I had the book, Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham in my bookshelf for a long time. I don’t even remember when and where I purchased it. I had made some years back to read the classics and then never got around to reading the many classics that I purchased. Just last week, out of a sense of duty, I picked up Maugham’s book and made up my mind to read a few pages every day. And I was in for a treat.
Maugham’s book has been called a work of genius and I well agree with that judgment. One critic asked, “Why did he write only one book that was so full of candour and human warmth.” Maugham replied, ” Because I have lived only one life. It took me thirty years of living to possess material for that one book.”
Descriptive passages filled with insights are there on almost every page and yet the book can be skimmed through as it tells a very engaging story. I have finished only a hundred pages and I have materials enough for many blog posts. And the book has not even started the main course, which is that of the protagonist being a slave to sexual desire which leads him to true self-discovery.
I have quoted from Maugham’s book in one earlier post. I will quote again on the subject of reading. It may be clubbed as some of the perils of reading that I referred to in an earlier blog post.
Phillip had few friends. His habit of reading isolated him: it became such a need that after being in company for some time he grew tired and restless; he became vain of the wider knowledge he had acquired from the perusal of so many books, his mind was alert and he had not the skill to hide his contempt for his companions’ stupidity. They complained that he was conceited and since he excelled only in matters which to them were unimportant, they asked satirically what he had to be conceited about. He was developing a sense of humour and found that he had a knack of saying bitter things which caught people on the raw; he said them because they amused him, hardly realizing how much they hurt, and was much offended when his victims regarded him with active dislike.
Here is another passage that I found meaningful and I hope others will as well. Phillip – the protagonist – has a physical deformity, a club foot. His headmaster – when he was in school – spoke to him regarding that and said:
“I wonder if you are not over-sensitive about your misfortune. Has it ever struck you to thank God for it?
“As long as you accept it rebelliously it can only cause you shame. But if you can look upon it as a cross that was given you to bear only because your shoulders are strong enough to bear it, a sign of God’s favour, then it would be a source of happiness to you instead of misery.”
I’ll end here. Hope this helps someone. Read Somerset
Maugham if you can – despite the serious nature of the novel it is easy reading
and can be skimmed through. Please explore this blog for more articles on
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