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The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
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The Razor's Edge (original 1944; edition 2003)

by W. Somerset Maugham

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4,287701,151 (4.11)218
Member:Marensr
Title:The Razor's Edge
Authors:W. Somerset Maugham
Info:Vintage (2003), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, British, Read, 2003

Work details

The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (1944)

  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. 10
    On a Chinese Screen by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)
  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. 00
    Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: A young man on a journey, both literally and spiritually. Philosophical.
  5. 00
    Collected Short Stories, volume 2 by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)
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» See also 218 mentions

English (64)  Italian (2)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Somerset Maugham advocates renunciation through the voice of his protagonist who visits India in his search for self and finds enlightenment of sorts. I find it very interesting to read Indian philosophy and thought as interpreted by the west. Maugham doesn't claim to have any expertise in this field and he presents the barest outline of the Indian thought. But his characters other than the protagonist are attached to either wealth, love, social status. This attachment leads them to grief. So it is through example that Somerset Maugham puts forth the Indian concept of renunciation. ( )
  _amritasharma_ | Feb 5, 2016 |
"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." —Katha-Upanishad. Maugham seems to imply that if you chose enlightenment over materialism, you will be better off in the long run. Despite the book being a bit dated now, it was remarkably prescient for 1944. As it has been sugggested elsewhere, Maugham, like Hesse knew that we would become fascinated by the East. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
After returning from World War I, Larry Darrell isn’t ready to settle down, get a normal job, and marry his fiancé Isabel. She agrees to wait two years for him as he travels Europe looking for something that some people may describe as spiritual enlightenment. Isabel’s wealthy family is not pleased with Larry’s unwillingness to behave like a normal person and enter society. We learn what happens over the next decade of their lives through a narrator who is an acquaintance of Isabel’s uncle.

I’ve really liked some of Maugham’s other work, but I just didn’t enjoy this novel. The biggest issue was that the narrator was introduced as a casual acquaintance that one of the supporting characters didn’t see very often, yet he somehow always managed to be in a position to know everything that was going on in all of the characters’ lives. This just didn’t work for me. It also didn’t help that Larry was the only character who was even remotely likable.
( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
The characters in this novel are reasonably interesting and mostly realistically portrayed. All of them are also obnoxious in some way, including the narrator, which perhaps assists in making them interesting. Isabel particularly turns out to be more interesting than the ingenue we are led to expect. This book was essentially a character study that was conducted as the characters mostly hung around France and participated in social events. In this respect it felt a lot like a Henry James novel. In the end everybody seems to have gained their desires, basically by just living their lives from whatever perspective their nature and life's circumstances provided.

Though this was a positive reading experience, the most egregious example of unreality was presented in the parts where Larry demonstrates hypnotism. It is inconsistent with reality in that it ends up being more like magic and less like deep relaxation.

Overall, this was a worthwhile book but not even close to approaching the quality in Of Human Bondage. ( )
  karmiel | Aug 22, 2015 |
[Preface to The Selected Novels, Vol. 3, Heinemann, 1953:]

If I had not been in Paris when Guy Davin was being tried for murder and had not managed to worm my way into court Christmas Holiday would never have been written; and if the editor of a popular magazine had not invited me to lunch and asked me to write a story for her I should doubtless never have written Up at the Villa. The Razor’s Edge on the other hand had been in my mind for many years. But in this case also the idea for it would perhaps never have come to me but for an accident. In the very early ‘twenties I happened to be in Chicago and one evening I met at dinner a young man whose name, if I ever knew, I have long forgotten, who somehow or other attracted my attention. He was fairly tall, slender, not particularly good-looking, but with a pleasant face. He had an ingenuous charm and engaging manners, but what chiefly struck me in him was his air of candour. There was something touching about it. I could not but think that he must have a singular sweetness of disposition. He was obviously a general favourite and I ascribed this, perhaps fancifully, to the goodness that he seemed to exhale as a rose its perfume. I have met plenty of young Americans with good manners, a frank expression and good-nature, and I don’t know why the recollection of this one should have lingered with me. I don’t suppose I exchanged a dozen sentences with him and I never saw him again. It was from what I saw of him and what I divined that in the course of years the character of Larry formed itself in my mind, and, as happens in such cases, incidents, fugitive notions, predicaments clustered round this wraith of my imagination to render him more real to me. From time to time something of a thread of narrative suggested itself to me. In 1936 I spent three or four months in India. I had read a good deal of Indian philosophy and had been peculiarly attracted to Hinduism. When I got to India and the Indians to whom I had letters of introduction found that I neither wanted to shoot a tiger, nor to sell anything, but was desirous to meet philosophers, writers and holy men, they were interested and did everything in the world to meet my wishes. I thus came to know persons who were entirely new to my experience and who by their lives and their conversation made a deep impression upon me. What I learnt then fitted in very well with the ideas for a novel that in the course of years I had been slowly evolving. A number of seemingly haphazard circumstances, a cluster of characters, half-forgotten experiences, reminiscences of my own past emerged from I hardly knew where to give shape, coherence and substance to the novel that by now absorbed my thoughts, and in 1942 I began to write it. That was exactly twenty years after I had had that fleeting encounter with the young man in Chicago who became my hero.

I wrote the novel, as I have written more than one of my books and many of my short stories, in the first person, but in this one I boldly used my own name and made myself one of the characters that take part in the action. I did this mainly for two reasons. One was that I thought it lent verisimilitude to my novel. Because my readers knew that I existed, it was not unnatural to suppose that they would think the other persons in the book existed too. That this was the result in many cases I think is shown by the fact that after The Razor’s Edge was published I received a great number of letters from people asking me where Larry was and how they could get in touch with him. They were convinced that he was a real person whom they might get to know. But the more important reason was that the principle persons in my novel, those whom the novel was about, were American. I have told the reader of this preface why in Christmas Holiday I found it necessary to bring into my story a young Englishman and incidentally his father and mother and his most intimate friend. Though I have lived pretty well half my life in France and have had some close French friends, I knew it was impossible for me write about French people with a Frenchman’s instinctive knowledge. I facilitated my undertaking by telling my story through the impression it made on my English hero. Now of course we English know the Americans far better than we can know the nationals of Latin, Slav or Teutonic countries. We speak very much the same language, we play more or less the same games, we read the same books and many of our standards are the same. But there remain differences great and small. They have proved a stumbling-block to the writers of fiction. I have never read an American novel in which English characters appear that struck me as at all convincing. Even Henry James who lived in England so long and knew the English so well to my mind never created an Englishman who seemed quite English. I have read numbers of English novels in which Americans are portrayed. I cannot remember one of whose truth I was persuaded. Even I, with my limited knowledge, knew that Americans were not like that. There was no reason why I should be any luckier than my fellow novelists in England. So I wrote my novel in the first person, as myself, as definitely as if I were writing an autobiography and I presented my American characters to my readers not from the standpoint of omniscience, but merely as I saw them from my English point of view. And in extenuation I may add that if I put myself in The Razor’s Edge the part I gave myself to play is a very small one.
  WSMaugham | Jun 13, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
W. Somerset Maughamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kelk, C.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maddigan, AngelaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, MichaelReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarner, MargaretEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over;
thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.

~ Katha-Upanishad
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140185232, Paperback)

The story of the spiritual odyssey of a young American in search of God.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:34 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Leaving wealth and loved ones behind, Larry Darrell journeys to the mountains of India in search of spiritual wisdom.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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