The Magus

The Magus

by John Fowles


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Widely considered John Fowles's masterpiece, The Magus is "a dynamo of suspense and horror...a dizzying, electrifying chase through the labyrinth of the soul....Read it in one sitting if possible-but read it" (New York Times).
A young Englishman, Nicholas Urfe, accepts a teaching post on a remote Greek island in order to escape an unsatisfactory love affair. There, his friendship with a reclusive millionaire evolves into a mysterious—and deadly—game of violence, seduction, and betrayal. As he is drawn deeper into the trickster's psychological traps, Nicholas finds it increasingly difficult to distinguish past from present, fantasy from reality. He becomes a desperate man fighting for his sanity and his very survival.
John Fowles expertly unfolds a spellbinding exploration of the complexities of the human mind. By turns disturbing, thrilling and seductive, The Magus is a masterwork of contemporary literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316296199
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 01/04/2001
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 81,457
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.90(d)

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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Magus 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
MaxMatters More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books where it seems the author didn't have an ending to the story in mind. The first half of the book does a good job of developing the plot and characters. It then seems to wander aimlessly with subplots that never connect with the rest of the theme. The "trial" is a low point - a macaber element right out of a Steven King novel - unnecessary it seems to the story for nothing would change if it were left out. The whole episode with "Nygaard" never makes its way to an understanding by the reader of why it is even in the book. Finally, there's "Jojo" a meaningless character at the end of the novel who meanders into the story only to meander right back out. It all leaves the reader disappointed with the way the book just ends; never explaining anything of what has taken place. The main character of "Maurice Conchis" just disappears....leaving the reader begging for an explanation. It never comes, neither does a satisfactory ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was my introduction to Fowles, and I was not disappointed. Even though the plot line may be a bit too fanciful for some, the depth and complexity of the main character, Nicholas, is unsurpassed. Fowles creation is up there with the greatest characters of all time. At least in our day and age, a Nicholas Urfe is more human than say Hamlet and just as human as anyone from Yoknapatawpha. As others have noted, reading the novel can lead to introspection, which may actually change the way you perceive life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Without a doubt, this is the most uneven novel I have ever read. Fowles gives the reader flashes of great talent and moments of incredulity. The Magus will chill you, inspire you, anger you, and leave you wishing you could recover the twelve hours invested. Do not let this deter you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is fabulous. I have read it twice during different periods of my life and each time I came out of it with a different interpretion of the writer's message. This is a great choice for people in book clubs. The discussions that come out of reading The Magus are rich.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Books that have a mysterious and intriguing character usually fail to deliver on the early promise of that character. Bellows couldn't deliver on the witch doctor in Henderson, the Rain King. The psychiatrist in I Never Promised You a Rose Garden had great potential, but that potential never went anywhere. Conchis, however, is the mysterious character of this novel -- a man whose mysteries made the novel impossible to put down since virtually every chapter ended with yet another cliff-hanger to keep the pages turning. It has been over twenty years since I read the novel, but I still recall it far more vividly than last night's TV drama or yesterday's book. I even recall my dread as I read: 'I'll keep on pressing forward, looking for some kind of explanation, and the author is going to cheat me.' Fowler kept his promises. It was a great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is no way to distill this book in a few sentences. It is at once an incredibly ambitious novel of ideas and a compelling narrative of love, lust and betrayal told with Fowles' characteristic lyrical grace. Worth reading and rereading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like Buckminster Fuller attempting to put Einstein's theories into practical use, John Fowles confronts the lofty tenets of existentialism and applies them to life