The Magician


Book: The Magician

Author: W. Somerset Maugham

Publisher: Vintage

Pages: 233

Format Read: Paperback

Now this was interesting.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, in Paris, the cynical and self-proclaimed rational doctor, Arthur Burdon, meets a corpulent and vicious magician called Oliver Haddo. In the beginning, Arthur finds Haddo comical and worthy of contempt, in spite of his friend Dr. Porhoet’s observations that there is more to the man than it seems. Haddo manages to impose his sinister presence on Arthur’s acquaintances, and then his fiancée Margaret. And Margaret, though repulsed by Haddo, finds him fascinating at the same time…

…and so begins the story of “The Magician.”

There is a lot of occult terminology in here, and black magic. And of course, Haddo himself is based on the magician Aleister Crowley (who, after having read the book was annoyed at the depiction of himself and reviewed it). The introduction to the Vintage edition, titled ‘A Fragment of Autobiography’ gives some insights into the book by the author himself.

What made “The Magician” intriguing for me was the black magic and its hold over the innocent. Haddo’s power is absolute, it cannot be resisted, it cannot be brushed aside or pushed away. Or it seems like that anyway to those caught in his web of nightmares. At first, the magnetic nature of the man draws people to him – but it’s a peculiar attraction that fascinates and disgusts them. Arthur dislikes Haddo on sight, and apparently so does Margaret. But the magician’s power is such that he can bend wills and no rational man can stand in his way. Or so he thinks.

The evil nature of Haddo certainly overshadows everything else in this book – the man is very well portrayed. Arthur, having lost his fiancée in a bizarre series of events to Haddo tries to win her back. As for Margaret, she is innocent, and suddenly, mysteriously seductive, loyal, then disloyal, sweet natured, sharp tongued, and unpredictable. You know, exactly as a thrall of a black magician would behave.

It was fascinating, this book, and very readable.


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