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The Moon and Sixpence

The Moon and Sixpence

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The Moon and Sixpence

4/5 (12 оценки)
298 страниц
7 часов
17 нояб. 2015 г.


First published in 1919, W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Moon and Sixpence” is an episodic first person narrative based on the life of Paul Gaugin. At the center of the novel is the story of Charles Strickland, an English banker who walks away from a life of privilege, abruptly abandoning his wife and children, in order to pursue his passion to become an artist. Strickland leaves London for Paris and ultimately Tahiti, mirroring the life of Gaugin who would also split with his wife to pursue a life of painting eventually immigrating to Tahiti. The title of the novel, which is never clearly explained in the novel, comes from a review for Maugham’s previous work “Of Human Bondage” in which that novel’s protagonist, Philip Carey, is described as “so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet.” The moon in this sense might be seen as the lofty ambition to pursue a life of artistic expression in contrast to the sixpence which represents the security of a middle-class life style with wife and children to which the protagonist abandons. “The Moon and Sixpence” is the story of the demands that can be placed on a tortured artistic soul and consequently the lives that it touches. This edition includes a biographical afterword.
17 нояб. 2015 г.

Об авторе

W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1964) was a British novelist, playwright, and short story writer. Maugham studied medicine, later becoming a surgeon. In 1897, he published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, which became so popular he took up writing full-time. By 1914, Maugham was famous, having published ten novels and produced ten plays. During World War I, he served as an ambulance driver—and occasional spy—and continued to write, publishing the controversial autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage (1915), one of his best-known works.

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The Moon and Sixpence - W. Somerset Maugham




The Moon and Sixpence

By W. Somerset Maugham

Print ISBN 13: 978-1-4209-5192-9

eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-4209-5193-6

This edition copyright © 2015. Digireads.com Publishing.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Cover Image: Self Portrait, 1889 (colour woodblock print), Gauguin, Paul (1848-1903) / Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France / Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Images.

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Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXV

Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVII

Chapter XXVIII

Chapter XXIX

Chapter XXX

Chapter XXXI

Chapter XXXII

Chapter XXXIII

Chapter XXXIV

Chapter XXXV

Chapter XXXVI

Chapter XXXVII


Chapter XXXIX

Chapter XL

Chapter XLI

Chapter XLII

Chapter XLIII

Chapter XLIV

Chapter XLV

Chapter XLVI

Chapter XLVII

Chapter XLVIII

Chapter XLIX

Chapter L

Chapter LI

Chapter LII

Chapter LIII

Chapter LIV

Chapter LV

Chapter LVI

Chapter LVII

Chapter LVIII


Chapter I

I confess that when first I made acquaintance with Charles Strickland I never for a moment discerned that there was in him anything out of the ordinary. Yet now few will be found to deny his greatness. I do not speak of that greatness which is achieved by the fortunate politician or the successful soldier; that is a quality which belongs to the place he occupies rather than to the man; and a change of circumstances reduces it to very discreet proportions. The Prime Minister out of office is seen, too often, to have been but a pompous rhetorician, and the General without an army is but the tame hero of a market town. The greatness of Charles Strickland was authentic. It may be that you do not like his art, but at all events you can hardly refuse it the tribute of your interest. He disturbs and arrests. The time has passed when he was an object of ridicule, and it is no longer a mark of eccentricity to defend or of perversity to extol him. His faults are accepted as the necessary complement to his merits. It is still possible to discuss his place in art, and the adulation of his admirers is perhaps no less capricious than the disparagement of his detractors; but one thing can never be doubtful, and that is that he had genius. To my mind the most interesting thing in art is the personality of the artist; and if that is singular, I am willing to excuse a thousand faults. I suppose Velasquez was a better painter than El Greco, but custom stales one’s admiration for him: the Cretan, sensual and tragic, proffers the mystery of his soul like a standing sacrifice. The artist, painter, poet, or musician, by his decoration, sublime or beautiful, satisfies the aesthetic sense; but that is akin to the sexual instinct, and shares its barbarity: he lays before you also the greater gift of himself. To pursue his secret has something of the fascination of a detective story. It is a riddle which shares with the universe the merit of having no answer. The most insignificant of Strickland’s works suggests a personality which is strange, tormented, and complex; and it is this surely which prevents even those who do not like his pictures from being indifferent to them; it is this which has excited so curious an interest in his life and character.