in the fragmeneted 'wasteland' of the Twentieth Century. This is a novel stuffed with ideals: the nature of freedom and responsibility, relationships between women and men, the lost or unseen God, war, a mystery, and more...maybe too much more. Primarily, this is a book for twenty-something readers who want to walk painstakingly, inch by inch, through the pains of superficial sex and false love. But like Nicholas Urfe, the main character who continues to return to the masque, only a few of the elect will return to play the 'godgame.' In my opinion this is John Fowles best novel. It is difficult, exasperating, and profound. It is a novel for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: a primer for those who crave freedom (eleutheria), and understand the responsibilities of being able to choose to do all and the personal freedom to not do all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A deadly combination of a book that you don't really like - but you can't put down. I'm pretty sure that this ambivalence is the author's intent. You dislike the main character - but you hate to see him getting mentally abused. The 'villian' is conniving and untrustworthy - but he's likable and interesting. The love interest is a disloyal, manipulative shrew - but you don't question why Urfe is falling in love. Finally, the story has you craving for a climactic and enlightening ending - and [let's just say the trend above holds]. In the end I was kicking myself for wasting that much time reading this book - but at the same time, I couldn't quit thinking about it. Probably 5 star quality - but only giving 3 stars because I'm still mad that I was duped.
opiatewave on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book to me with a wink and a warning that I would be thoroughly shocked about two-thirds of the way through it. This is a pretty good psychological thriller with wildly surreal situations in it. It's also highly sensual and convincing. I never saw the movie adaptation of it, having been advised not to by that same friend, although I can visualize this story and piece together Nicholas' rapidly deconstructing reality. The most interesting aspect of this story is the complete lack of a convincing "why" - why did these things happen to Nicholas and for what reason? Fowles offers a few plausible explanations, yet moves the story along, forcing the reader to rethink those lines of logic. In the end - and I loved the end, as it felt like a curtain going down on an incomplete scene - readers are still left with that nagging question. A bold gamble, given the scope of this novel. But quite fitting. I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in psychological suspense/thrillers.
PrincessPaulina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
* NO SPOILERS WERE USED IN THE WRITING OF THIS REVIEW! *Individuals like Nicholas from the Magus are common among my generation of hedonistic urbanites: self-centered slackers out for themselves, with no morals or principles guiding their actions.In the Magus, one such "modern" (read "self-centered") individual finds himself stuck on a small Greek island, where he becomes entangled in an eccentric millionaire's mysterious web of games and deceit.I know many people like Nicholas, and I wish that this book were required reading on the road to adulthood! The lessons of love and selflessness that Fowles presents are priceless, and may otherwise take some people a lifetime to grasp. Not to mention the many other gems of wisdom making this a book to be read, and re-read, and re-read..
diabhal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I slogged through this book hoping it would get better. It has a mystery element which forces you to keep reading. But by the end you realise that you've wasted hours of you life on a 500 page misogynistic diatribe. I think this is my least favourite book of all time.
kohsamui on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The smallest hope, a bare continuing to exist, is enough for the anti-hero's future; leave him, says our age, leave him where mankind is in its history, at a crossroads, in a dilemma, with all to lose and only more of the same to win; let him survive, but give him no direction, no reward..."- The Magus.This is the story of Nicholas Urfe, a loner from Oxford who spends a year teaching English on a remote island in Greece. On this island he meets a mysterious cast of characters set on teaching him a moral lesson through dramatics and trickery. This is the worst book that I have read in my life. The characters are flat stereotypes and wholly impossible to like. The plot is an absurd stringing together of amateur sex scenes designed to please the teenage boys that are the obvious target audience of this piece of nonsense. From the countless descriptions of azure water, to the corny junior high school stock characters such as the young, blonde, nymphet identical twins June and Julie, to the comical pseudo-intellectual babble- this book was pure juvenile tedium.
