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The Magus

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  45,435 ratings  ·  2,664 reviews
This daring literary thriller, rich with eroticism and suspense, is one of John Fowles's best-loved and bestselling novels and has contributed significantly to his international reputation as a writer of the first degree. At the center of The Magus is Nicholas Urfe, a young Englishman who accepts a teaching position on a remote Greek island, where he befriends a local ...more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published January 4th 2001 by Back Bay Books (first published 1965)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  45,435 ratings  ·  2,664 reviews

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Glenn Russell
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing

""The Magus" is a stunner, magnificent in ambition, supple and gorgeous in execution. It fits no neat category; it is at once a pyrotechnical extravaganza, a wild, hilarious charade, a dynamo of suspense and horror, a profoundly serious probing into the nature of moral consciousness, a dizzying, electrifying chase through the labyrinth of the soul, an allegorical romance, a sophisticated account of modern love, a ghost story that will send shivers racing down the spine. Lush, compulsive, richly
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, brit-lit
My students like to use the made up word, "unputdownable." I always laugh at this. I can always put down a book, I can even put down this one. The problem is, I can't seem to stop picking it up again.

We are thrown, whether we like it or not into the addled frantic mind of Nicholas Urfe, a man in the middle of a suspenseful psychological experiment. The only problem is, without telling us, Fowles turns it into a suspenseful philosophical experiment as well. We are left never fully knowing what is
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: seekers of rebirth
Recommended to Jaidee by: Age of Aquarius
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "cinematic, psychosexual thriller" stars !!

6th Favorite Read of 2018

This is a book that can be easily dismissed when we are guarded, cynical, fearful or imperious. I started this book at a remote location with very small font that hurt my trifocal vision....and yet....amidst mosquitoes, overheating and copious amounts of food I returned over and over until my vision gave out and I fouind a larger print Anita Brookner to round out my week. I returned to an e-copy on my return.

However this
Jessica Baxter
Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
this book fucked me up. i suppose it could be defined as a "psychological thriller" but its very jungian, steeped in metaphor and symbolism and eroticisim and mythology and shakespeare. its also an intense love story of sorts, the main character is a completely fleshed out, real, flawed person who you relate to and fear for and empathize with. the premise is that this british guy gets a teaching job on a small island in greece soon after WWII ends and becomes intwined in the lives/mind games of ...more
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like to be bamboozled in extremis
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Here on Goodreads, rather than judging a book by its cover, it is always handier to judge a book based on what your friends and people you are following had to say about it after it had passed under their beady eyes.

I have 91 friends here on Goodreads and follow 6 people and of the 12 friends and three people I'm following, only one (Kingfan30) wrote a review. Even the more loquacious members of the group have chosen to remain silent - Karen, Mike and PetraX - not a jot or a scribble (yet). I
Julie Christine
Oh boy. Here's the thing: If you read this novel as a citizen of 2010, a member of our hyper-speed, uber-connected modern society that navel-gazes in 140 word bytes with little interest in true introspection, The Magus will seem almost comical in its psycho-thrilling, Jungian dribbling plot and Baroque-meets-mod writing style.

If you, dear reader, consider that The Magus was partially written nearly 60 years ago (begun in the early 50s, published in '65, revised in '76), its risky political and
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We gravitate to mysteries The great unknown calls us
The craving to risk death is our last great perversion. We come from night, we go into night. Why live in night?

Straight from the biblical times temptation is the main moving force that pushes humanity to seek knowledge. And who cares if our knowledge is a set of misconceptions?
Living is an eternal wanting more, in the coarsest grocer and in the sublimest mystic.

We live and we learn but there always is something that is left outside our
Joey Woolfardis
Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003.

Nicholas Urfe, an Oxford graduate post-war, with no direction and a slight hint of nymphomania, travels to Greece to work as an English teacher on the remote island of Phraxos, mostly to get away from an Australian girl he shagged but doesn't love and wants to ditch.

