In Memory of Somerset Maugham

 In December it will be 46 years since Maugham died. He did not expect to live long. In 1938, at the age of 64, believing that his writing carrier was over and days numbered, he published his famous book, Summing Up. It was meant to be an epitome of his life, a reflection on all his wisdom acquired through his experiences. Oddly, he lived 27 years more, and died at the age of 91, his fame as bright then as it had been before Summing Up was published.

It is hard to relate this book to any known genre of literary work. For some reviewers it seems like an autobiography, as it is very personal. But autobiography, as we know it, is about the actual events in the life of a person, possibly with some interpretations and explanations. In Summing Up Maugham does not tell the story of his life in an autobiographical sense. The book cannot be called a memoir either, as it is not a recollection of facts, people and places. It is a deeply philosophical book; however, it has some elements of an autobiography and memoir. We may call it a spiritual and intellectual autobiography, with a philosophical and psychological analysis of his own life. It is an attempt to comprehend and share his understanding of human life in general, to reflect on the significance of the time he lived in, and to share his views and beliefs.

There are reviewers who do not praise him as high as his readers. Some even remark that his vocabulary is not rich enough compared with the famous writers of the century. For literary snobs, the use of archaic or not widely used words is indicative of literary quality. In fact, Maugham’s vocabulary is rich; his style is elegant, yet clear and understandable to readers of all intellectual levels. He is a master of plot and suspense: that is why he is still as popular in the 21st century as he was in the 20th  century. In the last few years, two great movies were produced in adaptation of his novels, The Magician and The Painted Vail. His plays are often staged at Shaw Festival in Niagara on theLake, and in theatres all over the world.

His homosexuality often stood in the way of acceptance by many people from different walks of life. After his death in 1965, the world and its mores changed. Now we judge Somerset Maugham not by his behaviour or lifestyle, but by his work. His literary heritage still shines and will likely stay alive for many years to come, in spite of the flood of new books clogging the market and people’s minds.

    Zulu Man

One Response to “In Memory of Somerset Maugham”
  1. i love your blog, i have it in my rss reader and always like new things coming up from it.

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