John Fowles" by Bob Goosmann
The following article originally
appeared in the January 2004 issue of Firsts Magazine,
the leading publication in the world for book collectors and
dealers. The magazine includes a checklist of Fowles first
editions (with values and identifiers), along with more than
20 photographs of first edition dust jackets and several shots
of Lyme Regis, setting of The French Lieutenant's Woman
and Fowles' home for many years. To obtain a copy of this issue or to
subscribe to Firsts, visit their web site at
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few years ago, when a panel of scholars and writers compiled a
list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century, John
Fowles came in at number 93 with his book The Magus. Had the list been narrowed to the 1960s and
1970s—decades that saw Fowles at the peak of his literary
powers—it certainly would also have included The
Collector and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and
perhaps Daniel Martin as well. Indeed, the “big four” of the Fowles
canon are enough to ensure him a prominent spot in the annals of British literature.
many a contemporary reader might be hard-pressed to
immediately place Fowles.
His novels were best-selling in their day and are all
still in print; in addition, four have been adapted for the
screen (one of which was nominated for several Academy
Awards). But his
work has always been considered quite “literary,” and
this, combined with his reclusive nature and a lack of new
fiction since the mid-1980s, has resulted in a retreat from
the popular mind. Still,
Fowles commands a fierce loyalty among his readers, who revel
in his ability to manipulate them in much the same way he
manipulates his fictional characters.
Today, he is rightly considered one of Great
Britain’s living literary giants.
Robert Fowles was born on March 31, 1926 in Leigh-on-Sea, a
suburb of London, the only child of Gladys and Robert Fowles
(the latter a cigar importer).
His one sibling, a sister, is 15 years
younger, so he basically grew up as an only child—a fact
that may have contributed to Fowles’ preference for solitude
over society, particularly the serenity of nature.
As a young boy Fowles was introduced to the wonders of
the outdoors by his uncle, including the art of butterfly
collecting. Fowles’ later rejection of the concept of “collecting”
living creatures was to gain dramatic expression in his first
was a hard-working student, and at the age of 13 was one of
just three in his class to win a scholarship to Bedford, a
prestigious boys’ school.
While continuing to excel academically at Bedford, he
also enjoyed considerable athletic success on the rugby and
cricket teams. But
looking back, Fowles has described the school as “a proper
English institution…traditional, academically demanding, and
from early on in his life he felt stifled by both the academic
establishment and the properly “English” household of his
did not, however, prevent him from pursuing a career in the
Royal Marines, with the intention of serving England in the
battle against Hitler. But
fate intervened, and Fowles
completed his recruit training on May 8, 1945—the day
the war ended in Europe. He soon decided to leave the military and revolt against his
bourgeois background, the first step toward an embracing of
nonconformity that would have a major impact upon his future
next stop for Fowles was Oxford, where he earned an honors
in French. His
interest in the concepts of free will and hazard—later to
become primary themes in his novels—was growing, as was his
affinity for the random complexity of nature.
At university he began to compose stories and poems,
influenced by the existentialism of writers such as Sartre and
Camus. By the age
of 21 he was determined to become a published writer, but it
would be 16 more years before the appearance of his first
spent 1950-1951 as a professor of English literature at a
in France, during which time he taught himself Latin and
continued to write. He
then made a decision that would have a profound impact on both
his literary career and personal life, declining an
opportunity to teach at a university in England in favor of a
position teaching English as a second language at a Greek
boarding school on the island of Spetses, about 60 miles
southwest of Athens. It
was here that Fowles first met his future wife, Elizabeth, who
at the time was married to another teacher.
The school and its surroundings would also subsequently
provide a setting for The Magus, and
a passage from an early chapter in the novel illustrates how much Fowles (and the main character) had fallen
under the spell of Greece:
was a Sunday in late May, blue as a bird’s wing.
I climbed up the goatpaths to the island’s
ridge-back, from where the green froth of the pine-tops rolled
two miles down to the coast.
The sea stretched like a silk carpet across to the
shadowy wall of mountains on the mainland to the west, a wall
that reverberated away south, fifty or sixty miles to the
horizon, under the vast bell of the empyrean.
It was an azure world, stupendously pure, and as always
when I stood on the central ridge of the island and saw it
before me, I forgot most of my troubles.
I walked along the central ridge, westwards, between
the two vast views north and south.
