E.J.'s Reviews > The Magus

The Magus by John Fowles
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's review
Jun 06, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: literature-fiction
Recommended for: Literary fiends
Read in July, 2008

The Magus is a fine literary tale of a young English man who takes a job teaching on a small, isolated Greek island in 1950. There, he's drawn into a web of mystery and danger by the wealthy nomad that summers on a remote corner of the island. I was immediately drawn into the story by the voice of the young protagonist, and continued turning pages as mystery after mystery unfolded. Unfortuantely, somewhere in the middle, the story really bogs down and becomes repetitive. It isn't until the last 200 pages that it picks up again and resumes its engrossing ride. That last sentence should tell you something. "The last 200 pages." Yes, this is a long book, nearly 700 pages with small type and scant dialogue in between. I really felt that middle chunk, also around 200 pages, could have been thinned out or streamlined by an editor. But C'est la vie. It was still a pretty good read and I learned a great deal, both historically, literarily, and philosophically. This was my first book by Fowles and I'm not going to run to grab another one, but I will give a sniff around to see how others view the rest of his canon. All in all, I think some of the things in The Magus will stick with me a long time and make me think, which is enough to make the long read worth it.
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Quotes E.J. Liked

John Fowles
“I acquired expensive habits and affected manners. I got a third-class degree and a first-class illusion: that I was a poet. But nothing could have been less poetic that my seeing-through-all boredom with life in general and with making a living in particular. I was too green to know that all cynicism masks a failure to cope-- an impotence, in short; and that to despise all effort is the greatest effort of all. But I did absorb a small dose of one permanently useful thing, Oxford's greatest gift to civilized life: Socratic honesty. It showed me, very intermittently, that it is not enough to revolt against one's past. One day I was outrageously bitter among some friends about the Army; back in my own rooms later it suddenly struck me that just because I said with impunity things that would have apoplexed my dead father, I was still no less under his influence. The truth was I was not a cynic by nature, only by revolt. I had got away from what I hated, but I hadn't found where I loved, and so I pretended that there was nowhere to love. Handsomely equipped to fail, I went out into the world.”
John Fowles, The Magus

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Doug Bradshaw I read this book a long time ago and was deeply affected. Now that I read your review, it makes me want to read it again to see if it would have the same affect. I used to really love "Atlas Shrugged", but now, I think it's way over the top and should downgrade my review. I read my first serious novel, "Hawaii" by James Michener when I was 14. It really got me, partially because of the sexuality and somewhat adult themes that I could start to comprehend back then. Would I still love it now that I'm a jilted, been there, done that, old guy?

E.J. Doug, I'd also be curious to know whether the book would affect you as deeply, although I'm loathe to tell anyone to reread a book that's 700 pages long when there are so many other great reads out there. While reading the Magus I really had this feeling that it would resonate with me for a long time, but on a couple different levels. First, the protagonist. Even though he was a bit shallow and mysoginistic throughout the majority of the book, his catharsis near the end did captivate me. Secondly, the progression of how he was drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery also worked for me. That being said (without giving away spoilers for others), the subject matter of "the messages," (i.e. the mysticism, pagean dieties, philosophical themes,) didn't always work for me. I wish the subjects had been a tad more focused. In a few ways, the Magus reminded me of Umberto Eco's Focault's Pendulum, but it eventually became more of a paranoid thriller rather than a philosophical romance. Let me know if you do decided to reread it. I'd definitely be interested in hearing the thoughts of a not-so-jilted, no-so-old guy. :)

message 3: by ScottK (last edited Aug 01, 2009 02:25PM) (new) - added it

ScottK UH ...great I am only on like page 50 or so and am already having a hard time. But, having said that I have not, as of yet, met the mystery man, so I guess I have that to look forward to before I get bogged down again..... Dark cloud, meet silver lining. : )

message 4: by Elsayed (new) - added it

Elsayed Hi Robinson,

I am so happy to meet you that you read The Magus. I am in the middle of reading at the moment and I am tempted to write my master thesis on it. I hope we together with Doug)can engage in talks and debates on the novel later when I have decided whether I will be writing on it or not....I think seriously of writing on it...I will be so glad if you have time to do...

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