



Chapter 1

Peter Conradi has noted the unusual use of a male narratorial voice by a woman – “I know of nothing quite like them,” he says on p. 35 of The Saint and the Artist.  


p. 7 Strike - Britain’s strike-prone reputation developed during the economic “golden age” of the 1950s. “I’m All Right Jack”, a 1959 Boulting brothers film with Peter Sellers, took as its target militant trade unionism, and came after a record high point of  8.4m working days had been lost to industrial disputes in 1957. During the 1950s working days lost due to strikes averaged 3.3m a year, rising to 3.6m in the 1960s.


p.7 Newhaven Port. Jake is returning from France, though we never find out the reason for his visit. He has cases full of French books, which implies either a big spending spree or an extended visit, now drawn to an end.


p.7 Bottles of cognac confiscated (1954) – customs restrictions were stricter in the fifties than at virtually any other time. I am still researching the rules!


p. 9 Bookie – a bookmaker, taking bets on sporting events. Sammy turns out to be rather more than a simple bookie : see p.15 – he is a businessman these days.


p. 10 Earls Court Road. In the 1950s, a rather grim, run-down area of tall Victorian houses (see also the books of Patrick Hamilton, for example, for another 1950s picture of Earls Court). The area turns up repeatedly in IM’s fiction, and is defined as the edge of “necessary” London at the beginning of chapter 2. (See picture gallery)


p. 10 Lyons’ – Lyons’ Corner Houses were tea shops, though they served meals also. There were several in central London, and it seems likely Jake goes to the one in Tottenham Court Rd – this is easiest from Charlotte St. You could get a hot dinner in Lyons most of the time, and at some points in their history they were 24 hours. Jake again goes to a Lyons Corner House at the end of the book, this time in Kensington. There is a wonderful history of the institution at:

you can even try visiting a teashop at


p. 12 “What do you think I am, the Albert Memorial?” elaborate, gaudy gold-leaf memorial to Albert, husband of Victoria, standing opposite the Royal Albert Hall.


p. 15 Number 11 bus: ran down the Earls Court Road – not a very imaginative story, then, on Magdalene’s part. Liverpool Street to Fulham Broadway is the current route, but this was not the case in the 1950s. When researching this site, I found a wonderful website covering the history of London buses, which was extremely useful, and if this is one of your niche interests (!…) go to:


p. 16 Number 73 bus: no longer runs from Hammersmith Broadway into town.


p. 17 Charlotte Street. North-south road in “Fitzrovia”, area north of Oxford Street above Soho. Always a rather ‘colourful’ area, with lots of restaurants and bars. Area appears again in “The Black Prince”. The photo in the gallery is from 1964: the Post Office Tower wa p. 21 Jake’s poetry – And Mr Oppenheim Shall Inherit the Earth – what kind of poem is this intended to be? Like one of those Octopus poets? One gains a wonderful impression of the poem from the title… a rather anti-capitalist title. A hint of Oppenheimer, who oversaw the Manhattan project, and read out the Bhagavad Gita at the final test?


p. 23 Jake’s shattered nerves – “never mind how I got them”. This is the only mention we have of what Jake did previously, during the war, for example. “I’m not telling you the whole story of my life”: in fact, we never really get to hear the story of how he came to be in Paris with Anna, nor indeed why he speaks such particularly good French. He is something over thirty in 1954, so presumably must have been at least twenty when the war finished. This is the first hint of the post-war flavour with which this book is subtlely tinged: the section of the pub crawl brings home the damage the City sustained, which was still extremely visible in 1954 – see photos below during pub crawl chapter. .


p. 24 ‘Kant and Plato”: “Under the Net” is one of IM’s most explicitly philosophical novels, and Dave Gellman is one of her professional philosophers. Both Kant and Plato were intensely important philosophers in IM’s own thinking, and their influence pervades the book. There are many references in the text to their work, which I will try to highlight. There are also references to other philosophers, for example to Hegel on the last page of chapter 1.


p. 24 Dave is a “real dyed-in-the-wool Jew” who “fasts and believes that sin is unredeemable”.

