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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Magus

Regarding my Naxonian holidays I will talk in several following postings. One good thing that came out of it is that I had lots of time on the beach sun..baking and reading. The first book I finished was The Magus by John Fowles. It was highly recommended from a US cisco colleague. It is the story of an Oxford graduate who wants to get away from the UK and choses to go to a deserted Greek island. Story is taking place a bit after the WWII.
There he is involved in the psychological games of a local rich man that keeps himself isolated on his villa where strange things happen.
At the end, our hero undergoes a really crash course in psychoanalysis and his ... torturer, the Greek mysterious man saves him about 20 years on the couch, something he would not have done. And he turns from being an egocentric arrogant intellectual to a person that is now trying to deeply understand others. It was not easy and in the process he almost lost his sanity. In fact, the Magus was a bestseller, partly because it tapped successfully into - and even arguably helped to promote - the 1960s popular interest in psychoanalysis and mystical philosophy. It has been recently featured on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels, #93 and #71 on the Reader's and Critics' lists, respectively.
As a read, it is definitely written skillfully and there are several twists in the story so that the reader stops guessing what is going to happen next. This is the kind of books that should be turned into a movie as the heroes and heroines have roles that require extremely good acting skills. I would see Conchis - the Greek rich man - played by Antony Quinn, he would be ideal of that role had it being filmed while he was still playing. The description of Phraxos, the island where the plot is taking place (in real life it is Spetses) is fantastic. Most importantly how the author describes Greece, it is something I have never read in another book before. Not so much the country, but its people and the spirit of the nation seen in the eyes of a foreigner who redefines himself in the simplicity, austerity, mysticism, beauty, divinity that Greece makes him discover.
It is a great companion for the chaise longue

1. More detailed description of the story you can find on wikipedia. John Fowels is an acclaimed author who among others wrote The Collector & The French Lieutenant's Woman
2. The cover picture is the one of the first edition. Current editions have a different cover

1 comment:

george g. said...

Reading a book on the beach qualifies you an elite position in the pantheon of Greeks see relevant posting in my blog.
I have read the John Fowles book 20 years ago and I remember that I liked its darkness.
Good call on Quinn, very impressed. There was a 1968 movie on the book, before you were even born, screenplay written by John Fowles with Quinn as Maurice (!!!), Michael Caine as Urfe and Candice Bergen as Lily. I saw it and you could only understand it if you have read the book.

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