It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Discussions relating to John Fowles' novel The Magus.

It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby Mare Nostrum on Fri Jan 09, 2009 12:38 am

He directly says this himself! Why are we repeating misinformation that he has directly contradicted? You never need to say again that "it's just up to the reader," cause that malarkey isn't what Fowles said.

In the seventh paragraph of his 1977 Forward, he confides, "The other change is in the ending. Thought its general intent has never seemed to me as obscure as some readers have evidently found it -- perhaps because they have not given due weight to the two lines from the Pevigilium Veneris that close the book..."

Lots of information in that quote. By citing, "its general intent" he is plainly telling us that there is a general intent. And he thinks that he was fairly clear in what ending he wanted, not "obscure." This ends permanently any conceivable idea that "it's just up to the reader."

He continues by even accepting fault for not having been sufficiently clear about what he wanted to say in the original, and indeed reports that he has now more clearly "declared" the above "intent": "I accept that I might have declared a preferred aftermath less ambiguously...and have now done so."

So not only does he tell us that there exists "preferred" ending (while scolding us for not figuring it out the first time), he even claims to have more clearly tipped his hand in the new edition.

This is irrefutable, the above are his lucid words and their ambit is unmistakable.

The problem for me is (like others) I still can't work out what he means. The "two lines" suggest continued love but are ambiguous (despite what he seems to think). Meanwhile, the line "she will [...] never forgive" in the last paragraph takes us the other way, but its being a subjective momentary observation and the associated nonsense "she willl [...] never speak" make this suspect as well.

She's going to someday speak, so that line's wrong, and since that's wrong, then maybe "never forgive" is baloney too. But I don't know. Is there anywhere on the net that has an intelligent discussion of this, I don't think we should have to re-invent the wheel on this. He thinks he was fairly clear the first time and more clear the second. Even though I can't find his "preferred aftermath" in the words, he has "declared" on record that it exists.

P.S. PUHL-LEASE do not answer with that lame story about how he told one ending of a book to a cancer patient and another to an obnoxious lady, we already know that, and it's not relevant to the above. Thanks.
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby RBFrankenstein on Sat Jan 10, 2009 4:58 pm

Bob, one of the most knowledgeable Fowleites in the world, says on another post:

"Regarding the ending, please see the "Translating the last lines of The Magus" page on the web site for some insight. The Greek quotation at the end of the novel seems to indicate a happy resolution for Nicholas and Allison, and from what I know of Fowles' love for the book and identification with the characters, I think that would have been his preferred aftermath. Many years ago when I met with Fowles at his home in Lyme Regis, I asked him about the ending but he just smiled and shook his head...confirmation of what he had said in the past: it's up to the reader to come up with his or her own interpretation."

First of all, I personally think it's clear that they remain together. (Ah, love, isn't it grand! :roll: ). Although I have to admit it is not 100% undeniably clear. But damn close IMHO. One thing bothers me - them being together is a "Hollywood ending" and Fowles was quite clearly not a Hollywood ending kind of guy!None the less, I think it's clear they remained together.

Anyway, I have a question for Bob (or anyone else who cares to chime in for that matter): How do you reconcile that Fowles has stated two apparently contradictory things:

1. "It's up to the reader to come up with his or her own interpretation" (quote from Bob above - I don't know where exactly Fowles says this but I've seen it in the past - Bob, can you reference us to the exact location of Fowles saying this?).

2. As another poster here explained, and I will quote: "In the seventh paragraph of his forward to the 1977 version, Fowles referred to his "preferred aftermath", said he thought it was fairly clear in the first edition, but accepted reader criticism and thus explained how he tried to make it even more clearly "declared" in the newer edition."

I don't think this is necessarily a contradiction if you consider WHEN in time he said these things. We are naturally taking the evidence and considering it all as if it were said at once. But these comments of Fowles were said over different time periods. I could see him, in the beginning, considering that it is "up to the reader" because it is somewhat ambiguous. And then I can see how later, after years of being asked about it, he would say "gee, I thought it was clear".

Anyway, the translation of the lines is:
""Tomorrow let him love, who has never loved; he who has loved, let him love tomorrow."
An alternate translation, submitted by Professor Andrey Kravtsov of New Mexico State University, is:
"Let those love now who've never loved; let those who've loved, love yet again."

So it seems to me that there is only one way to interpret this as them parting for good: that he is speaking about them each going on to love other people instead of each other. And that, my friends, is really stretching it, trying to twist it into an interpretation that they do not remain together. If that is how one wants to interpret it, then indeed "It's up to the reader to come up with his or her own interpretation".
Also, note the word "now" in the second interpretation. Now is now.

