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The Moon and Sixpence (version 2)
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Charles Strickland is a staid banker, a man of wealth and privilege. He is also a man possessed of an unquenchable desire to create art. As Strickland pursues his artistic vision, he leaves London for Paris and Tahiti, and in his quest makes sacrifices that leaves the lives of those closest to him in tatters. Through Maugham's sympathetic eye Strickland's tortured and cruel soul becomes a symbol of the blessing and the curse of transcendent artistic genius, and the cost in humans lives it sometimes demands.
Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published August 1st by Aegypan first published More Details Original Title. London, England Paris France. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Moon and Sixpence , please sign up.
Native English speakers, how would you explain the title to an ESL student? Is there a hidden idiom in it? Ginger "If you look on the ground in search of a sixpence, you don't look up, and so miss the moon. See all 3 questions about The Moon and Sixpence…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters.
The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham - Free Ebook
Sort order. Mar 21, Rajat Ubhaykar rated it really liked it Shelves: british , splendid-prose , favorites. Fair warning, this is going to be a long review for this is a book that is close to my heart written by an author whom I deeply admire. The Right Time There are some books that walk into your life at an opportune time. So books like these, you don't read immediately,. You let them sit there on your table for a while. You bask in the warm expectant glow of a life-altering read. You glance at the book as you make your way to office, take pleasure in the fact that it'll be right there on your table when you open the front-door wearily, waiting to be opened, caressed, reveled in.
And when that moment of reckoning arrives, you don't stop, you plunge yourself straight into the book, white-hot passionate. The Moon and Sixpence was just that kind of a book for me. I had just completed and thoroughly enjoyed a course on Modern Art in college and could rattle off the names of Impressionist painters faster than I could the Indian cricket team. I was particularly intrigued by Paul Gauguin, a French Post-Impressionist painter, after reading one of his disturbingly direct quotes. This struck me as the ultimate expression of individuality, a resounding slap to the judgmental face of conservative society, an escapist act of repugnant selfishness that could only be justified by immeasurable artistic talent, genius, some may call it.
My imagination was tickled beyond measure and when I discovered there was a novel by W. Somerset Maugham the author of The Razor's Edge no less! I was in the correct frame of mind to read about the life of a stockbroker who gave up on the trivial pleasures of bourgeois life for the penury and hard life of an aspiring painter without considering him ridiculous or vain. Supplied with the appropriate proportions of awe that is due to a genius protagonist, I began reading the book.
I have to admit I expected a whole lot from it. I had a voyeuristic curiosity to delve into the head of a certified genius.
I was even more curious to see how Maugham had executed it. At the same time, I was hoping that the book would raise and answer important questions concerning the nature of art and about what drives an artist to madness and greatness. The Book The book's title is taken from a review of Of Human Bondage in which the novel's protagonist, Philip Carey, is described as "so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet. In his inimitable style, he flits in and out of the characters' life as the stolid, immovable writer who is a mere observer, and nothing more.
His narrator defies Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as in observing his characters, he doesn't change their lives or nature one bit. He has a mild disdain for the ordinary life of a householder and relishes his independence. They would grow old insensibly; they would see their son and daughter come to years of reason, marry in due course — the one a peretty girl, future mother of healthy children; the other a handsome, manly fellow, obviously a soldier; and at last, prosperous in their dignified retirement, beloved by their descendants, after a happy, not unuseful life, in the fullness of their age they would sink into the grave.
That must be the story of innumerable couples, and the patter of life it offers has a homely grace. It reminds you of a placid rivulet, meandering smoothly through green pastures and shaded by pleasant trees, till at last it falls into the vasty sea; but the sea is so calm, so silent, so indifferent, that you are troubled suddenly by a vague uneasiness.
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Perhaps it is only a kink in my nature, strong in me even in those days, that I felt in such an existence, the share of the great majority, something amiss. I recognized its social value. I saw its ordered happiness, but a fever in my blood asked for a wilder course. There seemed to me something alarming in such easy delights. In my heart was a desire to live more dangerously. I was not unprepared for jagged rocks and treacherous shoals if I could only have change — change and the excitement of the unforeseen.