CarlosMcRey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Magus is the first novel written by an obviously talented writer. If that sounds a bit like damning with faint praise, that's because it is. Every once in a while, you encounter a work that seems as if it should make for great art. There's obviously talent and intelligence on the artist's side, and the work itself does not appear to lack for ambition. Yet what comes out seems to lack a certain vitality, to seem impressive more for its ambition than its actual achievements. The Magus is the story of a callow Englishman who is teaching on a small Greek island, where he is drawn into some strange psychological games by one of the inhabitants of the island. Nicholas Urfe is our protagonist, an emotionally stunted womanizer getting over an affair with an Australian air hostess, who takes a teaching position at a Greek academy on the island of Phraxos. He has been warned by a former teacher about a certain gentleman who owns a large estate on the island. Despite this warning (or perhaps because of it), he meets up with said gentleman, Conchis and becomes involved in odd philosophical and psychological games. The set up is ripe for fascinating explorations of character or philosophy, and the story is full of mythological and literary allusions. However, for all it's apparent brilliance, it never really manages to achieve the kind of mind-bending exploration of truth or human nature that it seems to have set out for itself. Despite the novel's many references to Othello and The Tempest, to me this felt more like a case of Much Ado About Nothing. All of what should make the novel fascinating, it's psychophilosophical speculation, its many allusions, its labrynthine structure, ultimately work against it. The psychological exploration reaches an interesting point in a flashback encounter between a rational man and an overwhelming evil, but then that gives way to one bored cad's inability to commit to his girlfriend. The novel's many allusions to literature, to art, to mythology and occultism reach a level of oversaturating, creating the impression that they exist in the novel not so much for their fidelity to the plot but because the author wanted to show that they could be worked into the plot. And, worst of all, the twisty narrative ultimately twists into itself. I have simple criteria for what makes an effective plot twist: it must create the impression of being both unexpected and inevitable. The twists in The Magus may be largely unexpected, but there is nothing inevitable about them. And without inevitability, a twist is just artificial, a transparent attempt at tricking the reader. The result, then, is of a plot that is not organic so much as mechanical.For the novel to work as it should, Nicholas should serve as a proxy for the reader. We should feel some thrill or relief when Nicholas has managed to get things his way, feel a sinking feeling when events move unexpectedly outside his control. But neither the character nor the plot ever really allow for that degree of investment.If I may delve into the analogy of a horror movie (because horror is the least of the genres), when Nicholas goes to open the door into the haunted house, there should be a feeling of, 'No, don't open that door!' Instead, the feeling is one of, 'C'mon, open the freakin' door; I want to see the kind of CGI they used on the monster.'Most grating is that Nicholas keeps asserting that he has things in hand, that he understands Conchis' scheme, and that he's not going to let himself be manipulated anymore. Seriously, you could change his name to Nicholas Dumbass (with an aside from Nick regarding how he liked to claim he was descended from the French Dumas) without in any way decreasing my estimation of his intelligence. As a reader, it seemed clear the twists were designed to be impossible to guess beforehand. (Warning: I'm going to start tossing out spoilers here.) Perhaps most dissapointing was the way that the artificiality of the story
jenandgidon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Men might really like this book. Women, not so much.
Diwanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty good book although not my standard fare. I metaphysical mind freak set on a beautiful Greek Island.
mircealungu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
the book is fun and i must admit today it grabbed me to the point where i could not put it down until the end. until a point, it was really nice how how each time the protagonist thought he got hold of the reality, he would discover that there was another meta-level at which what he thought was true was actually not. after a while however, this game became a bit boring... also the end is kind of a putdown since not too much is resolved, and what is resolved, is predictable ... i would daresay that the last part should be rewritten somehow :)nevertheless, it was an enjoying read.
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