So IMHO they live happily ever after (together!). :D

RB
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby Mare Nostrum on Mon Jan 12, 2009 1:31 am

Bob, one of the most knowledgeable Fowleites in the world, says on another post:

"Regarding the ending, please see the "Translating the last lines of The Magus" page on the web site for some insight. The Greek quotation at the end of the novel seems to indicate a happy resolution for Nicholas and Allison, and from what I know of Fowles' love for the book and identification with the characters, I think that would have been his preferred aftermath. Many years ago when I met with Fowles at his home in Lyme Regis, I asked him about the ending but he just smiled and shook his head...confirmation of what he had said in the past: it's up to the reader to come up with his or her own interpretation."

First of all, I personally think it's clear that they remain together. (Ah, love, isn't it grand! ). Although I have to admit it is not 100% undeniably clear. But damn close IMHO. One thing bothers me - them being together is a "Hollywood ending" and Fowles was quite clearly not a Hollywood ending kind of guy!None the less, I think it's clear they remained together.

AND I AGREE WITH THAT.

...(or anyone else who cares to chime in for that matter): How do you reconcile that Fowles has stated two apparently contradictory things:

1. "It's up to the reader to come up with his or her own interpretation" (quote from Bob above - I don't know where exactly Fowles says this but I've seen it in the past - Bob, can you reference us to the exact location of Fowles saying this?).

2. As another poster here explained, and I will quote: "In the seventh paragraph of his forward to the 1977 version, Fowles referred to his "preferred aftermath", said he thought it was fairly clear in the first edition, but accepted reader criticism and thus explained how he tried to make it even more clearly "declared" in the newer edition."

THIS ASSUMES THAT THE TRIVIAL BANALITY OF NUMBER 1 REQUIRES RECONCILIATION, A LEAP I WON'T BE JOINING YOU ON. ARTISTS ALWAYS SAY THIS TEDIOUS STUFF. I HAD A SONG PUBLISHED AND AIRED ONCE, ASK ME THE REAL MEANING AND I'LL SNOW YOU AS WELL. *BORING*

I don't think this is necessarily a contradiction if you consider WHEN in time he said these things. We are naturally taking the evidence and considering it all as if it were said at once. But these comments of Fowles were said over different time periods. I could see him, in the beginning, considering that it is "up to the reader" because it is somewhat ambiguous. And then I can see how later, after years of being asked about it, he would say "gee, I thought it was clear".

IT ISN'T 100% CLEAR UNLESS IT'S SPELLED OUT IN THE PUBLISHED BOOK. BUT HE THOUGHT IT WAS REASONABLY CLEAR ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME, AND IN HIS MIND MADE IT CLEARER IN THE 1977 REWRITE, HE STATES THAT IN THE FORWARD. THE REST IS PLAINLY OVER-ANALYZING IMHO. HE HAS AN ENDING. HE SAYS THAT IN THE FOREWARD, AND HE TELLS US THE TWO GREEK LINES ARE THE KEY. WHAT MORE CAN WE ASK OF HIM, A FRICKING DIAGRAM?

Anyway, the translation of the lines is:
""Tomorrow let him love, who has never loved; he who has loved, let him love tomorrow."
An alternate translation, submitted by Professor Andrey Kravtsov of New Mexico State University, is:
"Let those love now who've never loved; let those who've loved, love yet again."

So it seems to me that there is only one way to interpret this as them parting for good: that he is speaking about them each going on to love other people instead of each other.

I FULLY AGREE, THAT'S THE ONLY AMBIGUITY.

And that, my friends, is really stretching it, trying to twist it into an interpretation that they do not remain together.

I AGREE THAT WHILE HE IS PLAYING A GAME WITH US A BIT, THIS NEGATIVE OUTCOME SIMPLY DOESN'T FLOW FROM THE REST OF IT. IT'S FAR-FETCHED, GIVE THE TOTALITY. THE ONLY THING CONSISTENT IS HIS LINE, "SHE WILL NEVER FORGIVE", BUT HE ALSO SAYS "SHE WILL NEVER SPEAK" AND THE LATTER MAKES IT CLEAR THAT "SHE WILL NEVER FORGIVE" IS NAUGHT BUT NICHOLAS'S MOMENTARY INTERPRETATIVE FEAR. OBVIOUSLY SHE WILL SPEAK, AND THEY WILL SPEAK, ETC. AND THEN THERE IS THAT BONFIRE, AND THE BLIND MAN A FEW PAGES BACK WHO SUDDENLY SEEMS SIGHTED, A LA STEVE RAY VAUGHN. NOT THE SYMBOLISM OF DESPAIR, RIGHT INTO THE LAST PHRASE OF NARRATIVE.

[....]

So IMHO they live happily ever after (together!).