Dave is shocked at story about the woman who broke the alabaster ointment.


Chapter 2

p. 26 “Contingent parts’ of London. The distinction between necessary and contingent actions was one begun by St Thomas Aquinas – see

in the words of the above site, “This Way [the Third Way] defines two types of objects in the universe: contingent beings and necessary beings. A contingent being is an object that can not exist without a necessary being causing its existence”. Areas beyond Earls Court, in other words, cannot exist without London, causing their existence. Sartre later developed the two ideas,


p. 26 Goldhawk Road mansion flats. IM often invents geography, so we don’t need to find these flats in reality. And indeed, there are no mansion blocks for most of the length of the Goldhawk Road, through Shepherd’s Bush. However, towards the Chiswick end of the road, by the old Queen Charlotte’s Hospital,  there are large mansion blocks.

These photos are of the flats, and of the old hospital, also now converted into flats:s constructed 1963 onwards.


p. 27 New Independent Socialist Party – this seems to be an invention. In the 1950s, there was a strong thread of support for the Communist party…


p. 27 ‘Dave does extra-mural work for the university” – Dave teaches adults. The extramural departments of the British universities were extremely active in the postwar years.


p. 27 Critical Realists – according to the following website, critical realists traverse a middle ground between realists and non-realists. Kant was a realist, Feuerbach a non-realist.


p. 27 Bradleians

An idealist philosopher, and the leading British member of that school,  F.H. Bradley was influential on his more famous pupil, G.E. Moore.


p. 27 Linguistic analysis (Dave’s speciality): the school dating from Wittgenstein, which argued that practically all problems in philosophy were actually not problems, but merely communication issues which could be resolved by accepting their basis in linguistics. But, as a way of doing philosophy in the Anglo-Saxon context, it was pioneered by G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, who were reacting against the Neo-Hegelianism of much contemporary philosophy. G.E, Moore’s classic response was often “what do you mean by that?”- he privileged the common sense description over the metaphysical.



p. 28 “Ought brings you back to is in the end. Yes but what sort of is?” This statement epitomizes the philosophy of Dave, with its concern with meaning and interpretation of words.


p. 27 “in a kettle of fish” an awkward state of affairs.


p. 30 the third Critique

refers to Kant’s third Critique, the Critique of Judgement: the only work to be known this way in philosophy.


p. 31 the women in James and Conrad who are described as “guileless, profound, confident and trustful”.

This is a quote from Heart of Darkness: it is unclear whether trustful is the regularly used form – this is an example of Conrad’s idiosyncratic English.


p. 31 Pegasus and Chrysor

More frequently spelt Chrysaor, this was Pegasus’s warrior brother – they were both produced from Medusa’s blood when Perseus cut off her head, and Poseidon was their father.


p. 31 “High-heeled shoes shift the organs in time”: seems to be an example of slightly urban mythology about medical fact.


p. 31 To find a person inexhaustible is the definition of love – quote from Dave. Is he quoting anyone else?


p. 32 “British films were passing through a critical phase”. Animal pictures are noted as being popular during this period.


p. 33 Anna’s service flat off the Bayswater Road. A service flat was one with a porter/ doorman, something like an American concierge. The Bayswater Road runs along the top of Hyde Park, and has many such serviced blocks.


p. 34 marriage as “An Idea of Reason” – this is a Kantian term, and is one of the many hints that Jake has taken in more of Dave’s teaching than he might have led us to believe.


p. 34 “Walked to Shepherd’s Bush” – Jake departs Dave’s and makes his way along the Goldhawk Road to Shepherd’s Bush Green, where he can catch the 88 bus. The 88 in those days went from Turnham Green to behind the Tate Gallery.


p. 35 “Got off at Oxford Circus” – whilst travelling on the bus, on Oxford Street, Jake makes up his mind that he will pursue Anna. He goes into the tube station because there will be phone books in the telephone booths there, so that he can look her up. This is another example of a contingent decision in the book -


p. 35 ‘Fly at random”  like “one of Heisenberg’s electrons”: Heisenberg


p. 36 Jake’s description of Soho is as a place where there “is always someone…who knows what one wants to discover; it’s just a matter of finding him.” Soho’s promise is also often a subject of novels of the era – see for example Patrick Hamilton, Colin MacInnes or Julian MacLaren Ross, who later featured as X.Trapnel in “Dance to the Music of Time”, but Dylan Thomas and Graham Greene also spent lots of time there during the decade.

Greek Street, Brewer Street, Old Compton Street: Jake makes his way into Soho by walking down Regent Street from Oxford Circus almost to Piccadilly Circus. He then turns left into Brewer Street, running the full length of the main pub and nightclub streets of Soho. Brewer runs into Old Compton, and then he turns left into Greek Street, which also had a lot of pubs and restaurants at the time.

The Pillars of Hercules is a pub – see:


p. 37 The Riverside Theatre, Hammersmith Mall: see below, note to page 38.


p. 37 He runs all the way to Leicester Square tube – whilst Tottenham Court Road might have been closer, he knows that the trains run directly to Hammersmith from Leicester Square.


Chapter 3


p. 38 “The Mall between the Doves…” (now called The Dove, but formerly known in the plural) “…and the Black Lion” (on Black Lion Lane). Both pubs are 18th century.

Hammersmith Mall

Chiswick Mall


p. 38 Riverside Miming Theatre; The Riverside Theatre, Hammersmith Mall: there is today a Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, which housed a large film studio, “The Triumph Film Company”, when first built, and at the time this book was written, was bought by the BBC to be its pioneer colour tv studio.

Whilst the real-life studio is on the river, it is on the downstream side of Hammersmith Bridge. Anna’s theatre however is in a house, on the Chiswick side of the bridge.  This is where William Morris’s house is located, where he began his printing press, and that house indeed has its back to the river. For an illustration see:


p. 38 Lazemnikov: I cannot find a famous Russian mime artist: the tradition was French. See the history of mime at

Pierrot is an important character in mime, which suggests a connection to the title of the French book being translated. And Paris was the centre of world mime in the post-war era, despite Ivan’s Russian name.

His “great farce Marishka”. I wasn’t able to find any particular associations with this Russian pet-name.


p. 40-1 in the mime, there is a “huge burly central figure” – being mocked – this is the beginning of a set of suggestions that Hugo can be seen as a Christ-like figure – Murdoch’s first “saint”.


p. 42 Anna “was plumper… There was about her a sort of wrecked look”. How long is it since they saw each other last? Anna is six years older than Jake (p. 32), who is himself “something over thirty”, (p. 23). Anna is therefore approaching forty. She asks him (p. 43) “What have you been doing all these years?”, which suggests that the separation has been substantial. He also says on that page that she was right to say he looked “just the same”, because he does look “much” as he did when he was 24. This possibly implies they met last when he was twenty-four – a good ten years.


p. 48 Anna saying her singing is corrupt. I don’t know whether there is a specific ethical concern which IM refers to here.


p. 50 Alvis car – Europe’s leading armoured car manufacturer, according to their current website. “Master of the King’s Highway” was their slogan, 

You can look at post-war cars at:  (they stopped producing in 1967)


p.50 Jake looks towards Hammersmith Bridge.


p. 51 This novel is full of locked doors, as Priscilla Martin has pointed out (in a class I attended). The doors within the theatre, Sadie’s flat, Mr Mars’s cage, the cold cure experiment, the hospital, the safe in Hugo’s flat. On p. 94 Jake says that the theatre itself is “a gilded cage” which Hugo wants to use to catch Anna. Jake and Hugo also become blocked into the Eternal City, at Bounty Belfounder, in chapter 12.


p. 52 The set of masks. Mournful slanting eyes, unnerving beauty, subtly curving mouths, reminiscent of Indian Buddhas. The first appearance of Buddhist figures in IM, though not the last.