Fabulously long, it needed to be to fit it all in. I'm not quite sure where to start describing this without giving it all away. If I could give it all away because I'm not quite sure I understood it all, or even if it all could be understood.

It's the story of Nicholas Urfe, twenty something in 1952, ends up as the English master in a Greek boys school. Life on the Greek island gets all a bit odd, to put it mildly.

I did find it a trifle slow to get going, but knew enough about Fowles' writing to know that it wasn't going to be a straightforward story. I could probably have left it anytime in the first couple of hundred pages (of 600) but not in the last couple of hundred when I couldn't turn the pages over fast enough.

Definitley an author I'll be reading more of.

Idiom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My English teacher told me I was ready for this when I was 15. It changed my life in so many ways and without my realising, pushed me into the career that I'm in. I've visited it again and again so many times. Men as Gods; Gods as men. The magic of the Mediterranean and travelling and how we sometimes need to go away to come closer to understanding ourselves. Has always informed my dreams and still does. This book truely became a part of me.Deep down, I have always been Nicholas and I want Conchis to play with my mind as well. Leant my first copy to my best friend 20 years ago and he's still got it and hasn't read it! Leant my second copy to an ex-girlfriend who never gave it back. Leant my third copy to someone who covered in with suntan lotion (you know who you are!).Now, I wait with impatience for the day when my child becomes 15 and I say: I think you are ready for this now.
Myhi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is maybe the most popular of Fowles - an Oscar movie being written after it (Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn).A maze of unanswered questions and unexpected happenings, that could drive anybody crazy; a game of a diabolic mind... with some twin sisters and a guy, on an exotic island in Greece. Another masterpiece of psychology, but a very captivating story in the same time.
CasualFriday on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A painfully frustrating read. Beautifully written and often suspenseful and engrossing. I think some of the philosophizing is less than it appears and seems somewhat dated. But what really bothered me was the frustration of the continual lies that Nicholas is told. The effect on the reader is like a night-long bad dream where you 're trying to get somewhere -- or get away from someone -- and you keep running into obstacles, and the dream gets sidetracked into something else, and you run into obstacles there, too, and on and on and on, until you wake up, exhausted.
rareflorida on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Catch-22. The plot device twists like Hellers novel. Puritans would probably want to ban this book but the funny thing is that the redemption of a bed-hopper could be one of the moral interpretations. Many issues are addressed in the book while the symbolism and literary referances add to the thesis worthiness of this novel. It could easily be seen as long and tedious but I believe it is worth the effort..
markalanlaidlaw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book left a pungent cloud of unease and strangeness about me for at least a week; rather like Murakami, the mans a wizard.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is filled with strange and interesting happenings, which could be either psychological mindgames or supernatural events. I was filled with rage and disappointment when I reached the end and realised that all the confusing events surrounding the protagonist were just to teach him to be nice to his girlfriend!!! As I had taken it away with me as holiday reading, I gave the book away to another holidaymaker.
RicDay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A classic as soon as it was published, I read this twice before Fowles released his revised version with the changed ending. I prefer this version, because and not despite of the greater ambiguity.
SamuelW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a woefully impatient reader. I have zero tolerance for wasted words, literary flab, narrative bush beating. I like short books and have been known to dislike long ones. My trite complaint of every other classic I read ¿ Dracula, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, Lolita, To Kill a Mockingbird ¿ is that they could have, and should have, been shorter. But somehow I fell in love with John Fowles' The Magus, which stretches to some seven hundred pages and took me twenty three hours of solid reading time (according to the Kobo app on my iPad.)It helps that the writing is not at all flabby. Fowles skims the surface of life for the ripest details and uses them to evoke feelings, settings, people. Our narrator, Nicholas, contributes much of the charm; he's a bit egotistical and curt, but you can't help but smile as he dispatches minor characters with damning little epithets ¿ 'spectacles, rather fat, too much lipstick'. He is the listless, angst-ridden teenager who somehow manages never to whine at you or waste your time. When he takes up a teaching post in the Greek Islands, and meets a remarkable old man who invites him to spend each weekend at his house, Nicholas functions as a stand-in for the reader, becoming hypnotised by the mysteries of Conchis' invented realm and constantly hungering for more.Fowles' world is immersive, alluring; brilliantly real and brilliantly unreal. What makes The Magus so enjoyable is the pleasure of being under the spell of a writer who knows what he is doing, and is content to do it without pomp, pretentiousness, or even obvious purpose. Like Nicholas, the reader is blindfolded and led through a labyrinth. Fowles throws in twist after twist; as soon as the reader begins to feel comfortable with the new status quo, the bottom falls out of the story yet again. I have never read a novel that ties itself up in so many knots, and I loved every minute of it.For those who are not as well read as Fowles, it can be difficult to keep one's feet in a sea of allusions to classic plays, novels, myths and works of art. But the relentless references draw our attention to the nature of the story world that Fowles is weaving for us. We can almost feel him mocking Conchis, who denounces fiction as useless, asking 'Why should I struggle through hundreds of pages of fabrication to reach half a dozen very little truths?' Far from being a meaningless fabrication, The Magus is a novel that self-consciously examines the incredible powers of fiction.So I would highly recommend The Magus: the longest book I have ever read, and the first long book I have ever loved (excluding the later Harry Potter books, which don't count.)