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Should you read W Somerset Maugham?

To say W Somerset Maugham is unfashionable is like saying that J K Rowling has sold a few books.

Yet he remains popular.  My post about his memoirs, W Somerset Maugham on sex, turnips and the meaning of life, is one of my most visited (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog).

He was an extraordinary character.  Born in the British Embassy in Paris in 1874, he grew up speaking French and lost both his parents by the age of ten, when he moved to England.  He served in the ambulance corps in the First World War before joining the Secret Intelligence Service and working in Switzerland and Russia.  Later he travelled widely in South East Asia, China and the Pacific.

W Somerset Maugham Books

W Somerset Maugham is famous for his short stories

These experiences provide the setting for Maugham’s most famous tales.  In the preface to his collected stories he says of the most famous, Rain: “Rain was written in 1920 in Hong Kong, but I had hit upon the idea for it during a journey I took in the South Seas during the winter of 1916.”

The settings, in the dying days of doomed empire, (more…)

W. Somerset Maugham on sex, turnips and the meaning of life

A writer compares turnips and sex.  Is he wise, or daft?  Can we use his wisdom – if any – to make ourselves happier?

I have written often about happiness on this blog.  You might like to look at a summary in my piece The one with the links to happiness.

W Somerset Maugham considers happiness and the meaning of life in his essay The Summing Up, written in 1938.  Perhaps we can learn from him.  Try not to be put off by the old-fashioned way in which he often refers to “men” when he means “people”

W Somerset Maugham is most famous for his short stories

In The Summing Up, Maugham asks whether writing itself is enough for a happy life…

From time to time I have asked myself whether I should have been a better writer if I had devoted my whole life to literature.

… and concludes:

Somewhat early, but at what age I cannot remember, I made up my mind that, having but one life, I should like to get the most I could out of it.  It did not seem to me enough merely to write. (more…)

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