Title : The Razor’s Edge
Author : W.Somerset Maugham
Publisher : Pocket Books
Genere:Soul searching/Nirvana/Spiritual adventure
“He had a way that always amused me of being with you one moment and without explanation gone the next.It was so abrupt;it was almost as if he had faded into the air.”
Wandering in the streets of Kolkata I laid my hands on this book and call it serendipity, I found another book in harmony to my perceptions,the belief that ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the life of the spirit, selflessness and renunciation.This is my first novel by the author though I have read many short stories by him and I have,”On human Bondage” resting on my shelf and will read it soon.The language and narrative is simple but there is a charm in Maugham’s writing, probably the ability to vividly describe the setting,characters and present the content both mysteriously and profoundly.Written as a first person narrative this is one book for the soul searchers.
We live in a society where success is clubbed with money,education and high standards of living. I am not against these ideals nor does this book preach so.We come across success stories daily and at one point of time even try to script a success story of our own.The author has tried to write a story of a man who by social measures is ordinary,of no social consequence. Larry our protagonist is in his early twenties and has just returned from a war after two years.He is introduced to the author by Elliot(I will introduce him in a greater detail) and then over a course of 10 years he has many chance meetings with Larry.
The author had know Elliot Templeton for over 15 years and as far as this novel goes Elliot plays an important role in linking the characters.A remarkable man with lots of contacts and impeccable knowledge of material things like works of art, furniture, decorative, hotels , wine and so on.He was what in contemporary settings we associate with a middle man.Helpful,obliging,hospitable and generous were some characteristic traits he used to his advantage to secure his means.Many people called him a snob and ridiculed him and still associated with him.The sporadic meetings of the author with Elliot is an important part in writing of this book.
As a young man we hardly think of faith and rarely does the question,”Faith vs fame?” bog us.For Larry life was great,he was in love with Isabel a very attractive lady,was offered to work in a big company and had the comforts of America.If he would have chosen this path he would definitely be what the society perceives as being successful.Instead he takes a different course of action to seek happiness.There is a strong contrast between him and Isabel, though both loved each other Isabel could not part with the comforts of her life while Larry tried to cut off from material world.They separated and took different courses of life.While Larry took to lot of reading,travelling and hard labor she chose to marry a rich husband and high societal living.
The book has many varied characters interesting in their own way and consequential to the plot as well. To name a few were Kosti,Ellie,Frau Becker,Suzzane and Sophie.Larry recognized a lot of reading as a method of liberation and when tired he resorted to hard labor in a coal mine in farms and as mechanic.He traveled and went to India where he got enlightened. When he returned back he had a sense of charm and quiet which made him fun to converse with.He could control his temptations and at the same time meet people without being attached to them.The book also in a chapter discusses Hinduism and Nirvana.His quest for happiness did not end in attaining the knowledge of the supreme but eventually in serving and he took a very different path for it.
Overall a very different book which has two movie adaptations too.I would definitely urge you to read it once if not the content then at least for the delivery and the literary value.
“It seemed to me that a chance was offered to me and I must take it there and then or it would never be offered me again.I made up my mind quickly.I decided not to go back to the ship.I’d left nothing there but a few things in a grip.I walked slowly back to the native quarter and looked about for a hotel.I found one after a while and took a room.I had the clothes I stood up in,some loose cash,my passport and my letter of credit;I felt so free,I laughed out loud.”