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The Magus

por John Fowles

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaDiscussões / Menções
1,4573012,578 (3.87)2 / 295
A man trapped in a millionare's deadly game of political and sexual betrayal. Filled with shocks and chilling surprises, "The Magus" is a masterwork of contemporary literature. In it, a young Englishman, Nicholas Urfe, accepts a teaching position on a Greek island where his friendship with the owner of the islands most magnificent estate leads him into a nightmare. As reality and fantasy are deliberately confused by staged deaths, erotic encounters, and terrifying violence, Urfe becomes a desperate man fighting for his sanity and his life. A work rich with symbols, conundrums and labrinthine twists of event, "The Magus" is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, a work that ranks with the best novels of modern times.… (mais)
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The Magus is hard to describe as the story morphs from one apparent genre to another as it progresses. There is no action to speak of but a lot of storytelling and exposition that is more or less not what it at first appears. The plot is simple enough, the protagonist, Nicholas Urfe, travels to a remote small Greek island to act as the English teacher in an academy located there. He knows it has an unusually high turnover rate of English instructors (who’ve all been English) but that is chalked up solely to the isolation and remoteness of the island. Once there, the island is described in several dreamlike sequences as he wanders the place in his off time. There is probably only a scene or two inside the school in the novel.
This initial fifth of the novel struck me as almost as if it were a horror setup and gave me strange fiction vibes ala Robert Aickman through to the second fifth of the book. The third fifth reads more like a psychological thriller (with no real incidents or action), and the fourth part becomes a horror story where the reader dreads what The Masque (appearing as a traditional satanic horror cult) is going to do with the protagonist, then the last fifth becomes a detective story where the detective is seeking a vague sense of closure though he tells himself it is a mission of vengeance then becomes a mission to reunite with his girlfriend. The protagonist has a real problem with having vague motives and when his motives are clear, he often misleads himself and thus the reader.
When it came to that toxic relationship, between Nicholas Urfe and his estranged girlfriend Allison, I have to admit, my reading sped up so I could get through it. It was fine as a contrast to the strangeness of the island when they took a trip to the mainland of Greece, but it tended to drag after a while. I am also aware that this is a setup to get the reader to spend time with her before Urfe gets the news that she has committed suicide.
Nicholas has a major flaw which is pushed into his face on a few occasions, misogyny facilitated by his sadboi act, he even admits to it at one point early in the book, but he simply does not feel or see anything wrong with his conduct even while contemplating his toxic ex-girlfriend’s purported suicide. He remains unrepentant and it is this flaw that The Masque (as he refers to the mysterious cult in the latter parts of the novel) exploits to break into his life. Instead of thinking over how his own major flaw let these people into his life, he goes on a mission of discovery with the hint of revenge in his motive in the last fifth of the book. This does set the novel up for a disappointing ending.
The main incident that kicks everything into motion is the old recluse on the island occupying the sole mansion on the island, Maurice Conchis. The man is spurned by the natives and the school staff as he is a known nazi collaborator from when they had occupied the island and murdered dozens. Urfe seeks him out of pure curiosity and is lured by a beautiful young woman by the name of Julie, her name is later revealed to be Lilly after she gives him the names of the goddess(es) she portrays in Conchis’ plays put on solely for his and Urfe’s eyes. Later, Conchis seems to want to bring the saying All the World’s A Stage to life with performance, insanely elaborate trickery, alcohol, drugs, and hypnotism. It seems that there is a theme here with his trying to render Nicholas into a pawn within his game of masks, performances, and symbols coupled with his First and Second World War recollections. This is especially so when Nicholas is notified of Allison’s supposed suicide (another “performance” for and at his expense) forces him to pin all of his romantic hopes onto the actress Lilly.
Conchis’ story of the First World War was fantastic, I never thought that I would contemplate the stench of mud and burst bowels on the battlefield. The brutality of the story of what “really happened” (maybe) on the island during the Second World War was shocking and very graphic. I loved it.
The motifs of this expansive novel feed into the theme, the duplicity of the twins, Julie/Lilly and June/Rose, hired by Conchis to help conduct his “experiment in mystification”, the repeated references to roles, performance, and masks, and the mask-wearing cult dubbed The Masque in the fourth fifth of the book. Lilly even turns up with another name and guise during the cult meeting scene as well. Nicholas Urfe’s character flaws and those contrary to those of the members of the cult as he tracks them down in the last fifth all sum up to a certain theme. The theme is that life is but a series of performances and the truth lies covered in layers of masks and symbolism. A concurrent theme also found in the story is that of ambiguity. Vagueness is conducive to life and truth bringing only death. It is stated somewhere in the later third of the book that “…an answer is a form of death.” Very much like Schrodinger’s Cat, it is both alive and dead until you open the box revealing the truth.
Strangely, The Masque does seem to hold a much more progressive attitude than the protagonist especially when he tries to shame Lilly’s mother by bringing up her having sex with Joe because he’s black. The mother says that Joe is a fine man and educated as well as putting Nicholas to shame for his racism. This duplicity, a progressive cult that puts unsuspecting men through damaging psychological experiments as opposed to their victim who holds, especially today, outmoded ways of thinking such as misogyny and racism feeds into the revelation of truth in the theme. After these revelations of character, these traits become an unchanging cemented component of the character as opposed to the cult members who ultimately reveal their true identities, but they retain a fluidity drawn from their unreliableness. At least, until they tell him the game is over near the end of the book.
The remaining fifth of the book goes on too long, it feels like the story is just caught in a holding pattern just going around in tiny circles. This does allow the reader to feel the buildup of Nicholas’ frustration and impatience in seeing Allison again, but it just felt like the author had no idea how to wrap this thing up. I have to say that I was not satisfied with the ending of the story at all.
Would I recommend this one? Well, with some caveats. If you want to sink into and immerse yourself in a long, involved story, then this is your lucky day, if not, then stay far away from it. If you’re looking for a horror story or even a thriller, this is not it. This story is built from dreamlike scenery, long conversations, and the contemplations of the protagonist. Otherwise, have at it, I did really enjoy the first half of the novel, but it seems to me that it should have ended soon after the trial of the masque. The last fifth of the book is a massive dénouement. The ending made me comment, “That’s it?”
Favorite Quotes:
“I love being humiliated. I love having a girl I like trampling over every human affection and decency. Every time that stupid old bugger tells me another lie I feel thrills of ectasy [sic] run down my spine.” I shouted. “Now where the hell am I?” [pg.442-443]
The fear I felt was the same old fear; not of the appearance, but of the reason behind the appearance. It was not the mask I was afraid of, because in our century we are too inured by science fiction and too sure of science reality ever to be terrified of the supernatural again; but of what lay behind the mask. The eternal source of all fear, all horror, all evil, man himself. [pg.448]
Waiting for the train, I got more drunk. A man at the station bar managed to make me understand that an indigo-blue hilltop under the lemon-green sky to the west was where the poet Horace had had his farm. I drank to the Sabine hill; better one Horace than ten thousand Saint Benedicts; better one poem than ten thousand sermons. Much later I realized that perhaps Leverrier, in this case, would have agreed; because he too had chosen exile; because there are times when silence is a poem. [pg.521] ( )
  Ranjr | Feb 18, 2024 |
I don't even remember much, but I remember the book itself, where I got it, and being rather young.
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
En esta ambiciosa novela, mezcla de narración gótica, thriller, historia iniciática, relato erótico y filosófico, asistimos a la «educación sentimental» del joven Nicholas, que abandona Londres para establecerse en una remota isla griega. Allí conoce a un excéntrico millonario, «el Mago», que lo introduce en las fronteras movedizas de la realidad y el sueño... ¿Cuál es el fin de estas experiencias truculentas? ¿Cómo saber su significado, el grado de seriedad científica, de intuición metafísica, de pura superchería? Y sobre todo, se pregunta Nicholas angustiado, ¿quién es realmente Conchis, el Mago? ¿Un ser dotado de poderes sobrenaturales? ¿Un déspota caprichoso que escenifica sus propios fantasmas para turbar las sensibilidades frágiles? ¿Un psiquiatra que, en aras de la ciencia, prosigue el estudio de un caso? Un circuito recurrente y emblemático en esta obra apasionante: de la apariencia a la sospecha y al desenmascaramiento de esta apariencia como mentira, y a la sospecha de esa nueva apariencia: la última máscara jamás se quita.
  Natt90 | Mar 30, 2023 |
This movie tie-in edition pitches to its presumed prospective readers by quoting on the fly-leaf: "Finally she stood up out of the bath, her damp, warm body the paradise of sex".

