The Magus by John Fowles

The Magus by John Fowles. Fowles was a superb writer and I have really good memories of his work. One day  I came across one of his novels (The Collector) and  I couldn’t put it down. I think what attracted me the most was the psychological aspect of his narrative. Of course having a good story to tell and  character development are both important aspects in writing, but Fowles’ most distinctive appeal to me is the mental power that his characters transmit to the reader.

The Magus is book is about a young English teacher –Nicholas Urfe– who gets a job in a small island of Greece. Nicholas left everything behind him in England, including a woman with whom he had just started  a relationship, and goes to teach in a broad school.

In the island of Faksos, Nicholas meets a mysterious and wealthy  man (Conchis) with whom develop a strange acquaintanceship.  Nicholas believes Conchis is playing tricks on him, making him to believe Chonchis’ bride (Lily) –who died decades ago– visits him regularly and comes to dine with them.  Eventually Nicholas falls in love with Lily.  However Nicholas feels he can no longer reliably distinguish reality from fiction.

At the end of the book  it is revealed that the whole story was fake and that Conchis and Lily were playing a mental game on Nicholas. I feel that the author’s idea is to show how hard it can be to choose between loyalty and ethics, in particular in a situation of war in which a soldier is supposed to follow orders , and since the book was written in the 60’s, probably it was a mainstream theme back then, but this setting is a bit outdated for the 21 century. In any case, the whole story turned out to be a psychological experiment in which  the woman that he had abandoned when he left England, also took part in the conspiracy as well. Nicholas eventually  goes back to England.

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