Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Update on that rather cyptic post below

I mentioned The Magus, but did not offer any synapis at all. What poor manners I have.

This is from Amazon:
A novel which explores the complexities of the human mind. On a remote Greek island, Nicholas Urfe finds himself embroiled in the deceptions of a master trickster. Surreal threads weave ever tighter as reality and illusion intertwine in a bizarre psychological game.

Oh, but this is the most brief summary I've ever seen, if you can call it that. It's more like a precis. I lifted it off a link that I got from John Fowles's web page:

An Englishman takes a job at a private school on a Greek island. Local millionaire stages elaborate, almost hallucinogenic, mind games.

Now, that's vague. This Englishman is Nicholas Urfe, and he's been involved with a young woman named Alison, from whom he has just heartlessly semi-broken-up with. In other words, he's stringing her along, just in case he doesn't find anything else out there on the fictional island of Phraxos. Meanwhile, she takes a job as a stewardess, and though she meets lots of people, she remains in love with Nicholas. While Alison is suffering from heartache, however, Nicholas meets a fascinating older gentleman who lives on the island named Maurice Conchis, and becomes involved in a sort of mind altering experiment. Conchis is able to observe much about Nicholas, particularly his treatment of Alison during a weekend visit. It is the way Nicholas views and treats others, especially women, and his selfishness that excite the interest of Conchis, and he and his co-conspirators are able to give Nicholas a real mind-lashing.

There's a much more detailed summary here. It's pretty good.

Anyway, I was afraid that no one else in the group would like it at all, but the discussion was actually a very interesting one, even though I'm sure we're very split about our overall opinions.

We all agreed that what Conchis did was completely unethical, and also that the ending was unsatisfying. We talked a little bit about all the historical and literary allusions in the book. The Tempest was alluded to very often, for instance. Also, there is a nod to Great Expectations, which Fowles expanded only after a student of his pointed it out to him.

No one could fathom how Conchis achieved all these illusions--maybe he really was Prospero. And there was general agreement that it seemed most unusual for a man to go to so much expense and trouble for one subject, at a time--there were others before Nicholas. We all wondered if the previous subject had been drawn into Monkhood because of what had happened to him, and there are many other small mysteries. What was true, what was lie?

The conundrum was that even though Nicholas was able to affect the events of the experiment, he was never in control of the events. It was free will verses hazard. Or was it? At one point, Conchis does hypnotize Nicholas. Has there been a post-hypnotic suggestion?

And, of course, the big question is, what does the ending mean? Yes, it's in Latin, but even after looking up the translation, it can be interpreted in different ways.

Overall, in this group of three women and four men, I'd say that four people definitely liked it, and the others were ambivalent about it. The hostess said, "I don't hate it." I find that admirably vague.


TLP said...

It sounds so very interesting to me!

Doug said...

It really does sound interesting. The latin intimidates me, though.

neva said...

i agree -- it sounds fascinating. and confusing. i actually like to see loose ends tied up at the end of a book, so some of those little details (has Conchis done this before? how did he pull off the tricks in the first place?) would have bothered me. which would have meant i'd have spent a great deal of time reading and re-reading sections to see if there was anything i missed. don't think that hasn't happened on more than one occasion, because it has. Pynchon's Mason & Dixon drove me nuts... and i still don't get some of it. yeesh.

that said, there's NOTHING i hate more than an unsatisfactory ending. nothing. xox

Minka said...

Ok, that sheds a light a bit, although when you mentioned Latin, you took the light right back :)
I am curious now...
I wonder if there are book clubs in Iceland. I think it would be soemthign I like to do...