THE MAGUS by John Fowles

THE MAGUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the symbolism of the Tarot cards, the magus is a magician as well as a mountebank. In this second novel, Mr. Fowles is also an illusionist. If it can be said (and it may well be) that there is a certain amount of sham in the showmanship, still he manages to keep his reader captive Just as surely as he did in the butterfly net of The Collector even though this novel runs more than twice the distance. Elegances sensuousness and a very dressy erudition are all part of the equipment... The performance is a masque, or as admitted, the "godgame" of one Maurice Conchis "rich in forgotten powers... strange desires." He was a deserter in World war I, reputed to be a collaborationist in World War II; he has great wealth and many gifts (hypnosis among them) and lives as a renaissance man in seclusion off a Greek island. Now his guest, victim or dupe is one NicHolas Urfe, a young man out of Oxford with a "second class degree and a first class belief in (himself)." He has come to Greece after abandoning Alison with whom he has had an intense affair, Just short of love and trust. Nicholas is invited into Conchis' well guarded "domaine" and there the mysteries begin: of Lily, whom Conchis had once loved and who had died after World War I; of her reincarnation, not only as Julie (Conchis says Julie is schizophrenic) but again as June. Then there's Alison's suicide which has, for Nicholas, its complicity of guilt, since it follows immediately on Nick's attraction to Lily-Julie-June. The games goes on and on; reality and illusion blur; meanings become apparent, or do they? In any case the intensity of the story itself diminishes them. Perhaps they're not even there... Whatever, Fowles manages to keep the reader caught between supposition and sudden surprise, it's a deceptive, seductive, startling entertainment. There's not much of that around and certainly nothing like this.
Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1965
ISBN: 0316296198
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1965




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