It was not till four years after Strickland’s death that Maurice Huret wrote that article in the Mercure de France which rescued the unknown painter from oblivion and blazed the trail which succeeding writers, with more or less docility, have followed. For a long time no critic has enjoyed in France a more incontestable authority, and it was impossible not to be impressed by the claims he made; they seemed extravagant; but later judgments have confirmed his estimate, and the reputation of Charles Strickland is now firmly established on the lines which he laid down. The rise of this reputation is one of the most romantic incidents in the history of art. But I do not propose to deal with Charles Strickland’s work except in so far as it touches upon his character. I cannot agree with the painters who claim superciliously that the layman can understand nothing of painting, and that he can best show his appreciation of their works by silence and a cheque-book. It is a grotesque misapprehension which sees in art no more than a craft comprehensible perfectly only to the craftsman: art is a manifestation of emotion, and emotion speaks a language that all may understand. But I will allow that the critic who has not a practical knowledge of technique is seldom able to say anything on the subject of real value, and my ignorance of painting is extreme. Fortunately, there is no need for me to risk the adventure, since my friend, Mr. Edward Leggatt, an able writer as well as an admirable painter, has exhaustively discussed Charles Strickland’s work in a little book{1} which is a charming example of a style, for the most part, less happily cultivated in England than in France.

Maurice Huret in his famous article gave an outline of Charles Strickland’s life which was well calculated to whet the appetites of the inquiring. With his disinterested passion for art, he had a real desire to call the attention of the wise to a talent which was in the highest degree original; but he was too good a journalist to be unaware that the human interest would enable him more easily to effect his purpose. And when such as had come in contact with Strickland in the past, writers who had known him in London, painters who had met him in the cafes of Montmartre, discovered to their amazement that where they had seen but an unsuccessful artist, like another, authentic genius had rubbed shoulders with them there began to appear in the magazines of France and America a succession of articles, the reminiscences of one, the appreciation of another, which added to Strickland’s notoriety, and fed without satisfying the curiosity of the public. The subject was grateful, and the industrious Weitbrecht-Rotholz in his imposing monograph{2} has been able to give a remarkable list of authorities.

The faculty for myth is innate in the human race. It seizes with avidity upon any incidents, surprising or mysterious, in the career of those who have at all distinguished themselves from their fellows, and invents a legend to which it then attaches a fanatical belief. It is the protest of romance against the commonplace of life. The incidents of the legend become the hero’s surest passport to immortality. The ironic philosopher reflects with a smile that Sir Walter Raleigh is more safely enshrined in the memory of mankind because he set his cloak for the Virgin Queen to walk on than because he carried the English name to undiscovered countries. Charles Strickland lived obscurely. He made enemies rather than friends. It is not strange, then, that those who wrote of him should have eked out their scanty recollections with a lively fancy, and it is evident that there was enough in the little that was known of him to give opportunity to the romantic scribe; there was much in his life which was strange and terrible, in his character something outrageous, and in his fate not a little that was pathetic. In due course a legend arose of such circumstantiality that the wise historian would hesitate to attack it.

But a wise historian is precisely what the Rev. Robert Strickland is not. He wrote his biography{3} avowedly to remove certain misconceptions which had gained currency in regard to the later part of his father’s life, and which had caused considerable pain to persons still living. It is obvious that there was much in the commonly received account of Strickland’s life to embarrass a respectable family. I have read this work with a good deal of amusement, and upon this I congratulate myself, since it is colourless and dull. Mr. Strickland has drawn the portrait of an excellent husband and father, a man of kindly temper, industrious habits, and moral disposition. The modern clergyman has acquired in his study of the science which I believe is called exegesis an astonishing facility for explaining things away, but the subtlety with which the Rev. Robert Strickland has interpreted all the facts in his father’s life which a dutiful son might find it inconvenient to remember must surely lead him in the fullness of time to the highest dignities of the Church. I see already his muscular calves encased in the gaiters episcopal. It was a hazardous, though maybe a gallant thing to do, since it is probable that the legend commonly received has had no small share in the growth of Strickland’s reputation; for there are many who have been attracted to his art by the detestation in which they held his character or the compassion with which they regarded his death; and the son’s well-meaning efforts threw a singular chill upon the father’s admirers. It is due to no accident that when one of his most important works, The Woman of Samaria,{4} was sold at Christie’s shortly after the discussion which followed the publication of Mr. Strickland’s biography, it fetched £235 less than it had done nine months before when it was bought by the distinguished collector whose sudden death had brought it once more under the hammer. Perhaps Charles Strickland’s power and originality would scarcely have sufficed to turn the scale if the remarkable mythopoeic faculty of mankind had not brushed aside with impatience a story which disappointed all its craving for the extraordinary. And presently Dr. Weitbrecht-Rotholz produced the work which finally set at rest the misgivings of all lovers of art.