He is cold, selfish and uncompromising in this quest for beauty. It gave him no peace. It urged him hither and thither. He was eternally a pilgrim, haunted by a divine nostalgia, and the demon within him was ruthless. There are men whose desire for truth is so great that to attain it they will shatter the very foundation of their world. Of such was Strickland, only beauty with him took the place of truth. I could only feel for him a profound compassion. He worked harder. He cared nothing for those things which with most people make life gracious and beautiful. He was indifferent to money.
He cared nothing about fame. You cannot praise him because he resisted the temptation to make any of those compromises with the world which most of us yield to. He had no such temptation. It never entered his head that compromise was possible. He lived in Paris more lonely than an anchorite in the deserts of Thebes.
He asked nothing from his fellows except that they should leave him alone. He was single-hearted in his aim, and to pursue it he was willing to sacrifice not only himself — many can do that — but others. He had a vision. Strickland was an odious man, but I still think he was a great one. Accident has cast them amid strange surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage.
They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.
Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scnes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.
Also the tone of the novel tends to get slightly misogynistic in places. But I suppose that is more a failing of the protagonist rather than the author. As compensation, Maugham offers delicious crisp cookies of wisdom throughout. In simple lyrical language, he penetrates to the core of the human condition and offers invaluable advice to the aspiring writer, the hopeful lover and the wannabe genius.
For its unpretentious, sympathetic and humane portrayal of a deeply flawed protagonist, its quotable quotes and its ironic humour, this book shall rank as my one of my favourite books on the life and development of an artist in search of the unknowable. My Master Maugham I strongly believe that the adjectives one throws around are a barometer of one's sensitivity or at the minimum, one's desire to be accurate.
Both of these qualities are indispensable to the aspiring writer because honestly, what is there to writing except fresh verbs, evocative adjectives, searing honesty and an unbounded imagination.
Also, that it's easier said than done. In this context, there are moments when I feel utterly stupid and unimaginative. My inner monologues resemble the chatter of teenage girls in their lack of content and use of worn-out adjectives. I mean, awesome and amazing, like seriously? During such exasperating times, my inner world aches to devour a mouthful of good-looking words in the Queen's English. I head to my dusty book-closet and roughly displace its contents until I find a book either by one of the barons of British literature, a W. The book usually serves its purpose admirably.
It manages to extract me from my predicament by either making me split my sides laughing or by drowning me in a stream of sentences so beautifully constructed that I completely forget my insecurities and start shaking my head ponderously at the writer's virtuosity instead. Coming to the topic of the writer himself, W. Somerset Maugham is one of my favourite writers in the English language. Being an aspiring writer who's yet to find his voice myself, his novels never fail to stab me with a hopeful optimism.
My premature belief, that I can write well, is reinforced when I read Maugham. He never intimidates me or bores me, commonplace sins many writers will have to go to confession for. While reading his prose, he possesses the singular ability of making the difficult art of writing seem pretty doable.
This, I've realized with the passing of time, is due to one simple reason. It is because W. Somerset Maugham never shows off! Never does he ramble pointlessly. Never does he merely graze the point instead of hitting it fair and square because he was too busy fooling around with the language.
He hits bulls eye with eloquence and a kind of frugal, flowing lyricism. There is always a single-minded purpose behind his writings. It is to spin a mighty good yarn by getting the point across without making his readers consult a dictionary. He even propounds profundity in a manner that typically makes me re-read the paragraph and underline it to admire the economy and ease with which the thought was expressed in words. I find the writing styles of Hemingway and Maugham similar in form, but while Hemingway's writing is austere to the point of being skeletal, Maugham clothes his words until they can be considered passably pretty.
For his remarkable abilities, Maugham's opinions about his own writing were always modest. He believed he stood "in the very first row of the second-raters. My vision is not so penetrating. But there is in my nature a strain of asceticism, and I have subjected my flesh each week to a more severe mortification. I have never failed to read the Literary Supplement of The Times. It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them. What chance is there that any book will make its way among that multitude?