Lizards flashed up the pine trunks like living emerald
was thyme and rosemary, and other herbs; bushes with flowers
like dandelions dipped in sky, a wild, lambent blue.”
Fowles was not as enamored of the school itself, where he was
expected to recreate for the Greek boys the sort of regimented
environment that he had detested when attending Bedford.
He found this academic approach to be very odd, and
comments in his introduction to the revised version of The
Magus, “if I had attempted a true portrait of the
school, I should have been committed to a comic novel.”
In early 1953, when he and the other teachers tried to
implement some progressive reforms, they were all fired.
subsequently returned to England and continued his teaching
career, while concurrently working on various drafts of The
also began keeping an enormous diary, to which he has
contributed faithfully ever since (the first volume of his
collected journals was recently published in the U.K.).
In 1954 he married Elizabeth, who was to become not
only his companion but also his muse.
By 1960 he had written part or all of several novels,
but his first attempt to become published was not until early
1962, when he submitted a travel book to a literary agent. The agent enjoyed the book but suggested to Fowles that his
skills were more suited to writing fiction.
this advice to heart, Fowles began work on The Collector, convinced
a small-scale book (rather than one of his longer pieces)
would be more marketable as a first novel.
Two events influenced his conception of the book: he
attended a performance of Bluebeard’s Castle—an
opera about imprisoned women—and he came across a newspaper
account of a young man who had kidnapped a girl and held her
for over three months in a backyard air raid shelter outside
wrote the first draft in less than a month.
In July 1962, he took his manuscript to Tom Maschler,
the literary director at Jonathan Cape who was to become his
life-long editor and good friend.
Maschler was electrified by The
Collector, concluding that he had never read such a
well-written first novel, and a deal with Cape was quickly
Collector tells the story of
Frederick Clegg, a repressed and socially-
marginal bank clerk whose hobby is collecting butterflies.
Clegg wins a fortune
in the lottery and buys a remote estate in the country, then
kidnaps a beautiful and strong-willed young art student,
Miranda, whom he has been watching from afar.
What has since become a common theme in many lurid
tales is handled with taste and sensitivity by Fowles.
Clegg is not primarily interested in sex with Miranda;
rather, he simply wants to possess her like one of his
physical and intellectual battle of wills—and the underlying
subtext of class struggle—is made more interesting by
Fowles’ technique of having Clegg tell the story first,
followed by Miranda’s point of view via her diary.
Collector appeared in 1963 and
was an immediate critical and commercial success.
Cape handled the publishing in Great Britain (the true
first edition, with an initial run of about 3,000 copies) and
Little Brown in the United States, as would be the case with
all of Fowles’ novels.
The beautiful dust jacket by artist Tom Adams, who
designed the cover art for Fowles’ first three novels, shows
a lady’s lock of hair, a butterfly and a key.
An interesting and rare variation to the British
edition features black boards in lieu of the standard rust
color, perhaps indicating a test run by Cape prior to the
actual first printing. In
1965 The Collector was adapted into a well-received
Hollywood film directed by William Wyler, with Terence Stamp
and Samantha Eggar in the starring roles.
wanting to be labeled as only a novelist, Fowles chose an
unconventional follow-up to The Collector: a
non-fiction book of philosophical musings entitled The
in 1964, it includes a variety of observations on the nature
of existence, reflecting Fowles’ wide-ranging interest in
such areas as art, psychology, politics and religion
(anticipating many of the themes subsequently found in his
it appeared after the U.S. edition, Cape’s British first of The
Aristos is likely the rarest Fowles mainstream book, with
a run of probably less than a thousand. A revised version (with a new introduction) of The
Aristos, which Fowles described as “shorter, clearer and
less irritating,” appeared in 1970.
was now ready to pursue completion of The Magus, a
haunted him for more than a decade.
A long, complex and challenging book, The Magus
tells the story of Nicholas Urfe, a cynical young Englishman
who accepts a teaching post at a boarding school on a Greek
island and quickly becomes drawn into an elaborate “game”
by a wealthy recluse named Maurice Conchis.
and fantasy are deliberately confused as Conchis takes
Nicholas on a roller coaster ride of staged deaths, erotic
encounters and ultimate betrayal.
Forced to confront his past transgressions and
self-delusions, Nicholas learns valuable lessons
about the meaning of life, love, hazard and free will.
is as intellectually stimulating as it is entertaining, and
serves as perhaps the best example of Fowles’ great
gift for writing fiction that combines grand ideas with an
exhilarating plot. In the novel, he
seamlessly incorporates a wide-ranging knowledge of a variety
of disciplines without being heavy-handed
at the same time spinning a narrative web from which it is
nearly impossible to break away.
The book boasts numerous themes, perhaps the most
prominent being the nature of freedom (only one of the
novel’s 78 chapters features a title—the Greek work for
ambiguous ending tends to catch many readers off guard, yet is
completely in keeping with the life lesson that Conchis is
attempting to share with Nicholas, and Fowles with his
alternative title Fowles considered for the book, “The
Godgame,” is also telling, and he once described the novel
as being “about the relationship between man and his
conception of God.” However,
he certainly did not mean this in the traditional sense of
organized religion (which Fowles, as a confirmed atheist,
existential quest of Nicholas in The
Magus, while orchestrated by the God-like Conchis, is
grounded in the random complexities of everyday life; success
is ultimately dependent on the achievement of self-knowledge,
along with the ability to distinguish between fantasy and
it initially received mixed reviews in England, The Magus
was widely hailed by critics in the United States.
Described as “brilliant” by The New York Times, “a
work of genius” by The St. Louis Dispatch and
“magnificently written” by The New York Review of
Books, it also quickly became a cult novel on American
college campuses. To
this day it has generated more letters to the author than any
of his other novels, and Fowles himself has said it is his
favorite, although he wryly adds “in the sense that one
might love a crippled child
more than normal children.”
was published by Little Brown in January 1966 (although the
copyright page says 1965); the British version from Cape
appeared a few months later.
The dust jacket once again features a stunning design
by Tom Adams and, as with The Collector, the basic
difference between the two versions is simply the size of the
books (the U.S. edition being in a larger format). A
small quantity of the Cape first editions featured a
red wrap-around band, and copies with this intact are rare.
1968 20th Century Fox released a movie adaptation of The
Magus starring Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn and Candice
Bergen in one of her first roles.
Unfortunately, the film failed to capture the essence
of the novel and was utterly confusing to those who had not
read the book, prompting scathing reviews.
It was considered such a bomb that Woody Allen once
he had his life to live over again, he would want everything
exactly the same with the exception of seeing The Magus.
Although it has acquired something of a cult status,
Fowles himself (who wrote the screenplay and has a cameo in
the movie) has called it “a disaster all the way down the
line.” Still, The
Magus—if adapted correctly—could someday be a terrific
film or mini-series. In
fact, the 1997 movie The Game starring Michael Douglas
borrowed many of its plot points and themes, so much so that
Fowles considered suing the producers for copyright
next novel was inspired by a dream he had of a woman standing
quay staring out to sea, a figure that was to become the title
character of The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
After writing the first draft in about nine months, he
spent the next two years revising, working line-by-line to
create the illusion of Victorian prose and dialogue by
lengthening sentences, deleting contractions and employing
result is a portrayal of England in 1867 that accurately
captures various facets of the time—social conventions,
class struggles, etc.—while at the same time mirroring the
style of 19th century prose.
Fowles set the novel in Lyme Regis, a small town
located on England’s southern coast where he had recently
begun living (and resides to this day).
French Lieutenant’s Woman
is the story of Sarah Woodruff, an attractive and mysterious
governess (who has apparently been deserted by a French naval
lieutenant following an affair), and Charles Smithson, a
wealthy amateur paleontologist.
Following a chance encounter, Charles’ interest is
piqued by Sarah’s unusual history and he subsequently begins
to fall in love with her.
This puts him in a difficult position as he is already
engaged to Ernestina, the innocent daughter of a prominent
Charles becomes increasingly involved with Sarah, he struggles
with his obligation to Ernestina and a growing obsession to
discover the truth about Sarah’s past.
The novel also includes several authorial intrusions,
with omniscient narrator Fowles speaking directly to the
reader about the mores of life in Victorian England and
various possible outcomes for his characters.
he did in The Magus, Fowles uses The French
Lieutenant’s Woman to meditate on the nature of
individual freedom—and ultimately its price.
