Friday, February 26, 2010

"The Magus" – A Nomadic Book Review

n493 Years ago, a Turkish friend recommended that I read John Fowles' The Magus. Normally, I am a bit resistant to suggestions about reading material. I suppose, being a bit of a snob, I find it a little insulting to be "sized up" so quickly in terms of what I like to read. I like to think- probably an assumed position- that my taste in books is a more refined than the average reader.

Of course, you can very often find me with my nose buried to crook in some fairly trashy true crime stories as well. (If I have Hollywood Babylon on my shelf, I have absolutely no reason to that snooty.) I have read more than my share of classics, appreciated many of them and detested a few. Most experimental fiction leaves me cold. For example, Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" may make some people's toes curl in delight but for me, I sighed with relief when I turned that final page. And it does me no great favor and wins no kudos to have somebody try to explain, in obvious exasperation, why  I should like something.

So, I probably went into reading this particular book, with a bit of a skeptical mind and I think that is the best way to begin this particular book, strangely enough. It just works better.
Here is the plotline: Young Nicholas Urfe, an Oxford graduate and poet-want to be, takes a position as an English teacher at the Lord Byron School on the Greek island of Phraxos. He has just dissolved, or rather, escaped from, a casual-relationship-turned serious with an Australian girl, Alison, whom he met in London. Settling into the boring routine of the life of a ex pat teacher, Nicholas becomes hopelessly depressed and disillusioned to the point of suicide. That is, until he stumbles upon a villa of a mysterious recluse name Maurice Conchis. Step by step this older man draws Nicholas into his strange world of facade and mind games, of obvious manipulation with unexpected twists. The reasons for Conchis' strange tales and mock hallucinatory enactments, his elaborate inventions are always just out of Urfe's reach of reason. Every time, one mystery seems revealed, the path abruptly turns.

I will stop there because, although it doesn't begin to cover the full scope of this fascinating book, it should be enough to tantalize.
This was Fowles' second book; the first being an equally stunning book called "The Collector," which I may review at another time. According to Wikipedia:
He started writing it in the 1950s, originally entitling it The Godgame. He partly based it on his experiences as an English teacher on the Greek island of Spetses. He wrote and rewrote it for twelve years before its publication in 1966, and despite critical and commercial success, continued to rework it until its revised version, published in 1977.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed about this book is that Fowles never underestimates the reader's intelligence.  His main character, Urfe, thinks the way any of us would if put into his position, suspicious and not so easily misled but nevertheless intrigued.

I am not sure how many times I read and re-read this book, probably about four, if I had to guess. I recall lending the book to a friend, trying my best not to gush, and, at some mid-point, in the book, she said what every book lover yearns to hear, "I have never read a book quite like this. Very interesting."
Have you read this book? What did YOU think? Would you recommend it?

1 comment:

  1. great review nomad.........and like you, i could read this book over and over again. never gets tired.

    so yes -- with this and nikola tesla in common - i will gladly sign up to follow your blog today! and can i ask if you would return the favor?


Always great to hear from visitors to Nomadic View. What's on your mind?


Related Posts with Thumbnails