So what the heck is a magus? I’ll admit I required enlightening with the title and found it refers to a magician or sorcerer. After reading The Magus, however, I believe the title was a tad deceptive and perhaps could have been more aptly entitled The Maggot. Ironically, Fowles published A Maggot in 1985, a book I was completely in the dark about…really.
Perhaps the aforementioned reference lets on how I found one of the book’s characters to be. Set primarily in Greece in 1953, Fowles spins a rather lengthy tale of a young disenchanted Oxford graduate who moves to Greece for a teaching position and foolishly befriends the local pariah (sometimes there are reasons for these things people).
Nicholas Urfe is a young Englishman dealing with the uncertainties of his future and is doing it rather poorly. With no family ties nor close friendships, he approaches his social and sexual encounters with aplomb yet seems to get no enjoyment from either. One such casual encounter pairs him up with a young Australian who falls in love with him (why is never clear) so he decides to leave her behind and takes a post teaching in a boys school on a Greek island. This cad gets his comeuppance, I assure you.
The jilted Aussie, Alison, is an unstable young lady who has been involved with a number of men, but inexplicably is attracted to Urfe. Her hot and cold behavior is surely the precursor of things (and not good things) to come. Once Nicholas tells her he is going to Greece, she takes a job as an airline stewardess, eery in its relation to the death of Urfe’s parents in a plane crash.
The magus, or maggot, if I may, Maurice Conchis, is the wealthy recluse rumored to have had a part in assisting Nazis during WWII. Urfe’s loneliness and boredom allow him to become the puppet of Conchis who wallows in his role of enigmatic host and literally sets the stage for his saga. His sense of supremacy was irksome and disturbing. This is a man one would be wise to accept no favors from.
If I were to meet up with Mr. Fowles, I’d surely not do so without some backup. While he is admittedly a very talented writer, something about him came too close to the surface for my comfort. When I viewed some photos, I felt he never took his eyes off me…
Google him and see if you don’t agree. Once I was secure in my very public and open setting, I’d ask about his time in Greece and his ability to be such a prolific writer. Then I’d skedaddle…
My rating for The Magus is a 6 out of 10.
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