He initially feared the book would be too cerebral for
popular audiences, but in fact it was both a huge critical and
commercial success. Reviews
were outstanding on both sides of the Atlantic, and Fowles
received the W.H. Smith award for the year’s most
outstanding contribution to British literature.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman was the second
highest selling novel in the U.S. in 1970, topped only by
Erich Segal’s Love Story, and is today recognized as
one of the seminal works of the latter half of the 20th
French Lieutenant’s Woman
was published in 1969, initially by Cape, making it and The
Collector the only Fowles novels to appear first in Great
Britain. The U.S. edition from Little Brown is notorious for its
poorly-made black dust jacket which is extremely difficult to
find in fine condition. In
1981 the novel was adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter,
with Jeremy Irons playing Charles and Meryl Streep in the
title role. The
novel’s dual nature and alternate endings were incorporated
by turning the book into a modern-day movie about the making
of a movie set in Victorian England.
The resulting film was extremely successful and
received five academy award nominations; Fowles, who had been
disappointed with the two previous adaptations of his novels,
called it “a brilliant metaphor” for the book.
publication of The
French Lieutenant’s Woman, Fowles began
composing his next novel, Daniel Martin.
However, he took a break during its writing to
publish The Ebony Tower, a collection of five short
title story—and by far longest piece in the book—concerns
the visit of art critic David Williams to the manor of elderly
painter William Breasley, who lives in seclusion with two
young female assistants.
The cantankerous Breasley represents the artistic,
free-spirited aspect of painting, while Williams is more
controlled and intellectual.
They ultimately engage in a verbal battle regarding the
meaning and value of art, and the married Williams struggles
with his increasing attraction to one of the women.
four short stories in The
Ebony Tower include three original works, plus the
translation of an ancient fable.
Poor Koko is the
tale of a writer who is surprised by a burglar one night at a
country cottage, tied up and ultimately forced to watch as the
manuscript he is working on is burned in the fireplace. The
Enigma concerns the baffling disappearance of a prominent
businessman, and the frustrated attempts of a detective to
unravel the mystery. The
Cloud concerns a group of English acquaintances—one of
whom has recently lost her husband to suicide—on vacation in
the French countryside, and the various dynamics between them.
A fourth story, Eliduc, is Fowles’ translation of a French medieval tale involving
a knight and his struggle to be honorable to a pair of kings
and a pair of women. Throughout
the book, themes prevalent in Fowles’ earlier
fiction—the nature of freedom, the effect of hazard on
one’s life, and the power
of fantasy—are again explored in
a thoughtful and entertaining manner.
Ebony Tower was published in 1974, and reviews of the book
were excellent. The
London Observer claimed it was “the best thing Fowles
has written,” while the Baltimore Sun called it
also sold quite well, especially for a collection of short
stories, spending over six months on the New York Times
bestseller list. A
year following its publication, the title story was adapted
into a successful film for British television, with Laurence
Olivier as Breasley and a young Greta Scacci as one of his
now returned to work on Daniel Martin, which became his longest novel at over 700 pages.
It is—in his own words—“intended as a defense and
illustration of an unfashionable philosophy, humanism, and
also an exploration of what it is to be English.”
The book spans four decades in the life of the title
character, a self-absorbed English screenwriter living in
Hollywood who is struggling to write a novel.
He is summoned back to England for the funeral of an
old friend, whose widow is the sister of his ex-wife.
The two rekindle their old friendship as Daniel
attempts to rectify some of the mistakes and omissions from
Fowles takes a wide-ranging approach to themes relating to
friendship, love, the nature of art, and the meaning of life
exhilarating narrative style of his previous novels is
sacrificed to a certain extent, with the focus more on
well-rounded characters and long-term relationships.
The result is Fowles’ most mature novel, and probably
his most autobiographical as well.
Reviews of the book were strangely skewed—much like
the initial reception
of The Magus—with British reviewers finding it too long and preachy,
and American reviewers being extremely favorable. Writer John Gardner spoke of Daniel
Martin in superlative terms, calling Fowles “the only
novelist now writing in English whose works are likely to
stand as literary classics—the only writer…who has the
power, range, knowledge and wisdom of a Tolstoi or James.”
was published in 1977. Both
versions of the first edition feature a plain green dust
jacket, and the book’s binding seems to hold up well despite
the large size. A
little-known point of issue exists on the U.S. dust jacket:
the rear flap features a brief biography of Fowles, which
concludes with a mention of his home in Lyme Regis.
A second state jacket omits this, in response to
Fowles’ increasing frustration with the ever-growing number
of tourists flocking to his beloved hamlet.
Version was also published in 1977, as Fowles found it impossible to
stay away from his masterpiece (which he always felt had
appeared somewhat prematurely, before he had matured as a
novelist). The revised version features a new forward by Fowles and
several rewritten scenes.
