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The Razor's Edge (1944)

by W. Somerset Maugham

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,2251031,440 (4.09)263
Leaving wealth and loved ones behind, Larry Darrell journeys to the mountains of India in search of spiritual wisdom.
  1. 10
    Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (anabela_aguiar)
    anabela_aguiar: Um dos melhores livros sobre a chegada da idade adulta e todos os factores que influenciam a nossa actuação nesta sociedade.
  2. 00
    Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius by Ray Monk (JuliaMaria)
  3. 00
    The Fires of Autumn by Irène Némirovsky (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: Both Némirovsky and Maugham look at the effects of World War I on individuals and on social values. Both are fine novels.
  4. 11
    On a Chinese Screen by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)
  5. 00
    The Collected Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, Vol. 2 by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)
  6. 00
    Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: A young man on a journey, both literally and spiritually. Philosophical.

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» See also 263 mentions

English (94)  Italian (3)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (103)
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I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!

First, a word about this edition. I suspect that this was printed by a small company - maybe it's a one-person company - that prints books out of copyright. There are signs within the text itself that suggest that another book was scanned and then arranged in a new format with a different font. What I noticed were a couple of words that are easily misinterpreted by scanners because of the way the letters look, and some hyphenated words where the hyphen is in the middle of the line. That is, words that are only hyphenated when they are split between two lines of text.

Then there is this odd classification. This publisher offers "success classics", "prosperity classics", "spiritual classics" and "political classics". All "classics" because they've been out of print so long.

I knew nothing about The Razor's Edge when I bought it. Heard of it for years but never knew what it was about.

Maugham tells the story in the first person, using his real name. So we might wonder if some or all of it is true. I don't know what his purpose was in choosing this method. But I would never suspect any of it is true, in spite of the fact that in chapter one he says "I have invented nothing".

Maugham meets Larry Darrell in 1919, in Chicago. Larry is a veteran of WWI ("The Great War"), a pilot who enlisted when he was underage. What he encountered in the war caused him to see the world differently than he had before. While still in love with Isabel, a woman who would probably have been called a young socialite, he no longer shared her values. Neither realized just how far apart they were, though, so when Larry impetuously says he's headed for Germany for a year or two or more, Isabel says she will wait for him.

When they meet again their differences are more noticeable. Isabel has to make a choice between Larry, whom she still loves deeply, and another man who will give her a good life, a life she can understand.

So what is going on? Larry is on a mission. He is looking for another way to live. He eventually goes to India and is much taken by a form of Buddhism. He lives for a while with a mentor who teaches him how to live less materially, more spiritually.

So that's the bones of the story. It reminded me, I have to say with horror, of Ayn Rand's so-called novels. Rand preached "Objectivism" through her books, and rather with a heavy hand. Her characters were far from subtly drawn, with the evil do-gooders clashing with the selfish supermen. The supermen were the heroes. Maugham's characters are more nuanced and none are all good or all bad, but there was the same sense that they were forced into certain actions to suit Maugham's perception of their different ways of life. Thus near the end he mourns his longtime friend Elliott Templeton because Templeton had worshiped social standing at the expense of all else, even his health. Maugham says Templeton's life was useless. But was it? He was a kind man who did much for others. That may not be as lofty as giving yourself to a selfless existence but it is not useless. I felt he dealt with other characters in a similar way, with some care but overall a kind of disgust.

It's a good book for discussion. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
"Have you never thought of divorcing Gray?"
"I've got no reason for divorcing him."
"That doesn't prevent your countrywomen from divorcing their husbands when they have a mind to."
She laughed.
"Why do you suppose they do it?"
"Don't you know? Because American women expect to find in their husbands a perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers."
( )
  beautifulshell | Aug 27, 2020 |
Suspended! ( )
  martinhughharvey | Aug 12, 2020 |
This book stays with you, whispering, "Are you searching for meaning in life?" It remains in a special place in my library.

The cover page sets the stage with this quote: “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” — Katha-Upanishad. ( )
  LJCain | Jul 16, 2020 |
You're beginning to dislike me, aren't you? Well, dislike me. It doesn't make any difference to me now. ( )
  SolangePark | Jul 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maugham, W. Somersetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kelk, C.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maddigan, AngelaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martone, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, MichaelReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarner, MargaretEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over;
thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.

~ Katha-Upanishad
First words
I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. If I call it a novel it is only because I don't know what else to call it.
A mother only does her children harm if she makes them the only concern of her life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Leaving wealth and loved ones behind, Larry Darrell journeys to the mountains of India in search of spiritual wisdom.

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