Book #67: The Magus

Reading John Fowles’ The Magus may well have been one of the oddest reading experience of my life. 

I’m going to paraphrase something one of my college professors said about John Keats’ poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” because it’s fitting: It sucks into it and turns you around so much that, wen you get to the end, you aren’t sure just where you are. You don’t know what happened. You don’t even know which way is up.

That’s how I felt when I finished The Magus.

Basically, a young Englishman named Nicholas Urfe, bored and directionless after graduating from Oxford, winds up accepting a job teaching English at a boys’ school on a remote Greek island. There, he meets Conchis, a reclusive, enigmatic millionaire whose trickery and cleverness land Nicholas in the middle of a “godgame” that tests everything he thought was real.

There’s so much going on in  The Magus that it’s impossible to truly know what’s happening. It has people who are presumed dead come back to life; people are maybe-possibly-actors, are maybe-possibly-crazy, were actually dead all along, are actually someone else, are actually who they say they are, might be part of the game, might not be part of the game, or might not even exist at all.

Read this book, and I promise, by the end, you’ll have absolutely no idea where to look for reality. I re-read parts of it a few times, I’ve read reviews and other people’s comments on it, and I’m still not sure what happened. I’m not even sure what I think happens.

Basically, The Magus is the textbook definition of a mind-fuck read. And I loved it.

Read it. It will make you question reality, how you perceive things, and the many different forms fiction can take. Read it late at night. Preferably, like I did by candle light when the power goes off in your shitty apartment for the 4th night in 6 days. Read it in one sitting. Don’t ever stop reading until you’re finished and wondering what the hell just happened. It will be the most fun you’ve had with a book in awhile.

I dare you to try and unravel the godgame.

Rating: *****
Up Next: Death In Venice


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