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Collected Short Stories: Volume 4 (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – March 1, 1993
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About the Author
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) lived in Paris until he was ten. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, and at Heidelberg University. He afterwards walked the wards of St. Thomas's Hospital with a view to practice in medicine, but the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), won him over to letters. Something of his hospital experience is reflected, however, in the first of his masterpieces, Of Human Bondage (1915), and with The Moon and Sixpence (1919) his reputation as a novelist was assured.
His position as one of the most successful playwrights on the London stage was being consolidated simultaneously. His first play, A Man of Honour (1903), was followed by a procession of successes just before and after the First World War. (At one point only Bernard Shaw had more plays running at the same time in London.) His theatre career ended with Sheppey (1933). His fame as a short-story writer began with The Trembling of a Leaf, sub-titled Little Stories of the South Sea Islands, in 1921, after which he published more than ten collections.
W. Somerset Maugham's general books are fewer in number. They include travel books, such as On a Chinese Screen (1922) and Don Fernando (1935), essays, criticism, and the self-revealing The Summing Up (1938) and A Writer's Notebook (1949). He became a Companion of Honour in 1954.
Top Customer Reviews
The tales I liked the most are "Rain", about the unlikely relationship between a couple of puritan missionaries and a prostitute, "Before the party", about terrible marital secrets revealed right before an important party, and, above all, "The fall of Edward Barnard", simply a masterpiece of storytelling. First time I read it, I decided to become Edward Barnard myself. Go figure.
Maugham's style is anything but experimental. He is not trying to find a voice: he has one and he's pretty much sure about its value. And he's right. The way he uses words is the exact measure of craftmanship: not one word is missing, not one is futile. Precision, concision, wisdom, irony and humanism: the best mix for a reading. After you finish this, you'll go to the other three volumes, little by little, enjoying every story.
Every story started off in a fairly prosaic, nondescript fashion. But every story had me hooked by at least the first page. Sometimes they unfolded as funny stories, other were tales about how an individual's world had changed catastrophically. I never got bored, and the writing was never predictable, Maugham always had a surprisingly poetical observation to make that would send me into raptures. This is truly a writer of sensitivity and talent. I can honestly say that I have been searching for a writer of this calibre for a long time. If you care anything at all about the amazing stories that ordinary, little people have, then read this book and Maugham's other works. He truly is a master.
He managed to convey this without any political agenda or attempt to idealize the 'natives.' As far as the British colonials, he spared nothing, and yet his mockery and exposure of the epitome of `politically incorrect' was hardly a call for colonial overthrow. To the contrary, the calamitous occupiers were more condemned for their vulgarity than for their imperialism. In his personal life he made no bones about his general contempt for our species. Yet as a whole, these stories are often exquisitely, understated works of compassion and tenderness. Is this some kind of Jungian shadow?
Maugham would despise any such analysis, but the fact remains, these are the best short stories I've ever read. (V.S.Pritchet is second.) Reading Maugham is addictive, his plots and settings are exotic however that Anglo observer is straight up British. My own favorite is "A force of Circumstance." It depicts an almost biological racist reaction and features that universal troublemaker, sexual desire. His most famous, "Rain" is also a winner. Many people weigh in at the "Three Fat Women from Antibes." He is merciless in all of these and the twists in plot are simply brilliant. I only wish I could find some hidden treasure of ones I haven't read. Basically, I'm not a fan of the short story form, Maugham's writing is an exception. The end of his stories feels complete and absolute. He embodies what he is- a story teller. No postmodern 'suggestions of a resolution that cheats the reader. Furthermore, they're incredibly well written and (a feature that seems out of date) interesting. To paraphrase, you can't stop at one.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book arrived in good condition and the size was as expected. I thought that the pages were noticeable for their poor quality, but I guess that's not surprising in a paperback. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Biomom
Maugham is one of my favorite writers and none of these short stories disappoints. As a matter of fact, they would provide good grist for a creative writing class to study. Read morePublished 11 months ago by D. B. Hopkins
Mr Mougham does not need any complement, he is an undisputed master.
If you like good literature and have not read him, where have you been all this time.? Read more
My first exposure to Somerset Maugham was more than three decades back, when we had one of his stories in out school text book. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Harish Nair
“If you’re happy, what’s the good of going somewhere else?” a character in “Mirage”, one of Maugham’s great short stories asks, and that could serve as an epigram for the 120 or so... Read morePublished 15 months ago by The Garden Interior
Great writer. Hope to read more of his work. Although of another age...his grasp of
human motivations and actions are right on.