Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Magician by Somerset Maugham (1908)

I offer my thanks to Max u for the Amazon Gift Card that allowed me to read this book.  Maugham's work is still under copyright.  A number of his novels can be bought as Kindle editions for $1.95 or less. 

          I like the old covers from the days
          When a classic was just book
Recently I read and posted on Selina Hasting's wonderful biography The Many Lives of Somerset Maugham.  After reading this I wanted to read more of Maigham than just his acknowledged masters works On Human Bondage and his short story "Rain".  I read his novel about a painter, The Moon and Sixpence a few days ago and throughly enjoyed it.  I wanted to read at least one more of his novels so I picked his 1908 novel, The Magician.

I picked The Magician as my next, and perhaps last for a while, Maugham novel as the central character in the novel, the magician, is based on Alister Crowley. In the long ago I read Crowley's very long autobiography and am interested in the influence of occult teachings on English writers. Maugham met Crowley and did not like him.

Oliver Habbo is from an old wealthy family, he was once very handsome and imposing at six foot three.  He has when we meet him become tremendously obese. Maugham goes on and on about this.  Habbo has a  reputation for having sinister powers and is deeply into occult lore.  In the period in England occult doctrines were thought to be derived from the teachings of the Kabbalah and the findings of alchemists. From the novel you can garner the popular perception of this.   Before we meet Habbo we learn of his evil reputation.  Animals are frightened of him.  In a critical scene Habbo is having tea with a man and his fiancé.  An alercation ensues in which the other man throughly trounces Habbo over a slight to his fiancé and her dog.  Habbo makes no resistance and the fiancé dismisses him as a fraud and a coward.  The plot action of the novel unfolds based on the terrible revenge Habbo takes.  

There are about six characters in the novel, all but Hebbo your standard upper class English types. All are skillfully developed.   To me the best part of The Magician is the dark visions Hebbo erouses in the ex-fiancé of the man who beat him, after he makes her fall in love with and marry him, leaving her fiancé heartbroken. These visions were very well done.  The weakest part of the novel for me was the close in which we learn of Hebbo's experiments.  Maybe it was shocking but it seemed almost unintentionally silly to me. 

I am glad I read The Magician.  My next Maugham novel will be Lisbeth, based on his medical work in the slums of London.   He wrote it right after he graduated from medical school.  

Please share your experience with Maugham with us.

No comments: