Friday, July 13, 2007

The Razor's Edge by WS Maugham

The Razor's Edge is a tale of one man (Larry) who was born and brought up in US, spend many years in Europe, first flying aircrafts in WW I and later living an idiosyncratic existence where he searched for purpose and ambition through books, languages and labor. He later travels to India, and finds solace in the Hindu philosophy, where he also learns how to medidate and be at peace with oneself and the world. Maugham writes a very accurate and engaging account of Hinduism.

The novel explores the relationship of various people. The author as a part of story travels in and out of the life of Larry and his friends, and through several conversations that occur intermittenly recreates the story of Larry, Isabel, Gray, Elliot and Sophie. Isabel loves Larry, but Larry's insistance on choosing to loaf and search for the meaning of life and his purpose (and hence living a poor life) and marries Gray, the multimillionaire. Without divulging much details of the story, one can say that the author does a good job in making his characters real and interesting, and presents through them an array of human emotions.

The Razor's edge is also a social commentary, and Maugham opens a window into the lifes and times of early twentieth century Upper classes, their constant striving for popularity and for materialistic pleasures, their hopes, and failings. The story is written in a sentiment and style that makes this discussion and critique on classes as invisible score playing somewhere in background.

In modern context of the philosophy of science, as say Capra in his Tao of Physics points out, or read Complexity by Waldrop, Eastern and especially Indian ageold wisdom and philosophy resonantes with the new contexts and paradigms in science. The paradigms of having cycles of existence, of evolution and coevolution, of each and every action of every creature affecting everyone else (Butterfly Effect), of uncertainity and unpredictability. Some sentences about Hinduism are particularly well written, say quoting from the book " Can there be anything more stupendous than the conception that the universe has no beginning and no end, but passes everlastingly from growth to equilibrium, from equilibrium to decline, from decline to dissolution, from dissolution to growth, and so on till eternity?"

Larry's description resonates with the beliefs and ideas I was taught while growing up in India. And since I have stayed in US for three years now, I guess I read into novel the kind of questions that I have faced: choice between materialism and spiritualism, choice between love and ambition, between my own country and the land of opportunity, of religion and beliefs! If you are a wanderer, and faced with such questions of life and reality, maybe you will love this book as much as I did!

It ain't only a love story, does not mean it isn't a good love story. Read it, maybe you will like it too!

Appeared on in 2004!

1 comment:

Proma said...

I had first read this book when just 18 and had loved it. Thanks for reviving the feelings and thoughts they had evoked in me back then.