And the successful books are but the successes of a season. Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a few hours relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey. And if I may judge from the reviews, many of these book are well and carefully written; much thought has gone to their composition; to some even has been given the anxious labour of a lifetime.
The moral I draw is that the writer should seek his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thoughts; and indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success. He recognizes in himself an artistic satisfaction in the contemplation of evil which a little startles him but sincerity forces him to confess that the disapproval he feels for certain actions is not nearly so strong as his curiosity in their reasons. The writer is more concerned to know than to judge. Beauty is something wonderful and strange that the artist fashions out of the chaos of the world in the torment of his soul.
And when he has made it, it is not given to all to know it. To recognize it you must repeat the adventure of the artist. It is a melody he sings to you, and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and imagination. View all 30 comments. Somerset Maugham's Charles Strickland might not be heading onto my list of the most likeable characters in literature, but one thing is for sure, he is certainly one of the most memorable. Strickland, a bourgeois city gent living in London has a dull, soulless exterior that conceals the fact he just may be a genius.
He devotes himself to himself, and hides within him a passion for painting that no one else seems to knows about. He doesn't give a stuff about anybody, including his family, and W. He doesn't give a stuff about anybody, including his family, and his wife is left baffled when Charles suddenly travels to Paris and then later on Tahiti with no intentions to ever come back. She believes he has run away with another woman, but the truth leaves her totally perplexed, after the narrator of Maugham's novel is sent after him, having only meet Strickland briefly before.
Derived from the life of Paul Gauguin, our main character is a man insensible to ordinary human relations, who lives the life of pure selfishness which is sometimes supposed to produce great art, which has always had its fascination for novelists inspired only by the unusual. Accordingly there have been novels in plenty depicting the conflict of the abominable genius with the uncongenial environment, and Mr.
Maugham has followed a recognised convention in this story of an imaginary artist of posthumous greatness. He treats him throughout with mock respect, and surrounds his affairs with contributory detail. Maugham's story takes a respectable man who deserts his wife after seventeen years of marriage to get fully behind a great idea - to turn himself into a famous artist, having previously had no experience.
His break is succeeded by living destitute with a stubborn determination, and by long periods of work and outbursts of savage behaviour. Now, here's the thing, does Maugham convince us that Strickland is a real man and a real artist with which we can absorb his traits as part of the essential human creature who lives eternally by his work? It seems he does not. Where every detail should be pungently real, one is constantly checked in belief by the sense of a calculated and heightened effect, and by the passion of Maugham for his subject.
Such a passion is sometimes defeated by it's object. Here one is repelled, not so much by Strickland's monosyllabic callousness, but by the knowledge that this callousness is seen and represented without subtlety. Another positive is that he uses the minor elements in the story with an extremely effective manner. There are deeper themes going on here, if you dig hard enough.
The novel is one of a destructive nature, and presents a really terrible philosophy on Modernism which it propounds, but I found it compulsively readable. I particularly liked the first-person narrative voice, which captured me with a mix of admiration and disdain for Strickland, something that Maugham struck a masterful balance with. View all 7 comments. The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham first published in It is told in episodic form by a first-person narrator, in a series of glimpses into the mind and soul of the central character Charles Strickland, a middle-aged English stockbroker, who abandons his wife and children abruptly to pursue his desire to become an artist.
The story is in part based on the life of the painter Paul Gauguin. Oct 03, Rowena rated it it was amazing Shelves: classics , own. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence I'd only ever read one Maugham before this "Of Human Bondage" but even with just that one read I could tell Maugham was a very special writer and destined to be one of my favourites. I picked up this thin book thinking it would be a quick, simple read, but I wasn't prepared for the depth and profundity in it.