Unsurprisingly, the remoteness is boring and he is drawn to browsing the island, where he finds an even more remote house in which lives
Jun 12, 2007 rated it did not like it
I had no idea what this book was about. The prose style was nice, but the plot was completely unfathomable. I decided about a third of the way through the book that it was one of the worst things I had ever read. But, due to some strange self-flagellatory compulsion, I told myself there was no way I was going to let it beat me, so I slogged through, teeth clenched, until the end. I found out later that they actually made a movie out of it. About the film, Woody Allen is to have said, "If I could ...more
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it

Well, everything one might say about this book could be taken as a spoiler, including this very remark.

The book is a pretty good read, or it would have been if it had weighed in at two hundred or so pages shorter. And, given that the book is entirely a gradual denouement, one has to admire Fowles's skill in controlling it over such a long span, like a musician making a hugely long crescendo.

But I guess in the end, I didn't much like the book. In the 'trial' scene, a report is read out

Yes. Yes. Yes! I made it!!! My final book of 2017!!💃

Oh and Nicholas, You deserve everything!😡

Dec 14, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have rarely been so unpleasantly surprised - and bitterly disappointed - by the sudden turn that a novel takes as with the abrupt shift that occurs roughly mid-way through John Fowles The Magus. The first half introduced the ethereal, creepy and gripping experiences of the young Englishman Nicholas Urfe, estranged from his Australian girlfriend Alison and teaching at a boys school on the remote Greek island of Phraxos. Thoroughly disenchanted with the course his life has taken, and gauging ...more
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no plan. All is hazard. And the only thing that will preserve us is ourselves.
John Fowles, The Magus


What is written here must remain hid(view spoiler)
Ian "Marvin" Graye
The Canon is What Our Friends Write

The Magus is a novel that achieves everything that most of the books pushed and promoted by white American male post-modernists fail to.

Its genuinely innovative in form. Its form follows and complements its substance. Its narrative style reflects its metaphysical concerns. It doesnt just name-drop post-modern philosophers or concepts, resembling a cut and paste from an undergraduate philosophy textbook. It genuinely explores the issues in a fictional way.

Oh god, I totally totally hated this boring, rambling, long-as-shit book.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019

Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!

The Magus is a debut novel. Fowles himself acknowledges in the preface to the reviewed edition that he practically taught himself how to write by working on this project over more than a decade. Thats what makes the novel both sublime and muddled. And probably the most honest account of a young mans struggle to understand the intricate web of the human mind and the ways love blooms and fails, the way love turns, like Nabokov
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mystical Sirens on Lush Greek Isle Toy with Reality, Fidelity

"We've all been playing those mind games forever
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil
Doing the mind guerrilla
Some call it magic, the search for the grail"
Lennon, Mind Games, 1973.
[[4.25 stars]]

John Fowles now underappreciated novel, where not much is as it seems, is a mystical morality play on love, truth, maturity, reality, and betrayal, both sexual and emotional. The Magus is set on a lush Greek island, limned by the legends of
Sep 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strangely Disturbing Novel, Many Possible Interpretations

This novel is particularly tough to review. It's even tough to rate. I'm very ambivalent about this book. It was interesting, but also frustrating.

The Magus certainly won't be suitable for people who have Twitter-induced Attention Deficit Disorder and must have quick action and a fast pace.

The book's pace is majestically slow, and it takes quite awhile for anything to happen.

It's wordy, too.

In short, it's an old-fashioned novel and it's a
Conspiracy Theorist Fantasy

Oh, brother.

I had high hopes for this book. Such high hopes.

I read and really enjoyed The Collector. John Fowles is a wonderful writer. This book is no exception. This story takes place mainly in Greece, on the island of Phraxos, where English 20-something misogynist Nicholas Urfe goes to escape his recent relationship with his Australian girlfriend, Alison. He meets an enigmatic man who looks like Pablo Picasso, named Maurice Conchis. And then the inexplicable, the
Reading The Magus was like holding a mirror up to my life, not knowing who it is I'm looking at, not fully understanding where I am or where I've been, and even less certain of where I am going -- not certain of what lessons I've learned or am supposed to be learning, adrift and perplexed about issues of morality/immorality/amorality, not wholly certain if the things I seek and desire aren't already right here in front of me.

