Saturday, July 18, 2009
W. Somerset Maugham – The Magician
I just finished reading “The Magician” by Somerset Maugham. Yes I’ve been on a bit of a Maugham marathon lately, I truly enjoy his works. I had never read “The Magician” before, and I’m glad I finally got the chance. In addiction to the usual genius of his style and the philosophical dilemmas, there’s a ton of sci-fi and a good deal of horror in this one! =)
One thing that didn't surprise and yet fascinated me was the way Maugham builds the character of Oliver Haddo. He has this true genius for bringing to life the most horrifying, grotesque and complex characters. “Charles Strickland” in the “Moon and Sixpence” is another great example, in fact I can’t help noticing certain similarities between Haddo and Strickland. Maugham seems to have had a personal fascination with creating these monstrous characters, through which he can make his points regarding the complexities of human nature, much better and much sharper than he ever could, through pictures of niceness and nobility.
Maugham has very often based the main characters of his books upon a real world person. Charles Strickland was based on Paul Gauguin as I wrote in a pervious post, and apparently Oliver Haddo was based on Aliester Crowley. So, Maugham takes some of the most outstanding characteristics of an already magnificent [in either a positive or a negative way!] personality, and then ads his own special ingredients to create the main characters of his books. The heavy contrast caused by the moral and behavioral difference between various characters in the story, magnifies the personality traits of each of them further.
Of course in Case of Oliver Haddo, given the bizzare personality of Aleister Crowley, the end result is quite the perfect source of horror……..