W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM

THE RAZOR'S EDGE


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A REVIEW BY:
Upaka the Ascetic

Of all the novels and books of fiction I have ever read "THE RAZOR'S EDGE" is the one that had the most profound effect on me personally. Written by British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham and published in 1944, the story is set between WWI and WWII and follows a young American Maugham calls Larry Darrell as he embarks on a spiritual journey in search of God and the Absolute. High in the mountains of India he experiences Enlightenment.

Most of Maugham's books reached a high level of financial success and THE RAZOR'S EDGE was, without a doubt, one of the Best Selling Novels of the 20th Century --- which does not necessarily translate into a great piece of fiction. However, it is not because the author of "The Razor's Edge" is Maugham per se' but because the story he weaves as Larry seeks spiritual Enlightenment. It is not unlike so many of have tried or dreamed of. It was only after running into a page on the web by a man that had met Larry in person did I obtain a new copy and re-read it.



Favorite scene in book and why:

When Larry Darrell tells of his Awakening experience and written by Maugham as follows:

"How grand the sight was that was displayed before me as the day broke in its splendour...I was ravished with the beauty of the world. I'd never known such exaltation and such a transcendent joy. I had a strange sensation, a tingling that arose in my feet and traveled up to my head, and I felt as though I were suddenly released from my body and as pure spirit partook of a loveliness I had never conceived. I had a sense that a knowledge more than human possessed me, so that everything that had been confused was clear and everything that had perplexed me was explained. I was so happy that it was pain and I struggled to release myself from it, for I felt that if it lasted a moment longer I should die; and yet it was such rapture that I was ready to die rather than forego it. How can I tell you what I felt? No words can tell the ecstasy of my bliss. When I came to myself I was exhausted and trembling"(see)



Favorite character and why:

The main character Larry Darrell of course, because for me he has so many admirable traits that so often go unsung in the way so much of present day society is structured. In so saying, however, there is much to be said about Elliott Tempelton. His "nose stuck in the air" attitude is a perfect foil for Larry and the plot to unfold against.


Which character do you identify most with and why:

Larry Darrell because, as I mentioned previously, his attempt and journey in seeking the Absolute is not unlike I myself and so many others have tried or continue to try.


If you could see a sequel to one of the author's books, which would it be and what would it be about:

There is a fabulous web site on the net called:

THE MENTOR

Known on the net for years previously under the title:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: W. Somerset Maugham, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guy Hague, and Zen

that can be linked through to from either of the two the suggested links above that gets into just such a scenario, that is, what happened to Larry Darrell post-novel. It is well worth reading and I would suggest it to any serious "Razor's Edge" buff or Maugham fan. It is available by going to the first link below as well.



Interesting Sidelights:

In that this is a book review page regarding The Razor's Edge the question comes up on occasion regarding references to a book that may have been written by Larry Darrell and possibly published by friends. As the novel gets close to winding down Maugham quotes Darrell as saying he had collected a lot of material with the intention of writing a book. Darrell tells Maugham he has some American friends in Paris with a small press and that they were willing to publish it for him. Later Maugham, visiting Isabel, writes that he notices she has a copy, picks it up and reads at least the table of contents (he also writes that up to the time he left the Riviera he had not yet received a copy of the book himself, nor is it stated elsewhere that he did). The Wanderling, who knew the person Maugham used for the Larry Darrell character, writes he never saw a copy of the book if there ever was one. He goes on to say:


"My Mentor's house, not unlike the forestry retreat high in the mountains of India where he attained his spiritual Awakening, was almost completely devoid of furniture and fixtures such as lamps and tables except for the bare necessities.(see) There was truly no furniture in the living room although he did have a few books on the floor along one of the walls. Several times out of curiosity, and usually when I was alone in the room, I thumbed through those books. The closest thing I came to anything similar to what is mentioned in the novel was a matched set of four of five leather bound books about an inch thick or so that originally had blank pages. Those books were filled page after page almost Da Vinci like with hand written notes and sketches.(see) The volumes appeared similar to a journal and compiled as though the author may have been planning to write a book, or as the case may be, the original notes for one. What happened to those journals I am not sure. I am sure there was no book in a printed or published format by my Mentor come Darrell among any of the books I saw, nor to my knowledge has a copy ever shown up among any of the thousands of items in the various Maugham archives around the world."




THE BEST OF THE RAZOR'S EDGE LINKS:


THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:


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