Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, May 2, 2014

"The Magus" by John Fowles

This book was incredible (positive and negative connotations applying simultaneously). It's huge and long and, though I did spend over two weeks reading it, I was riveted. I don't remember exactly when it reached critical mass but it was very likely on page 63, with the words, "But then the mysteries began."

The Magus tells the story of Nicholas Urfe, a cynical and directionless young Englishman who takes a teaching post at a boys' school on a Greek island. His surroundings, his job, his very life--all seems barren and dull, and Nicholas is utterly alone even when surrounded by others, until he meets the enigmatic Maurice Conchis.

His new acquaintance draws Urfe's curiosity immediately, but it seems no one question is answered without raising two more; then, more often than not, the new answers disprove the previous one. Intrigue is heaped upon intrigue with increasing intensity, and the reader is trained--along with Nicholas--to accept nothing at face value. The story is like a kaleidoscope: with each turn there is a dazzling display, but just as a recognizable pattern begins to emerge, everything shifts and nothing is as it was.

One might think there could only be two possible literary outcomes when such a tangled web is woven: either what once seemed mystical is revealed to be mundane, or the key to the mystery remains hidden in ambiguity. Fowles hits upon a third outcome: the source of the subterfuge is somewhat absurd.

But if the solution did not live up to the mysteries, neither was it a disappointment. The only part of this book that was disappointing to me was the unforgivable spoiler found on the back of my copy--something that would otherwise only have been made plain quite close to the end of the book--and I'm convinced I never would have guessed it without that blatant hint in the blurb.

Unfortunately I'm afraid whichever book I choose next will be disappointing in comparison, but I suppose they can't all be great.


Amanda said...

This one has been sitting on my TBR pile for some years. I got it because it's on the 100 best books list or some such, but never got the urge to actually start it. I think I will move it up the pile. Although I do hate an unexplained mystery...

Kathy said...

It's pretty weird! I hope you like it as much as I did.

Amanda said...

So I read this and I did really get into it. I read it pretty fast too, but man I just knew there was no way they could explain everything!! And they didn't, arg!
You did warned me and I'd do it again, but honestly some of the stuff that happened I just can't really come up with any explanation!
And the end seemed really far fetched even after all the crazy crap that went down. But I think the best part was that after everything Nick really never changed, like HA take that, messing with me!!