Dr. Weitbrecht-Rotholz belongs to that school of historians which believes that human nature is not only about as bad as it can be, but a great deal worse; and certainly the reader is safer of entertainment in their hands than in those of the writers who take a malicious pleasure in representing the great figures of romance as patterns of the domestic virtues. For my part, I should be sorry to think that there was nothing between Anthony and Cleopatra but an economic situation; and it will require a great deal more evidence than is ever likely to be available, thank God, to persuade me that Tiberius was as blameless a monarch as King George V. Dr. Weitbrecht-Rotholz has dealt in such terms with the Rev. Robert Strickland’s innocent biography that it is difficult to avoid feeling a certain sympathy for the unlucky parson. His decent reticence is branded as hypocrisy, his circumlocutions are roundly called lies, and his silence is vilified as treachery. And on the strength of peccadilloes, reprehensible in an author, but excusable in a son, the Anglo-Saxon race is accused of prudishness, humbug, pretentiousness, deceit, cunning, and bad cooking. Personally I think it was rash of Mr. Strickland, in refuting the account which had gained belief of a certain unpleasantness between his father and mother, to state that Charles Strickland in a letter written from Paris had described her as an excellent woman, since Dr. Weitbrecht-Rotholz was able to print the letter in facsimile, and it appears that the passage referred to ran in fact as follows: God damn my wife. She is an excellent woman. I wish she was in hell. It is not thus that the Church in its great days dealt with evidence that was unwelcome.

Dr. Weitbrecht-Rotholz was an enthusiastic admirer of Charles Strickland, and there was no danger that he would whitewash him. He had an unerring eye for the despicable motive in actions that had all the appearance of innocence. He was a psycho-pathologist, as well as a student of art, and the subconscious had few secrets from him. No mystic ever saw deeper meaning in common things. The mystic sees the ineffable, and the psycho-pathologist the unspeakable. There is a singular fascination in watching the eagerness with which the learned author ferrets out every circumstance which may throw discredit on his hero. His heart warms to him when he can bring forward some example of cruelty or meanness, and he exults like an inquisitor at the auto da fé of an heretic when with some forgotten story he can confound the filial piety of the Rev. Robert Strickland. His industry has been amazing. Nothing has been too small to escape him, and you may be sure that if Charles Strickland left a laundry bill unpaid it will be given you in extenso, and if he forbore to return a borrowed half-crown no detail of the transaction will be omitted.

Chapter II

When so much has been written about Charles Strickland, it may seem unnecessary that I should write more. A painter’s monument is his work. It is true I knew him more intimately than most: I met him first before ever he became a painter, and I saw him not infrequently during the difficult years he spent in Paris; but I do not suppose I should ever have set down my recollections if the hazards of the war had not taken me to Tahiti. There, as is notorious, he spent the last years of his life; and there I came across persons who were familiar with him. I find myself in a position to throw light on just that part of his tragic career which has remained most obscure. If they who believe in Strickland’s greatness are right, the personal narratives of such as knew him in the flesh can hardly be superfluous. What would we not give for the reminiscences of someone who had been as intimately acquainted with El Greco as I was with Strickland?

But I seek refuge in no such excuses. I forget who it was that recommended men for their soul’s good to do each day two things they disliked: it was a wise man, and it is a precept that I have followed scrupulously; for every day I have got up and I have gone to bed. 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 books 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 thought; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success.

Now the war has come, bringing with it a new attitude. Youth has turned to gods we of an earlier day knew not, and it is possible to see already the direction in which those who come after us will move. The younger generation, conscious of strength and tumultuous, have done with knocking at the door; they have burst in and seated themselves in our seats. The air is noisy with their shouts. Of their elders some, by imitating the antics of youth, strive to persuade themselves that their day is not yet over; they shout with the lustiest, but the war cry sounds hollow in their mouth; they are like poor wantons attempting with pencil, paint and powder, with shrill gaiety, to recover the illusion of their spring. The wiser go their way with a decent grace. In their chastened smile is an indulgent mockery. They remember that they too trod down a sated generation, with just such clamor and with just such scorn, and they foresee that these brave torch-bearers will presently yield their place also. There is no last word. The new evangel was old when Nineveh reared her greatness to the sky. These gallant words which seem so novel to those that speak them were said in accents scarcely changed a hundred times before. The pendulum swings backwards and forwards. The circle is ever travelled anew.

