Critical Essay on The Magus by John Fowles
John Fowles is considered to be one of the modern classics of the British literature, although it always eluded me why – all his texts I managed to read had only one thing in common – by the end they never brought about any feelings except for general boredom and disgust for its protagonists. The Magus is in no way different.
Following the experience of one Nicholas Erfe on a Greek island of Phraxos and his encounter with a wealthy intellectual Maurice Conchis who introduces him to a series of obscure and almost meaningful masques, it represents in itself a never ending row of mystifications: time after time Conchis fools Nicholas into believing that the strange things happening on Phraxos are what he believes them to be, simply to take everything apart a second later. And what is the most painful aspect, Nicholas falls for it every single time; even after being fooled five times or more, he doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes.
As I have said, it all seems as if it has some deeper meaning; but, to tell you the truth, in the end this deeper meaning turns out to be so commonplace that it is ridiculous to assume that demonic Conchis would have spent so much time and money simply to make Nicholas understand something so banal. Some elements of the book show the features of other writers, such as Kafka, but it is what it is – nothing more than a painful, laborious imitation of Kafka and others.
Being reduced to a half of its length, The Magus would have made a good detective novel; but as it is, trying to be deeply philosophical, it is simply ludicrous.