Chapter 4

p. 55 Sadie’s flat in Welbeck Street. Welbeck Street is in the smart, Edwardian, mansion block, medical district of London, north of Wigmore Street.


p. 55 A char – a rather old-fashioned word for someone employed to clean the house.


p. 56 Jake goes to Sadie’s hairdressers, via Oxford St where he buys a tie. In fact, a short walk: he goes south to Oxford Street, and then crosses directly into north Mayfair.


p. 60 Hugo’s family history. Hugo is the first German émigré in IM, (others include ** in AFHD, who is rumoured also to be an arms-dealer, and ** in The Nice and the Good). He is also the first Belfounder ( two bells have been made by founders in “The Bell”).


p. 61 IM’s attitude to fireworks.


p. 61 “It was through the common cold that I first met Hugo”. The Fifties were a golden age of optimism about science and medicine’s ability to find cures for diseases ranging from cancer to colds.


p. 64 “Hugo has often been called an idealist”. It is unclear who has called him this, and whether they have been using the term in the general, conversational sense, which implies someone rather unrealistic, with their head in the clouds, or in the narrower philosophical sense. Hugo’s philosophical approach, as described in the next few pages, resembles…


p. 65 Weltanschauung. German for our conceptual image of the world as it appears to be, rather than how the actual conditions of physical existence are manifest.


p. 69 “I was but the more inclined to attribute a spiritual worth to Hugo in proportion as it would never have crossed his mind to think of himself in such a light”. Hugo is the first of IM’s “saints”, who typically lack any sort of worldly ambition or, importantly, spiritual ambition.


p. 70 Tamarus and Annadine. Tamarus is the name of one of the main sourcebooks for Gregorian Chant. Annadine is a more regular girl’s name.


p. 72 “I suffered continually at that time from a fear of losing the manuscript”: despite Jake’s sense that writing this book is a sinful thing to have done (p. 70, “a secret sin”) he ascribed a great value to it. As he describes the writing of the book, and we trust his account, we find it difficult to think of this ms as other than rather sneaky and self-motivated. One of the questions the book asks is whether this is actually the case: has Jake actually been better than he thought?


p. 73 Hugo’s film company is called Bounty Belfounder, and its symbol is the spires of City churches. When the pub crawl in search of Hugo takes place later on, the famous City church spires figure strongly on the landscape the drinkers pass through.


p. 73 suppressio veri – suggestio falsi. An English legal term – the suppression of the truth is the suggestion of a falsehood. Sometimes translated as “is tantamount to a lie”, though it doesn’t seem quite so strong.


p. 75-6 Jake’s break with Hugo. He sets this up so that we believe, with him, that in all likelihood Hugo has seen the book. The phase with Hugo seems to have directly preceded the company of Finn, who has “claimed” to be a cousin of Jake’s (p.7). We can now guess that the chronology of the novel was, coldcure experiment, meeting Hugo, association with Finn. In chapter 6, we add the information (p. 93) “I had first met Anna before I had parted from Hugo, though it was after this that I had come to know her well.”


Chelsea Bridge from the King’s Road side (Battersea park is on the right hand bank in this photo):



Chapter Five


p.77 “I bought a packet of cigarettes and went into a milk bar” –


p. 81 “Isn’t she a turn up for the book?” I’ll quote Michael Quinion’s website It now means exactly what you say, something surprising. The origin is in horse racing, where the book was the record of bets laid on a race kept by—who else—a bookmaker. So when a horse performed in a way that nobody expected, so that most bets lost, it was something that benefited the book and so the bookmaker. The classic example would be a rank outsider that won with few bets on it, netting the bookmaker a nice windfall profit.


p. 82 an ad hominem look.  From that site, “An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument”.


p. 83-7 The winning horses are Little Grange, Saint Cross, Hal Adair, and Peter of Alex. Is there any symbolism? Peter of Alexandria was a Patriarch of Alexandria (300 - 311).