Sometimes a man survives a considerable time from an era in which he had his place into one which is strange to him, and then the curious are offered one of the most singular spectacles in the human comedy. Who now, for example, thinks of George Crabbe? He was a famous poet in his day, and the world recognised his genius with a unanimity which the greater complexity of modern life has rendered infrequent. He had learnt his craft at the school of Alexander Pope, and he wrote moral stories in rhymed couplets. Then came the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and the poets sang new songs. Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral stories in rhymed couplets. I think he must have read the verse of these young men who were making so great a stir in the world, and I fancy he found it poor stuff. Of course, much of it was. But the odes of Keats and of Wordsworth, a poem or two by Coleridge, a few more by Shelley, discovered vast realms of the spirit that none had explored before. Mr. Crabbe was as dead as mutton, but Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral stories in rhymed couplets. I have read desultorily the writings of the younger generation. It may be that among them a more fervid Keats, a more ethereal Shelley, has already published numbers the world will willingly remember. I cannot tell. I admire their polish—their youth is already so accomplished that it seems absurd to speak of promise—I marvel at the felicity of their style; but with all their copiousness (their vocabulary suggests that they fingered Roget’s Thesaurus in their cradles) they say nothing to me: to my mind they know too much and feel too obviously; I cannot stomach the heartiness with which they slap me on the back or the emotion with which they hurl themselves on my bosom; their passion seems to me a little anaemic and their dreams a trifle dull. I do not like them. I am on the shelf. I will continue to write moral stories in rhymed couplets. But I should be thrice a fool if I did it for aught but my own entertainment.

Chapter III

But all this is by the way.

I was very young when I wrote my first book. By a lucky chance it excited attention, and various persons sought my acquaintance.

It is not without melancholy that I wander among my recollections of the world of letters in London when first, bashful but eager, I was introduced to it. It is long since I frequented it, and if the novels that describe its present singularities are accurate much in it is now changed. The venue is different. Chelsea and Bloomsbury have taken the place of Hampstead, Notting Hill Gate, and High Street, Kensington. Then it was a distinction to be under forty, but now to be more than twenty-five is absurd. I think in those days we were a little shy of our emotions, and the fear of ridicule tempered the more obvious forms of pretentiousness. I do not believe that there was in that genteel Bohemia an intensive culture of chastity, but I do not remember so crude a promiscuity as seems to be practised in the present day. We did not think it hypocritical to draw over our vagaries the curtain of a decent silence. The spade was not invariably called a bloody shovel. Woman had not yet altogether come into her own.

I lived near Victoria Station, and I recall long excursions by bus to the hospitable houses of the literary. In my timidity I wandered up and down the street while I screwed up my courage to ring the bell; and then, sick with apprehension, was ushered into an airless room full of people. I was introduced to this celebrated person after that one, and the kind words they said about my book made me excessively uncomfortable. I felt they expected me to say clever things, and I never could think of any till after the party was over. I tried to conceal my embarrassment by handing round cups of tea and rather ill-cut bread-and-butter. I wanted no one to take notice of me, so that I could observe these famous creatures at my ease and listen to the clever things they said.

I have a recollection of large, unbending women with great noses and rapacious eyes, who wore their clothes as though they were armour; and of little, mouse-like spinsters, with soft voices and a shrewd glance. I never ceased to be fascinated by their persistence in eating buttered toast with their gloves on, and I observed with admiration the unconcern with which they wiped their fingers on their chair when they thought no one was looking. It must have been bad for the furniture, but I suppose the hostess took her revenge on the furniture of her friends when, in turn, she visited them. Some of them were dressed fashionably, and they said they couldn’t for the life of them see why you should be dowdy just because you had written a novel; if you had a neat figure you might as well make the most of it, and a smart shoe on a small foot had never prevented an editor from taking your stuff. But others thought this frivolous, and they wore art fabrics and barbaric jewelry. The men were seldom eccentric in appearance. They tried to look as little like authors as possible. They wished to be taken for men of the world, and could have passed anywhere for the managing clerks of a city firm. They always seemed a little tired. I had never known writers before, and I found them very strange, but I do not think they ever seemed to me quite real.

