"but make it seem possible to the players that you were never in the room in the first place."
Fowles's delirious godgame is a dense, psychological, stylistically impeccable (though a bit too baroque at times) apology of the very ideas of truth and identity. It's a story of deception and manipulation that seems to touch everything at once: sex, symbolism, suicide, tragedy, beauty, war. Each step forward is a guessing game, a charade, a nuanced mystery that captivates the readers and lures them into a narrative that seems to progressively unravel and disclose, but never really does it.
In this unfair game, Fowles (exactly like his Magus) lays down his rules so unmistakably clear, but then throws the dice and stares at us with a grin in his face, waiting for our guess....Continua
Your sense of reality will be totally lost, the 'truth' changes with every page, and you never know what will happen next - and though you expect a total uprooting of everything that has gone on until then, you are always surprised by the actual turn of events. Possibly a bit slow at times, it is still a book I definitely recommend....Continua
This will take a while.
*adopts Nicholas Urfe conceited manners*
I approached this book and found myself feeling like young Urfe does in the story itself. I read spoilers. I knew that the basic idea was later stolen to make a Hollywood blockbuster you have probably seen (and I read, with sadness, that Fowles considered a legal case but decided against it because going against Hollywood lawyers was quixotic for an old British writer).
I even downloaded and watched the 1968 movie, a remarkably shite effort by very good actors (Anthony Quinn re-doing Zorba the Greek, a very young and curiously expressionless Michael Caine in a dead monotone like he can’t wait to have another sex scene or go for another swim on glorious Greek beaches instead of talking philosophical bollocks) – it must be said that the movie did capture the visual atmosphere of the story though, I wouldn’t have imagined the island of Phraxos in any other way, the exaggerated Mediterranean light which “does not purify, but corrodes”. I also knew from Fowles’ previous books that he is prone to tricky plots and, well, mindfucks (try “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”, where the narrator’s point of view and the historical perspective bounce back and forth like tennis balls).
So I approached the book like Urfe approaches the strange Greek billionaire on the island: thinking I could second-guess anything that would happen.
And the beauty of it is how young, pretentious, self-centered Urfe, plunged into a world where reason and reality basically stop, still thinks he’s above it, still wants to tag events with normal names, still tries to reduce the huge spins on the real world to plausible reasons; our human instinct to resize everything to bite-size human dimensions will always make us limited. How laughably proud he feels every time he thinks he has solved a riddle or found a realistic solution to things! Then comes another mad spin on reality, and there he tries to make “human” sense of it again.
Urfe is a despicable anti-hero, a smarmy 25-year-old who feels he's on top, a liar, a cheater who thinks nothing of hurting people, and totally deserves everything that happens to him; you want to see what next amazing/horrible/punishing/ravishing thing happens to him to see if he learns any lessons, but he doesn’t. The reader, who might not be such vermin, feels a certain pleasure in his pain, but also feels a very real and upsetting vertigo caused by being *constantly lied to*. Fowles lies to you all the time. Every time you think the “magician” Conchis is perhaps telling something real, and you cling to it because it’s simply unbearable – at a very primitive, personal level - to be faced with a character who never says anything that can be proven or trusted, he’ll pull the rug from under you with some even madder story, or embellishment, or maybe a flat-out lie disguised as a rational utterance. The feeling of outrage and lack of certainties is nearly physical.
There are myriads of references to occultism, mythologies, symbolisms which I recognize, but am too ignorant on these subjects to understand what they actually mean. It’s frustrating: I just barely grasp that the book can be read at a higher level, but the dozen or so references I do get make me painfully aware of the two hundred references I do not. I felt like I was watching a movie on a black and white Sixties TV, knowing it’s playing in glorious 3D megascreen in a multiplex I’m not allowed in. Experts of occultism and/or myths will probably take a lot more pleasure in this book. It will remain enigmatic to me at that level, unless someone publishes an annotated version, which probably won’t happen because this book is being slowly forgotten.
There are also philosophical questions - and few answers.