Saturday, March 01, 2008

William Somerset Maugham

One of the most interesting short story writers in the twentieth century must be William Somerset Maugham. Born January 25, 1874, in Paris, France and died on December 16, 1965 in Nice France, at a fantastically ripe old age of 91 Maugham had taken me across continents, cultures and a beautiful language through his books, and especially his short stories. Many of his writings have been made into films, which I equally enjoy throughout the years.

A few facts about him :

He visited Sarawak in 1921.

He was extremely well paid in the 1930's.

Maugham came from a family of lawyers. His father was an English lawyer handling the legal affairs of the British embassy in Paris. His grandfather was also a prominent lawyer and cofounder of the English Law Society and his older brother, Viscount Maugham was Lord Chancellor between 1938–9.

Maugham's mother Edith Mary (née Snell) suffered from TB and died when he was eight. Two years later his father died.

He was raised by his uncle, Henry MacDonald Maugham, the Vicar of Whitstable, in Kent.

He was bullied in school because he was small in size and had an emotional stammer.

He was a medical student at King's College London when he started his writing life. He wrote,"I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief..." Maugham saw how corrosive to human values suffering was, how bitter and hostile sickness made people, and never forgot it. Here, finally, was "life in the raw" and the chance to observe a range of human emotions.

He was one of the earliest travel-writers in the world. He travelled and lived in places such as Spain and Capri, the Far East and Sarawak.

There is no grave for Maugham. His ashes were scattered near the Maugham Library, The King's School, Canterbury.

A must read book by him : Of Human Bondage.

My interest in his works are those short stories dealing with the lives of Western, mostly British, colonists in the Far East, and are typically concerned with the emotional toll exacted on the colonists by their isolation. Read Rain, Footprints In The Jungle, and The Outstation. Others : The Gentleman In The Parlour, On A Chinese Screen.

Like all writers, he received good and bad publicity. Anthony Burgess,George Orwell , Paul Theroux, were somewriters who praised Maugham.

He was a secret agent in Russia during World War I

Maugham was ruthless in his description of his women characters who "for the sake of sex would sacrifice any thing, yet for the sake of position and wealth, would do nothing."

Some one wrote of him ''To be a man of the world, to be acquainted with all sorts of different people, to be tolerant, to be curious, to have a capacity for enjoyment, to be the master of a clear and unaffected prose style -- these are great advantages.''

Readers will continue to read and discover more about him. But in my own life I have enjoyed his writing. Most important of all, he had been able to record a little bit of our Sarawakian social history and people just from his short stay in Kuching.

He must still be haunting the descendants of his bullies in Canterbury now. Smile....

1 memories:

sintaicharles said...

I am also a fan of Maugham.


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