Author: William Somerset Maugham
Translator: Mu Song
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About This Book
Of Human Bondage (1915) is a novel by William Somerset Maugham.
Generally agreed to be Maugham's masterpiece, it is an autobiographical novel which deals with the life of Philip Carey, who, like Maugham, was orphaned and brought up by his pious uncle. Maugham's severe stutter has been replaced by Philip's clubfoot. The novel takes the form of a bildungsroman, tracing the protagonist's travels to Germany, Paris, and London while exploring his intellectual and emotional development.
In Germany, Phillip is the naive young student whose heart and mind swivels between a romantic English man and a practical American. It is obvious Maugham's sympathy lies with the practical American, though it is clear his alter ego Phillip Carey is more impressed by the romantic English man's roseated view of life.
When Phillip comes back from Germany, he meets a Miss Wilkinson who is a daughter of Phillip's Uncle's colleague. Miss Wilkinson is much older than Phillip but is very flirtatious. Eventually, they agree to a rendez-vous in which it is implicitly understood something sexually intimate is to take place between them. Maugham, and Phillip, leaves it ambiguous as to whether they actually consummated any physical intimacy for he makes clear Phillip is repelled by Miss Wilkinson's body. In the course of their interaction, Phillip treats Miss Wilkinson with disdain and cruelty. This aspect of Phillip's character including his cruelty to Nora, a honorable woman who nursed Phillip emotionally speaking after Mildred deserted him for the umpteenth time, makes clear Maugham's own disdain of any notion of a person who is all good or all evil. One can at most try. Phillip is ultimately the emotional abuser and the emotional abused.
"It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham. He was always so entirely there." -- Gore Vidal
"Here is a novel of the utmost importance. It is a beacon of light by which the wanderer may be guided... One feels as though one were sitting before a splendid Shiraz of priceless texture and intricate weave, admiring, feeling, responding sensually to its colors and tones." -- Theodore Dreiser
"The modern writer who has influenced me the most." -- George Orwell
"One of my favourite writers." -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"A writer of great dedication." -- Graham Greene
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