Chapter Six


p. 89 a cigarette from a little S?vres casket on gilded feet: no gilded feet, but you get the general idea!


p. 90 the section from “The Silencer”. Why that title? What sort of ideas are being discussed?


p. 98 Dave and Finn call Sadie “the Queen of Sheba”, but Jake has already seen Anna as “an uneasy queen”, ruling over the theatre, on p. 94.


p. 100 “a stream of irritating badinage”: badinage is banter, prattle, chit=chat.



Chapter Seven


This chapter contains the wonderful night-time City pub crawl. Though it is only six pages long, it covers a good deal of geographical territory: see map.


Software: Microsoft Office


p. 104 A Minton: one presumes IM means John Minton, though there are other artists with this surname, He was a British ‘neo-romantic’: for a text biography; to see his self-portrait,


p. 104 – “The intense light of evening fell upon the spires and towers of St Bride to the south, St James to the north, St Andrew to the west, and St Sepulchre, and St Leonard Foster and St Mary-le-Bow to the east.” 

St Bride – by Wren. One of his tallest spires – 226 ft – gutted in 1940.

St James –

St Andrew Holborn – by Wren, his largest City church, and gutted 1941.

St Sepulchre – a post-Fire church rebuilding of the 1660s, but not by Wren.

St Leonard Foster – St Leonard Foster was destroyed by the Great Fire and was not rebuilt. IM seems to be suggesting it still has a place on the city skyline, which makes the effect far more dreamlike.

St Mary-le-Bow – the most distant church from the group, only the brick walls and the steeple survived bombing. However the steeple is some 224ft, so makes a dramatic landmark. (depicted below, this photo from 1953 shows how little rebuilding had yet to be done. You can see clearly the empty walls of the church).


Chapter 8


p. 108 “I was in the YCL once..” – the Young Communist League?


P.112 – “And meanwhile, what about the Dialectic?” – Jake and Lefty’s (Jake’s at least presumably by now rather drunken) conversation …


p.113 bien renseigné: well-informed.


p.113 the General Post Office: this building, just north of St Pauls, opened in 1929. For some gorgeous plates of exterior and interior:


p.114 “Great Tom is Cast” – a round. Tom is the name of the biggest bell in Christchurch, Oxford. In this tune, he is struck last. This site will even play the tune, so it can get stuck in your head too (it even does the bit in the round…):


p.114 “Then I realized that we were in which had once been the nave of St Leonard Foster.” – This church had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London.


p.117 “Across a moonswept open space… where many a melancholy noticeboard tells in the ruins of the City where churches and where public houses once stood..” – it is difficult to appreciate how much wartime damage this area of London sustained; far more than other areas, percentage-wise. The photos I’ve included mostly date from 1953, showing that even eight years after the end of the war, rebuilding was not being done on any huge scale.


p.120 “the vanishing bells of St Mary…’: of the churches listed here, St Leonard, as mentioned above, and St John Zachary, were not rebuilt after the Great Fire, so their bells are truly vanished.


p. 121 St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe – A Wren rebuilding, gutted 1940.


Chapter 9


p.122 “the next thing that I remember is that we were in Covent Garden Market drinking coffee”: a photo of the market in 1970:


Chapter 10


p.128 – Jake’s movements. he takes a 73 bus from Hyde Park Corner to Oxford Circus, and then walks from there north to Welbeck Street.


Chapter 11


p. 136 – the Wallace Collection.

for the building see the bottom of

The “cynical grin” of the Hals Cavalier:


p.137  “the universal provider of information to which I had applied before..” I think IM must mean the phone book, to which Jake has already turned twice during the course of the novel.


p. 138 – ‘it was possible that although, like the Walrus, I had got all I could..” the Walrus and the Carpenter


p. 139 “As he puts it himself, divil a one would know that it was other than the spring breeze had touched their things” – gives a brief glimpse, one of the few in the book, of Finn’s accent and idiomatic Irish way of speaking.