There is a lot going on in this little book, lots to "Art is a manifestation of emotion, and emotion speaks a language that all may understand. There is a lot going on in this little book, lots to think about. Reading the back of the book you'll know that the main character in this book, Charles Strickland, was modelled after Paul Gauguin. Strickland is an awful person and extremely misogynistic. It's been a while since I've read such an odious character in literature.
I despised him: "He was a man without any conception of gratitude. He had no compassion.
The Moon and the Sixpence
The emotions common to most of us simply did not exist in him, and it was as absurd to blame him for not feeling them as for blaming the tiger because he is fierce and cruel. Perhaps it is only by a kink in my nature, strong in me even in those days, that I felt in such an existence, the share of the great majority, something amiss. I recognised its social values, I saw its ordered happiness, but a fever in my blood asked for a wilder course. I was not unprepared for jagged rocks and treacherous shoals if I could only have change -- change and the excitement of the unforeseen.
But still, the idea that we can be perceived differently in different areas, and therefore be more suited to one area than another, is interesting: "I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. There were quite a few racial epithets which, I'm not sure spoke of Maugham's insensitivity to different races, or just that he was reflecting the language and sentiments of the time.
Either way, they were shocking, and I could have done without them.
View all 12 comments. It is a melody that he sings to you, and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and imagination. View all 11 comments. We want the world. We want it all. We want the moon. And still it's not enough. It's my long term goal to read everything Maguham wrote, a goal that I doubt will be very difficult to reach. He writes with such poignant observation and wit and in The Moon and Sixpence he captures the all encompassing, obsessive and brutal nature that perhaps it takes to be an artist.
Told by an unnamed narrator, we are introduced to Charles Strickland, a beastly yet seemingly ordinary man who one day leaves his wif We want the world. Told by an unnamed narrator, we are introduced to Charles Strickland, a beastly yet seemingly ordinary man who one day leaves his wife, his children, his job and his entire life to paint. The drive to create is all there is in him, and leaving a trail of destruction he goes to Paris don't they all?
He is displaced, disassociated and curiously unappealing. It is a wonderful and extreme portrait of the innate need some have to follow their calling, or better still, the lack of choice they have to do so. I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. They are strangers in their birthplace,and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they played, remain but a place of passage.
Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that send men far and wide in search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. View all 25 comments. Nov 18, Lyn rated it really liked it. I may not be able to tell a post-impressionist painter from a post hole digger, but if I see a painting by Paul Gauguin I can usually identify it correctly. There are several scenes that were hypnotic, drawing the reader into an exchange between two characters.
Maugham introduces us to Charles Strickland, an English stockbroker who leaves his wife and children to move to Paris to learn to paint and to realize his dream, late in life, of being an artist. But Maugham describes a complicatedly simple man who just wants to live in his work.
Undesiring of money or fame, he simply wants to create and to express his artistic vision. His philosophy, appearing on the surface to be hedonistic and misanthropic, is more than an esoteric isolation from society but is an all-encompassing, passionate devotion to his work. This is not a biography of Gauguin, but more of an examination of the spirit of his life, similar to how the Post-Impressionists extended Impressionism while rejecting its limitations, using symbolism and abstraction to depict its subject.
For Maugham readers, art lovers and the rest of us: a good book. Instagram Twitter Facebook Amazon Pinterest I'm working my way through an omnibus edition of Maugham's work, and man, he can write. I'm torn between the impulse to swim leisurely through his prose or just gleefully cannonball into it. Unlike some writers of this time, Maugham is not particularly flowery, but he has an interesting way of presenting ideas and constructing sentences that makes you want to read over them several times, just to appreciate their ideas and form.
I tried to pronounce his name several times, ineffectively, ranging from gewgaw, to Google, to gaijin. As it turns out, the way it's actually pronounced makes him sound like a creature from a Japanese monster movie it rhymes with "Rodan" , which is only the first way this book surprised me. Strickland seems like he has the ideal of the moderately successful life: a wife, children, a good job with steady pay. But he is discontent, and one day, coldly decides to leave his wife and job and go to Paris, living in squalor.
So he can paint.