OK, it's hard to write well about sex, that's a given, but this belongs on any list of howlers. I read to the bottom of the flyleaf, which ends: "She spoke. The strangest voice; as hard as glass. 'There is no Julie...'.

Went on to read the rest of the book. A good read. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
the book meets at least one of my criteria for a novel. It seems long enough. Having now the experience,, to place this best-seller in context I find that as it seems to discuss the difference between reality, and how people will experience reality, it is an inferior work to the "Alexandria Quartet" of Lawrence Durrell. It could be seen, and dismissed as a pallid American rival to that intriguing novel. It is well enough written for me to have finished it, and then move to see what Durrell had to offer. The film seemed confused, and its director or scenarist...a little beyond their depth. A good performance by Anthony Quinn, well seconded by Michael Caine. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jul 11, 2020 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Fowles, Johnautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Adams, TomArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Boulton, NicholasNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Mason, RobertArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Velde, Frédérique van derTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Un débauché de profession est rarement un homme pitoyable.

De Sade, Les Infortunes de la Vertu
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I was born in 1927, the only child of middle-class parents, both English, and themselves born in the grotesquely elongated shadow, which they never rose sufficiently above history to leave, of that monstrous dwarf, Queen Victoria.
Though this is not, in any major thematic or narrative sense, a fresh version of The Magus, it is rather more than a stylistic revision. (Foreword)
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A man trapped in a millionare's deadly game of political and sexual betrayal. Filled with shocks and chilling surprises, "The Magus" is a masterwork of contemporary literature. In it, a young Englishman, Nicholas Urfe, accepts a teaching position on a Greek island where his friendship with the owner of the islands most magnificent estate leads him into a nightmare. As reality and fantasy are deliberately confused by staged deaths, erotic encounters, and terrifying violence, Urfe becomes a desperate man fighting for his sanity and his life. A work rich with symbols, conundrums and labrinthine twists of event, "The Magus" is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, a work that ranks with the best novels of modern times.

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