Although the basic plot remains the same, changes
include a more explicit eroticism—not as acceptable when
Fowles began working on the original in the 1950s—less
of a supernatural element, and a somewhat less ambiguous
ending. Opinions seem divided on which version is
better, with those who first read the
book in its original form usually preferring that version, and
vice versa. What
is clear, however, is that Fowles has remained somewhat
obsessed by The Magus
over the years, as have many of its readers.
next novel, Mantissa,
was originally intended to be privately published in a
quantity of just 100 copies.
However, contractual obligations to Cape and Little
Brown ultimately forced Fowles to agree to its mainstream
publication. The shortest of Fowles’ novels at just 196
pages, Mantissa tells the story of a writer named Miles Green who awakens
in a hospital bed suffering from amnesia.
He subsequently has several
apparently imaginary dialogues with Erato, his muse, who
assumes various forms throughout the novel.
Themes include the struggle inherent to the creative
process, the relationship between an author, his characters
and the reader, and the clash of the sexes.
in 1982, Mantissa is
the only novel by Fowles to receive a majority of negative
reviews, and even his wife expressed the wish that he had
never published it. Although
the book examines many familiar themes from his previous
novels, it lacks the narrative strength that has always been a
hallmark of Fowles’ work, and in the end can at best be
viewed as an amusing trifle.
Fowles himself has noted “I knew that most people
would disapprove of (Mantissa)…I wanted to give people the
opportunity to kick me—which they duly did.”
most recent novel, A
Maggot, appeared in 1986.
The title refers not
to an insect larva but to a
secondary meaning of the word, “a whim or extravagant
A Maggot once again
illustrates Fowles’ playful penchant for experimenting with
literary genres and conventions.
At first glance it appears to be an 18th century
historical novel, complete with the reproduction of
genuine-looking documents and actual excerpts from a magazine
of the time in question.
The reader, however, soon realizes that the narrator is
unreliable and very little is to be taken at face value.
Maggot begins with a small group of travelers on horseback
crossing the countryside in 1736.
Before their journey ends, one of them will disappear,
another will be hanged, and the others will face trial for
mystical events and possible contact with travelers from the
future lead to the founding of a new religious faith: the
rather odd—and now defunct—Shakers.
Although reviews of A
Maggot were somewhat mixed, it represented a return to
form by Fowles after the disappointment of Mantissa. Those who did like the book liked it immensely, with the
Washington Post citing it as “miraculous…a bravura
exercise of literary ingenuity” and the Philadelphia
Enquirer calling the book “smart, cunning, bizarre and
wickedly dazzling…Fowles is a genius.”
years immediately following publication of A
Maggot were not kind to Fowles.
In 1988 he suffered a fairly serious stroke (while
recovering in the hospital, he was outraged by the presumption
of a doctor who told him he had lost his writing ability, only
to laugh when he realized the doctor was using the word
“righting,” as in balance). Fowles ultimately made a good recovery, but two years
later his wife Elizabeth died of lung cancer.
These two events combined did ultimately have a serious
impact upon his writing, and although he has continued to
publish essays and reviews, there has been no new fiction.
non-fiction output has been considerable over the years.
Much of it has centered on nature and natural history,
including books such as The
Enigma of Stonehenge, Shipwreck and The
Tree that feature text by Fowles in concert with beautiful
long essay in The Tree explores the impact of nature on his life, through
recollections of his childhood and of his work as a mature
artist (“the key to my fiction…lies in my relationship
with nature”). Fowles has also collaborated on two stunning pictorial
Land—with photographer Fay Godwin.
non-fiction covers the gamut of Fowles’ interests, including
a book of Poetry titled simply Poems
(published in the U.S. only), a translation from the
original French of Cinderella, and several works on the history of Lyme Regis.
The list of titles that Fowles has contributed
forwards or afterwards to is lengthy, with highlights
including The Book
of Ebenezer Le Page (an obscure British
novel from the early 1900s that he has championed), a version
of The Hound of the Baskervilles, The
Lost Domain (a French novel that served as one of the
inspirations for The
Magus), and a book on Thomas Hardy.
