The Razor’s Edge: Somerset Maugham

March 23, 2013

My copy tells me it’s nearly forty years since I last read this novel. As I began re-reading, I found it a little superficial, although I was hooked as soon as a small detail, which either I’d forgotten, or never really taken on board all those years ago, loomed larger: the hero, Larry, was deeply affected by his experiences during the First World War, and this explained the quest and the entire direction his subsequent life took.

Another bildungsroman, which I suppose is why I felt it had such a great influence on me in my teenage years – someone going out to explore life, seek meaning and understanding, and, more importantly, finding contentment. Larry turns his back on conventional American paths, and drifts or travels, ultimately ending up in India and finding his understanding of the world through Hindu philosophy, before returning to the US to live his life as an ordinary person.

In a lot of ways, it’s a run-of-the-mill novel of its time, though the characters are well-drawn and the sense of yearning for understanding powerfully conveyed. But will anyone read it in fifty years’ time? The quest for meaning and understanding will surely still happen, but the contexts and the places will change…

And serendipity… the time and the travels reminded me of the life and journey of my favourite travel writer, Ella Maillart, who travelled the world in the nineteen-thirties and forties, realising she was seeking something, and ultimately also ended up in India, finding spiritual rest there.

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One Response to “The Razor’s Edge: Somerset Maugham”


  1. […] remember finding Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge very liberating as a teenager, when I was wrestling with religion myself, prior to giving it up and […]

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