p. 140 – “and don’t be acting the maggot with it,” Don’t be annoying, behaving foolishly. Irish slang.


p. 141 –‘ “Did you ever see Red Godfrey’s Revenge?”…I had been a fan of Mars for years.” What is a translator and intellectual doing watching quite so many dog movies?


p. 143-151 – the moving of Mr Mars – IM on engineering ‘stunts’. When it finally unlocks so easily – I think this motif occurs elsewhere in IM – where someone goes to an immense amount of trouble to do something which turns out to have been incredibly simply fixed.


p. 152 the Queen Elizabeth and the Liberté


Chapter 12


p.156 “The Bounty Belfounder studio is situated…” the suburb indicated here is along the Old Kent Road – which means somewhere between Walworth and `South Bermondsey / New Cross, where the road becomes known as New Cross Road.


p. 157 “Already I had attracted the attention of the Cerberi...” unusual plural of Cerberus, the dog that guarded the underworld.


p. 157 “The film was about the conspiracy of Catiline,” Orestilla as a woman with a heart of gold and moderate reformist principles..


p. 162 Jake finally sees Hugo again – in a setting fitting for the anticipation he clearly feels. Hugo doesn’t seem quite so in accord. The setting is of ancient Rome, but might equally well evoke classical philosophy.


p. 168 the fall of Rome – Conradi makes the point that this is the first episode of many in IM connected to the theme of iconoclasm, “the destruction of images, pictures and states of mind” (p. 39). To this I would also add manuscripts – a number of pieces of people’s work of that kind also seem to get destroyed. Conradi also draws a direct link between the destruction of Rome and the wartime bomb damage to London which is such a feature of earlier chapters. 



Chapter 13


p. 173 – “it was hours later, or so it seemed to my feet..” at ten to eight, (p. 154) Jake had decided to set off from Hammersmith, taking a taxi and then a bus. He doesn’t get back to Waterloo again on foot till after midnight, but he has had to walk a long way –4 miles or so. ‘I had the impression that I had had an extremely long day…” – well in fact it has been exactly that, beginning with the pub crawl the night before, the swim, the breakfast in Covent Garden, the visit to the theatre, the ride in the removal lorry, the sleep in Hyde Park, the trip to Sadie’s, the decision to break into Sammy’s, and the evening spent at the film studio. Jake spends another night al fresco, but luckily it is summer. Moved on at 6am by the police, he ends up in Charlotte Street, borrows a pound, and gets back to the Goldhawk Road.


p. 179 – chantage – blackmail (French).


p. 185 – “also, she had not had her curtains wrenched out of the wall” – Morgan also wrenches the curtains down, in AFHD.


Chapter 14


p. 186 – a “déréglement de tous les sens” – unsettling of the senses (French).


p. 188 a casus belli (Latin). An act or event used to justify going to war, or which provokes war.


p. 189 Alors, Paris, qu’est-ce que tu dis, toi? Paris, dis-moi ce que j’aime. “Hey, Paris, what are you saying? Paris, tell me what I love.” (French).


p. 190 the Prix Goncourt is a real and very prestigious literary prize in France. Unlike the lucrative Booker prize, the winner gets a nominal $10, so capitalizing on sales is perhaps more justifiable:


p. 190 British and French literary moeurs. Practices, usages. 


p. 200 Madge was “lancée” – tends to mean “had built up speed’ : in this context, and with the mention of the parabolic course she would describe, perhaps “off on one”? (French).


