During my teenage years I’ve read three of John Fowles’ books (The Magus, The Collector, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman), but recently I’ve realized that for the book I remember I liked the most (The Magus) I couldn’t really remember the plot … So I decided to read it again, to see whether after almost 10 years I still enjoy it 🙂
In a nutshell, The Magus tells the story of a young teacher, Nicholas Urfe, who teaches English on a Greek island called Phraxos. Even though his first days on the island predict quite a boring stay, everything changes when he befriends an eccentric rich and old man. Soon enough Nicholas gets involved in psychological games and tricks, in an extreme journey of self discovery. Just to give you a hint about what to expect, it is worth mentioning that Fowles started writing it in the 1950s under the original title of The Godgame.
I must admit that I have mixed feeling regarding this book. On one hand, I did not enjoy it because of two main reasons: its length and the frustration it caused. The book is quite long (around 650 pages), but that did not bother me … the book felt long because the story was evolving very slowly. And when it comes to frustration … Multiple times I had the feeling that the writer is playing tricks on me, the reader, as I was reading the book. Maybe this was because most of the story is told through the eyes of Nicholas, and the reader only gets one side of the story. However, after I finished the book I realized it was quite an interesting feeling when looking retrospectively.
On the other hand, there were also aspects of the book I enjoyed. For example, I liked how the environment played an important role in setting the pace and intensity of the story. The Greek island seemed to be surrounded by a mystical aura:
“I knew that on the island one was driven back into the past. There was so much space, so much silence, so few meetings that one too easily saw out of the present and then the past seemed ten times closer than it was.”
I also liked how wise words were sprinkled throughout the story, one of my favourites being:
“He [the human being] needs the existence of mysteries. Not their solution”
To conclude, I consider “The Magus” is a book worth reading if you have a lot of patience and you are into psychology. I am pretty sure I will not re-read it for the third time 🙂
‘Till next time, happy reading!
PS: It seems I am not the only one fascinated by the Greek island described in the book. Tim Lott followed in the footsteps of John Fowles to Spétses, the island that served as inspiration for Phraxos. You can read about his journey here.