Fowles has even edited a huge facsimile edition of the
original manuscript of Monumenta
Britannica, the first complete
publication of notes and drawings by 17th century antiquary
Aubrey, whose work is considered essential to the understanding of
1998 the book Wormholes appeared,
a collection of Fowles’ non-fiction from his early days as a
writer to the present which includes literary criticism and
pieces on writing, culture, society and nature, along with a
recent interview. Limited edition signed copies in slipcase were produced in
both U.S. and British versions.
Also worth noting is the upcoming publication of the
first complete biography of Fowles, John
Fowles–A Life in Two Worlds by Eileen Warburton,
expected in Spring 2004.
addition to Wormholes,
there have been many other signed limited
editions of Fowles’ novels issued throughout the years.
The Franklin Library
produced leather-bound versions of The
French Lieutenant’s Woman and The
Collector in 1979 and 1982, respectively, while Easton
Press published a similar version of The
French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1999.
An interesting edition of The
Magus—actually a second printing by Cape—was produced
in England by The New Fiction Society, with their stamp and
Fowles’ signature on the flyleaf.
A special edition of The
Ebony Tower featuring a signed tipped-in page was issued
in a quantity of 250 at the same time as the true first
edition. And both
Mantissa and A
Maggot have been produced in the U.S. signed in slipcase,
with limitations of 500 and 350, respectively, while A
Maggot has been issued signed in a
glassine dust jacket in England
several limited editions have been produced of essays by
include: The Nature of Nature, a discourse on one of his favorite subjects
(limitation of 250 copies); Of
Memoirs and Magpies, in which Fowles discusses his own
predilection for collecting (200 copies); and Behind
the Magus, a look at the various events and people who
influenced the writing of The
Magus (200 copies). The
latter is also available in an off-print subsequently produced
for Fowles with a different cover to avoid copyright issues,
also with a limitation of 200.
recent years Fowles has kept a rather low profile, preferring
to stay close to his Lyme Regis home for health reasons.
In 1998 he remarried, to a long-time acquaintance and
family friend named Sarah.
The name has a lovely irony, recalling as it does one
of Fowles’ most famous characters, Sarah Woodruff (the
French Lieutenant’s Woman), who is introduced to readers
standing on the wharf which actually exists just a few hundred
yards from his current home.
The blurring of art and real life is the sort of
juxtaposition that can often been found in Fowles’ novels.
Fowles, writing fiction has always been about the
process—the act of imagining and creating—rather than the
end product, so much so that he often became depressed after
one of his novels was published.
This process invariably included some form of
expression of the Humanist philosophy that has always
been of concern to him, with the central thesis usually
relating to the nature of freedom. “How you achieve freedom—that obsesses me—all my books
are about that,” he has said.
In his own life Fowles has cultivated that freedom,
particularly in terms of remaining outside the literary
establishment and maintaining a fierce independence in an
increasingly conformist world.
This has probably not served his career well, but it
has allowed him to remain true to himself and his work.
expects much from his readers, and the rewards for those
willing to accept the challenge can be great.
Likewise, collecting Fowles presents both challenges
and rewards. While
a tidy collection can easily be made of his seven works of
fiction—in both British and American first
editions—opportunities for the completist are substantial.
Fowles himself collects old books, but he relies
primarily on serendipity while browsing used bookstores, as
opposed to a systematic approach.
As a result, he states his bookshelves are “full of
broken-backed detritus from the last four centuries, which the
rest of the world has quite rightly consigned to oblivion.” And unlike most of today’s collectors, he does not avail
himself of modern technology when seeking a book (or writing
one, for that matter), since he does not even own a computer.
the best way to truly appreciate Fowles from a collector’s
point of view is to first appreciate him as a writer—an
extremely skilled one whose work features a variety of styles
while retaining a remarkable consistency of theme. As the
Detroit Free Press once observed, “John Fowles is a
enchanting are his characters, so exotic his settings and so
mysterious the happenings he concocts, we hardly notice how
many challenging ideas he has pulled out of his hat until we
are caught up in them.”
dual nature of Fowles’ writing is best exemplified by The
Magus, which will likely stand the test of time as one of
the great masterpieces of 20th century literature.
Perhaps no other novel has so seamlessly combined a
variety of intellectual concepts with a thrilling plot that
can be enjoyed on numerous levels.
One of the many digressions in The
Magus relates the story of a young prince who learns,
through his travels and a close encounter with death, that
“there is no truth beyond magic.”
John Fowles has succeeded, as only the finest authors
do, in offering readers his passionate version of the truth in
a spectacularly magical way.