I finished The Magus last night. Wow.
Warning: If any of you in the book club are reading this, there may be spoilers ahead. Feel free to skip this entry, move it along, nothin' to see here.
This one really got to me. In fact, when I went to bed last night, my mind was racing, trying to figure out what I thought about this book. I LOVED it, but I'm trying to wrap my mind around whether or not the end justified the means.
A quick plot summary: Nicholas, a young Englishman, accepts a teaching post on the Greek Island of Phraxos. He meets a recluse, Conchis, who has a house on the far side of the island, and they strike up an uneasy friendship. Nicholas soon learns that all is not what it appears to be ("magus" means magician, or sorcerer) at Conchis's house, and realizes that he is the subject of a great experiment, what Conchis calls a "godgame." Conchis is the "god" who runs the little show (ultimately we find that there is nothing supernatural about it at all), and Nicholas is subjected to manipulation, both mentally and romantically, and finally to great humiliation.
The twists and turns in this book were amazing, to the point where I didn't know who was friend and who was foe, what was truth and what was a lie, or who was playing games with whom.
The thing that left me pondering was that although Conchis's means were deplorable and sadistic, the end result was that Nicholas realized that he was also a manipulator, although for different reasons than Conchis's, and I believe was a better person for having gone through the experience. So DOES the end justify the means? I suppose Nicholas is the only one who could answer that. But I don't know how, after experiencing the complete manipulation he experienced, he could ever love or trust anyone again.
I've mentioned a few passages from the book in here already, ones that I thought perfectly put into words a feeling or emotion. John Fowles's writing was superb. This book was challenging in a lot of ways, with plenty of words and foreign phrases to look up--thank goodness for the Net! One of the phrases I learned was bouc émissaire. It means scapegoat. So the next time someone tries to pin something unfairly on you, just tell them, "Hey man. Don't make ME your bouc émissaire." See what they have to say to THAT!
So yes, it was a challenge, but I kind of like that at times. It also was a ripping good yarn!