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Sunday, June 2, 2024

W. Somerset Maugham's 'The Magician'


Speaking of Standard Ebooks, as I was yesterday, the group also has issued an edition of The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham. I plan to read it this month and compare notes with a friend. Here is the description of the book at Standard Ebooks:

"In Paris, surgeon Arthur Burdon and his fiancé are introduced to Oliver Haddo, a wealthy Englishman from an old family who claims to be a magician trained in the occult. At first they are unconvinced and irritated by Haddo’s boasts; however he soon demonstrates his powers in more and more fateful ways.

"The character of Oliver Haddo is an unflattering caricature of the English occultist Alistair Crowley, whom Maugham had met while living in Paris. Crowley himself wrote a review in Vanity Fair in which he accused Maugham of plagiarizing various other novels, signing off as 'Oliver Haddo.' Most critics dismissed these allegations."

Does anyone know if Robert Anton Wilson read The Magician


Lvx15 said...

I’ve never read it but been aware of it for a long time. Hope you’ll share yr thoughts on it.

I selected a Bertrand Russell book to read from the list. RAW def read Russell’s OUR KNOWLEDGE OF
THE EXTERNAL WORLD as he mentions in quantum psychology in the section on how many heads one has. That book of Russell’s can be found at project Gutenberg.

That part of QP impressed me only on second reading, where I had a direct experience of what was being conveyed. Later in life, when I encountered Dzogchen, that part of QP seemed like pointing out instructions. Did that effect others in that way, I’ve since wondered.

Oz Fritz said...

I don't recall RAW mentioning The Magician but suspect he did read it. I have not and also am interested inyour impressions of the book apart from the AC caricature.

A passage in Finnegans Wake suggests the Crowley/Haddo image with the word "shaddo":

"Ah, in unlitness 'twas in very simlitude, bless me, 'twas his belted lamp! Whom we dreamt was a shaddo, sure he's lightseyes, the laddo!" (p. 404)

The contrast between light and shadow suggests to me that Crowley seemed regarded as dark on the exterior while his work on the inside attempts to bring light into the world. Crowley seems like Haddo: "in unlitness 'twas in very simlitude ..." The "belted lamp" recalls the lantern the Hermit in the Tarot carries underneath his cloak. This also fits the image of dark on the outside, light inside.

I kind of doubt Joyce intended this parallel though you never know, Maugham was a contemporary writer and they both lived in Paris, I believe, and probably travelled in the same literary circles.

Eric Wagner said...

Crowley included "The Magician" in one of his reading lists, so it would not surprise me if Bob read it.

chad said...

Looking forward to your review of it!