Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Re-discovery of Somerset Maugham

Everybody knows Somerset Maugham. Even I knew him but never read him! But recently a good thing happened to me. I picked up a Somerset Maugham short stories book and am I glad I did that. For some reason I was prejudiced about Maugham that he would write only serious stuff . But I was mistaken partly. His stories were serious but there is always and undertone of flippancy in them. His writing flows like smooth river which is waiting for a big fall or turn and when that fall or turn does happen you are not left with a shock but a smile on your face. You must read one story of his to understand what I mean . But some stories are quiet touching as well.

The story "Rain"  is like a opera which raises to a crescendo pitch and then falls. The ending will make you feel for the protagonist Sadie Thompson so much and will probably make you hate the men as she does at the end.  I believe this is what Maugham wanted to achieve at the end.  He wanted us to take side of Sadie and we did.  I think his view on morality shows up through this story.  He hated the moral police of his time and his views on sin and immorality was very neutral.  I think that may have come from his childhood and his sexual orientation.  He supported ladies who spoke their mind and who were intellectuals. He somehow portrayed women with strong moral values ("Rain","Jane") as laughing stocks.  And his writing will surely make you less judgmental about morality in general. At least it did that for me.

There are other stories like "Mr.Harrington's Washing" which had Russian Revolution as the backdrop and some memorable characters. The ending is tragic and yet it will just make you say "Oh" and go to the next story. And this is because Maugham builds the story in such a way.

Man-Woman relationship is explored thoroughly in his stories . His dealing of extramarital affairs is so frivolous that you wonder if he had  many extramarital affairs himself. This may bring scornful reaction from many but Maugham somehow puts the plain truth so plainly that you don't suspect him for a minute. He has dealt with other topics like murder, illness and master-slave relationship in somewhat less serious way.

Maugham spent most of his time in Far-East and South Asian countries and hence his stories are all placed in such places. His description of the place make you fall in love with the place and would make your heart desire to see the place.

I would recommend Maugham to anybody who has a classic taste in books.

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