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The Magus Paperback – January 4, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 1,004 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Brilliant and colossal....Impossible to stop reading."―New York Review of Books

"Sumptuous....An extraordinary literary feat."―J.D. Scott, New York Times Book Review

"Great, good, lavish, eerie, fun....The Magus is a stunner....It is at once a pyrotechnical extravaganza, a wild, hilarious charade, a dynamo of suspense, a profoundly serious probing into the nature of moral consciousness, a dizzying, electrifying chase through the labyrinth of the soul... Read it in one sitting if possible--but read it."―Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York Times

About the Author

John Fowles (1926-2005) was educated at Oxford and subsequently lectured in English at universities in Greece and the UK. The success of his first novel, The Collector, published in 1963, allowed him to devote all his time to writing. His books include the internationally acclaimed and bestselling novels The Magus, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and Daniel Martin. Fowles spent the last decades of his life on the southern coast of England in the small harbor town of Lyme Regis.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Back Bay Books; Revised edition (January 4, 2001)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 656 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0316296198
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316296199
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.33 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 1.95 x 8.2 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 1,004 ratings

Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
1,004 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on January 30, 2018
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28 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2021
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Reviewed in the United States on October 24, 2018
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Top reviews from other countries

Antonio
4.0 out of 5 stars Fowles Immortalizes the 1950s British Male
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 8, 2017
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42 people found this helpful
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Brooke Fieldhouse
5.0 out of 5 stars The clue to this novel is in its original title, The Godgame.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 15, 2018
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17 people found this helpful
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PhillF
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and Compelling
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 1, 2019
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and Compelling
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 1, 2019
Like several other reviewers, I first read The Magus back in the 60s and was mesmerised by it. A holiday on Spetses, the Greek island on which Phraxos, the island in the story, is based, motivated me to read it again. I’m pleased to say it gripped me just as much as the first time, more so in fact.
Although Fowles has revised it, the story is for the most part the same. Nicholas Urfe, the narrator, is an unpleasant young man: selfish, narcissistic and careless of other people. He’s also an isolate. At a loose end after leaving Oxford he accepts the post of English teacher at a boys’ boarding school on Phraxos (the school is still there, or rather the building that housed it is). Just before he leaves he meets Alison, an Australian free spirit who has a very 1960s attitude to sex. They have a short fling, and Nicholas leaves us with the impression that although he likes her he can put her down, but that she feels more strongly for him.
On Phraxos he meets Maurice Conchis, the magus of the story. Conchis is a mysterious and enigmatic figure. He is obviously immensely wealthy, and he targets Urfe for what it transpires is a bizarre experiment. Over a series of encounters Conchis recounts to Urfe key events in his life, and sets up tableaux and experiences to illustrate these, some of them challenging and some unpleasant. They become increasingly extreme and unsettling to the extent that Urfe is no longer in control of his life - if, of course, he ever was. He becomes obsessed by the world Conchis has created, and he is mystified by what is going on and why. There is a penultimate section in which all is supposed to become clear but doesn’t, and the book ends with a meeting between Urfe and Alison and the question of whether they stay together or not.
Urfe is confused and mystified for most of the book, an experience shared by the reader. One of the things both Urfe and the reader want to know is why Conchis sets up this elaborate performance. The book has been criticised for not answering this, but in reality it’s a pointless question. You might just as well ask why a young boy meets an escaped convict in a churchyard, or why a young woman takes the post of governess for an employer she has never met. The reason why is because if these things didn’t happen there would be no ‘Great Expectations’ or ‘Jane Eyre’. Fiction demands the reader to accept the premise on which the book is based. There’s no right or wrong in this; either the reader does or s/he doesn’t. This accounts for some of the less enthusiastic reviews the book has had.
I enjoyed my second incursion into the book immensely. I was totally absorbed while reading and haunted by it for a time after. So why not 5 stars? The simple answer is that there’s a pretentiousness in some of it that I can’t get over. Urfe, the narrator, is of course a pretentious young man, but I think it’s more down to the author. The reader seems to be expected to have a working knowledge of French, a little Latin and some Greek. Not many people have this. None of us want to be talked down to, but we do want things to be comprehensible, and those who attended schools where classical languages are not on the curriculum have a right to expect translations.
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8 people found this helpful
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bettyparry
4.0 out of 5 stars THE WRONG CLASSIC.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 12, 2020
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2 people found this helpful
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Glyndower
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Fowle's Finest Hour
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 12, 2021
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