Chapter 15


p.202 “It was the one thing needful”: "But one thing is needful."—Luke 10:42.Jesus is telling Martha that though she is careful, she is troubled about too many different things. However, what the one thing was, in Jesus’s mind, is much-debated. Love? Attention? Knowledge (of Jesus)?


p. 202 “the flČneurs  were flaning,” Jake switches into a lot more French when in France: it is a simple, lovely reminder of his former life here, about which we learn hardly anything.


p. 205 – ex officio  romantic: (Latin).


p. 206 “I didn’t care for the role of valet de sentiment which Madge had prepared for me,” A valet is also a knave in cards – so the knave of hearts is evoked here. (French).


p. 206, “As for the Prix Goncourt itself, je m’en fĒchais,” – something like – I couldn’t have cared less. (French).


p. 207, a “boĒte” – a nightclub. (French).


p. 208 “I bought a tartine..” strictly speaking, a slice of bread. (French).


p. 208 the fontaine des Médicis – picture,1,Title,2049 

Acis and Galateea, described in the text, are at,1,Title,2052

The story is another love triangle along the Mars, Venus and Vulcan lines: The nymph Galatea loves the shepherd Acis, who returns her affection. Both are counselled in their love by the shepherd Damon. The monster Polyphemus is jealous and threatens Acis, while Coridon, another shepherd, advises him against violence. Polyphemus, however, crushes Acis with a massive stone, whereupon Galatea, half- divine, uses her powers to turn him into a fountain.A full account of the myth at which suggests some parallels between Polyphemus and Hugo, ( a gentle, clumsy giant tamed by love).


p. 208 “a gentle refutation of Berkeley”


p. 208 “huge rain-marked, weather-stained, pigeon-splattered, dark-green Polyphemus,”  in this photo, you can see more clearly the figure looming over the lovers -


p. 209 St Eustache, “a forest” of pillars, the best picture I can find on the net of this interior, is at - any better suggestions gratefully received.


p. 211 “passing Diderot, where he sits amid the acacia trees,”,1,Title,3106


p. 215-220 – Jake has already pursued Hugo, one of his two objects of desire, through London, unsuccessfully; now he pursues Anna, the other, through Paris. What do these twin searches mean?


p. 216 “As I saw Anna turning towards the gardens, my heart leapt up, as the heart of Aeneas must have done when he saw Dido making for the cave.”


Chapter 16


p. 221 the Hospital – white walls. There is a picture of the hospital that was actually in the Goldhawk rd at a most extraordinary site -  it’s number is 050044.


p. 223 “Dave had seen me like this before” – Jake’s condition seems to the reader rather desperate and extreme, and yet he makes this comment almost casually. Might Dave have also looked after Jake when he was first suffering from his shattered nerves?


p. 226 “I fixed my eyes upon the sky above the Shepherd’s Bush Empire,” –


Chapter 17


Pictures of 1950s hospitals


p. 233 “the editor was calling on the optimates”  a conservative political faction in ancient Rome – has come to be shorthand for the aristocracy or nobility.


Chapter 18


p. 255 “the impossibility of Hugo’s loving Sadie loomed over me inexpressibly”


p. 256 “He was still very pale, and as he looked up at me anxiously from underneath the bandage, his face wrinked and intent, he looked like Rembrandt.”  After looking at many different paintings, …

I think this one is the closest to anxious and intent:


p.258  ‘ “I’m going to become a watchmaker” ‘: Hugo’s watch-making skills appear in another IM novel, when in The Philosopher’s Pupil, Hugo is said to have died and left his watches to Jake.


p. 264 “I sprang through it like Nijinsky” : may be the ballet dancer, but on the other hand, there is a betting theme in this book, and Nijinsky was also a famous race horse.


Chapter 19


p.266 – Jake has followed Hugo down Campden Hill Road from Holland Park Avenue. He has therefore begun walking down the hill to Kensington. It is now that he visits Lyons’ for the second time in the book: see page 10.


Chapter 20


p. 275 Jake’s reflections on the bus


p. 283 “Like a sea wave curling over me came Anna’s voice… the words came slowly, gilded by her utterance. They turned over in the air slowly and then fell; and the splendour of the husky gold filled the shop, transforming the cats into leopards and Mrs Tinckham into an aged Circe.”

Circe is the enchantress from the Odyssey: she was best-known, according to one website, for her ability to turn men into animals with the wave of her wand. Does that mean the cats are men Mrs Tinckham has transformed? See







Further reading for Under the Net:

Go to library and look up in big bibliography.