HARD TO SEE IT OTHERWISE. THEIR INTERACTION TROUBLES ME, BUT THE INTENT SEEMS CLEAR, AS FOWLES EMPHASIZED.
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby chum on Thu May 27, 2010 6:05 pm

Fowles preferred ending was "just the way it ended". He wanted the reader to decide, because if he had ended it either way, there would have been more criticism and less discussion.
Put it this way...
Tossing asside gender, put yourself in Allison's position, would you "forgive and continue" or "move on"?
If he had ended it either way, half the people who read it, would "hate the ending".
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby macka on Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:45 pm

Hello, eager readers of John Fowles :)
I would like to ask you, if you don´t know what does it mean that small lizard which David killed by car in Fowles´short story the Ebony Tower.
Thank you very much for answer.
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby Mare Nostrum on Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:39 am

Those of you who "think" that Fowles left the ending to us and he really wanted it that way are blatantly ignoring the evidence. In the last pages there was a bonfire. What did that symbolize? Nothing? It was just kind of a sparky day, with ignition in the air where they happened to be? And Fowles, what? Just wanted to mention that, while meaning nothing by it? Just empty exposition? Writing without thinking what his words meant? Sort of babbling along?

Or you didn't notice that in your hurry to get to the end of the book?

Look, get with the program. Fowles was frustrated and a bit mystified that people didn't get it in his *original* version. In his second version, he drew us a flipping map! He *says* this in the preface!! So if you "think" he meant it to be unclear, you are arguing with him, telling him he's wrong. Literally. Not me, him.

A blind man gains his sight at the end of the book. So Fowles is just babbling about nothing again, do you suppose? Or what's your interpretation? Go back in the book and look at that. Come on, people! What makes a blind man see?

Stevie Ray Vaughn knew. Look up the lyrics to his song "Pride and Joy". The opening line -- he's got it there. "You heard about ____ giving sight the blind!" Fill in the blank.

You are insulting the author by ignoring his painfully obvious clues.
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby alistair on Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:11 am

That Fowles had a preferred ending is unquestionable (foreword to the revised edition) but does this necessarily mean that the novel has one unambiguous ending? If the comments and questions of his readers are anything to go by, then this can hardly be as clear cut as Mare Nostrum makes it out to be. The problematic endings of Fowles’s other novels plead against an unequivocal reading here.

My first impression on readingThe Magus was that of a novel in which meaning seems to overflow. There is a profuson of keys to the reading within the text, intertextual references and so on... So much so that it is impossible to hold them together in a coherent whole. This, I think, is not due to a faulty construction – even though Fowles says that it was “essentially where a tyro taught himself to write novels”. The novel begins as a kind of 19th century style Bildungsroman, or novel of education, tending towards a conclusion where the hero will find enlightenment or a coherent image of himself. However it is a 20th century novel and as such it has to take into account the collapse of values and the ideology that underpinned 19th century society and its conception of man as a coherent being (undescored by the writings of Marx, Darwin, Niezstche and of course Freud).

The ending of The Magus can only be read as a renunciation to give a final solution, a refusal to give closure of meaning. This is borne out by a close reading of the concluding lines where there is a shift from the past to the present tense, where the language of meaning gives way to another functioning of language based on alliteration, assonance. The meaning Nicholas imposed on his life, summed up in one word “freedom” , literally shatters and its fragments are scattered phonetically in the final paragraph. (“FRagments... sEAson ..; sOMEwhere”). On a syntaxical level the absence of verbs in the last two sentences freezes the text making further narrative impossible. The ethical stance of Fowles at the end is silence rather than imposing an unequivocal conclusion, freeing the reader from his/her imaginary fascination with the text and granting him/her a relative freedom.

There is a passage in Fowles’s first published novel, The Collector, that illustrates his position. Miranda makes a series of drawings of a bowl of fruit and asks her captor, Clegg, to choose the one he prefers. She says “Of course he picked all those that looked most like the wretched bowl of fruit” . In his narrative, relating the same episode, Clegg comments on Miranda’s choice: “The one that was so good looked half-finished to me, you could hardly tell what the fruit were and it was all lop-sided”. For Miranda this is central to her conception of art: “There I’m just on the threshold of saying something about the fruit. I don’t actually say it, but you get the impression that I might”. This, in a nutshell, is Fowles’ own aesthetical position, based on non-closure or incompletion. His fiction tells us some essential truth about the human subject, which is impossible to say, but he brings us to the threshold of where it can be formulated.
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby Mare Nostrum on Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:39 am

"That Fowles had a preferred ending is unquestionable (foreword to the revised edition)"

Unquestionable. Right. Thanks.

Those seriously reading the last few pages don't need to look to the foreword to gather as much, either.
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Re: It is irrefutable that Fowles had a preferred ending

Postby aridelrio on Sat Sep 17, 2011 5:00 am

I've read the Magus twice very long time ago ,about more than 20 years ago. I remember I loved it although I never understood exactly the meaning. Now I'm reading it again ( I'm just at the moment Nicolas discovers the white beach towel and the poetry book by the seaside in Conchis's property ) looking forward to see if being older I'll catch the meaning. Actually I wouldn't mind not to catch it and still have to interprete . Life is interesting cause we don't have the answer, just questions and sometimes our personal perspections. The thing is that maybe there is no absolut answer, for books too. I mean, even the author has no clear response. :roll:
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