I think it's safe to say that The Magus was one of the most profoundly
Its like if you took that Most Dangerous Game story and RUINED IT FOREVER.
Megan Baxter
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm not exactly sure how to rate this book. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I might read it again at some point, which is generally my personal line for four stars.

I picked this up as one of the books on the BBC's Big Read list, which I am slowly making my way through. I am not sure what to make of it.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the
Lynne King
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: john-fowles
I re-read this book after twenty-five years. I loved it at the time and now, the whole concept is futile and nothing. Nicholas, Alison, the island, etc. Pure words. I wonder what I was feeling then? I know that times change things but I'm amazed at such a radical change here, after all John Fowles is a wonderful writer. I especially loved his novella "The Ebony Tower. I guess we are all subject to change depending on our own particular circumstances.
Peter D. Mathews
The Magus took John Fowles more than two decades to complete. It was the first viable novel he began writing, but was published for the first time in 1966, and then in a revised version in 1977. The latter edition, which is by far the easiest to find these days, was the one I read.

As Fowles explains in the preface, some of the details of the story are taken from his own life: for instance, like his protagonist, Nicholas Urfe, Fowles spent some time teaching at a school on a remote Greek island.
Tom Quinn
"I just feel I'd enjoy it more if I knew what it all meant," our narrator laments (p181). To which Conchis, the mysterious host and storyteller, replies with delight, "My dear Nicholas, man has been saying what you have just said for the last ten thousand years."

Ah, culture! Here is a book carefully wrought in rich language, peppered through with plenty of French, Latin, and Greek. (keep Google Translate open while you're reading, it's not a sin!) It seems the sort of book best read in an
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
"But why the colossal performance just to tell one miserable moral bankrupt what he is?"

And why 600+ pages of well-written crap to tell a story with no real purpose or conclusion?

Three stars because there's not a star for "somewhere a bit North of two and a half."
That Polysemantic World

All the world is a stage, says Shakespeare in As you like it, as if to prove that metafiction is not really a postmodernist concept. Indeed, the theatrum mundi theme is quite an old one, but it has never lost its fascination. The idea of a hidden script every human being is unknowingly led to play has fascinated many an artist who either tried to find thus a logic in life, a pattern in the carpet, or used it to point that mankind has never really been granted freedom of
Ana-Maria Petre
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think this book is one of those rare cases in which not even the author knew what he actually wants to say, and was honest about it. This is a beautiful thing; most writers tend to nurture a god-complex and an unhealthy certainty of thought. In other words, they are too damn sure of themselves. Fowles, on the other hand, makes a great show of our incredible ignorance for the many layers of the world. Of course, this is just what I saw at this tender age of mine. Another mind will see it ...more
Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, travel
John Fowles started writing the Magus in the mid-1950s, and struggled with it off and on for the next twelve years. After his first novel, The Collector, became a best-seller, he finally finished the book and published it in 1966. But then, eleven years later, he issued a revised edition, reworking a number of critical scenes. All books reflect the times in which they were written, and this one is no exception. The early scenes are very much a meditation on breaking away from 1950s conformity ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those Who Don't Mind Being Messed With...
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die
I find myself caught between rant and rave. More rave, which is why I rated it so high, but enough wish to rant to withhold that fifth star. This is a strange book. In the Foreword to the 1978 Revised edition, Fowles said one title he considered was "The Godgame." A young Englishman, Nicholas Urfe, comes in 1953 to the isolated Greek island of Phraxos (modeled on the real island of Spetsai) to teach at an elite boarding school. He's our narrator, our focus through 656 pages, and he's callow, a ...more
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John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, a small town in Essex. He recalled the English suburban culture of the 1930s as oppressively conformist and his family life as intensely conventional. Of his childhood, Fowles said "I have tried to escape ever since."

Fowles attended Bedford School, a large boarding school designed to prepare boys for university, from ages 13 to 18. After briefly

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