I remember that

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  • (5/5)
    Charles Strickland, whose character is based loosely on the French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, is a stock broker living in London. In middle age he abandons his wife and children and moves to Paris to learn to paint. Having found his true passion in life, he feels no remorse for leaving his family and living the life of a starving artist. Strickland is not a like-able character. In Paris he steals the wife of a friend only to abandon her when he has finished using her as a model. He is self-centered and completely driven by his art. Eventually he makes his way to the South Seas. In Tahiti he finds an island woman to live with and paints until his death. The story is narrated by a young man who initially seeks out Strickland so he can report back to his wife. Time passes, Strickland dies and the narrator journeys to Tahiti to learn more about the life of this now famous painter.
  • (2/5)
    This book got a lot more enjoyable when I realized reading on my kindle meant I could highlight parts and write notes such as "asshole!" and "more misogyny" and "OH MY GOD." Maybe this is supposed to be an exploration of genius vs living in society but the uncritical misogyny is just so BORING. Blahdy blahdy blah.
  • (3/5)
    I was disappointed by this novel. It has a very curious structure, and while the first 140 pages or so were quite good, the book fell apart for me after Strickland leaves France. The only character who is present throughout the novel is the narrator, who is not really at the center of the action. My favorite character, Dirk, just kind of vanishes never to be heard from again; and I did not feel at all connected to the book's chief subject, Strickland. There is a lot of writing *about* the characters, rather than presenting things as action.I ended up skimming the last thirty or forty pages.If you are interested in Maugham, try Of Human Bondage instead--it is outstanding. This one you can skip.
  • (3/5)
    When this was published almost a century ago, I’m sure the story of a man abandoning upper middle-class English life (along with his wife and two children) to pursue the life of a libertine artist in Paris would have packed more of a punch. It’s difficult to write about how and why people do such things beyond just saying, “They must or else, according to the flights of their fanciful imagination, they will wither away and fail to fulfill their truest being.” But alas, that’s not even enough to fill out a short story. Sometimes a short, studied approach like this one works for huge, ponderous questions like the one this novel raises, and sometimes it falls incredibly short. Maugham’s writing is best suited to short stories or novels like this one, which has such a “short story feel” to it that it could easily be read in a quick sitting. The only other piece by Maugham I’ve read was “Razor’s Edge” which, though written a whole generation later, I remember having much the same literary style. The writing, especially in the first half, is so artful and balanced, and at the same time epigrammatically clever and playful, as to be unbelievable. Some of the quotations jump off the page and straight into your lap, begging to be included in the next edition of Bartlett’s. While this falls off a bit toward the end, this is one of the few pieces of fiction I have read lately where the simple elegance – and sheer, unrepentant wit - of the style can’t help but strike you. Despite the incredibly controlled writing, judged strictly as whether it was able to shed any light onto the artistic process, or why someone would choose to repeatedly endure the gauntlets of the self-critical artist, I learned little here. Charles didn’t strike me as the heartless cad that I’m sure he probably appears to be to other readers; he’s just pursuing what he thinks he needs to be fully happy. Maybe that’s what Maugham is trying to insinuate through the title: that we should appreciate what we have (the moon – most people seem to be perfectly happy with a spouse and two children without fulfilling their need to run away from everything and start all over again), instead of thinking that we can be well-adjusted people and wanting to absolutely have it all. Should we hold it against Charles that he makes such a drastic decision? It’s unclear whether Maugham takes delight in punishing Charles, but he certainly weathers a lot of punishment – living in near squalor, dying a slow, painful death. Of course none of this is to say that he couldn’t have mitigated this punishment by being a decent person to Dirk’s wife, who then would have gladly taken him in when he needed her most. Did Charles suffer the fate of being almost wholly unrecognized during his lifetime and the scourge of disease directly because he so eagerly embraced the reckless decision to leave his family? Is Maugham trying to make a moral point? If so, it’s a very subtle one; none of the language in the book comes across as sermonizing in tone.As with any good story, there are more questions than answers. Charles is certainly supposed to strike us, I would think – to make a forceful point. That point, however, eludes me still. That it might just as easily elude others may have convinced him that he’s nothing but a heartless beast. I’m convinced that he is not one of those. But what is he? That, I don’t know.
  • (4/5)
    Quick read about the nature and driving passion behind an artist, and what impulsive things they do to people around them for the sake of creativity. An impressive read, and one that is only too relevant in every aspect.
  • (4/5)
    Finishing this masterpiece by Maugham was never a cinch. Montage of human emotions, dialectic of the plot and the jargon floundered its completion. Title of the book inspired from the quote “Like so many young men he was so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet “ clearly portrays the Strickland’s dilemma of choosing among the emotionally attachment to his better half(sixpence) or to leave her and pursue a life of pure aesthetic elegance ( The moon).

    Told episodically, with a saga of events revolving around Strickland, Maugham presents an insight in the heart and soul of the main character (Strickland) and his transformation towards a callous existence. The inspiration of the story was Paul Gauguin, the originator of the primitive art. The novel presents an eccentric point of view that reflects those moments of non- prejudicial thinking where a genius transients his short term goals for an epoch. Loosing the ability to be sentient and eschewing of panache are described as the presage for such an elevation of mind. Maugham makes an exquisite illusory comparison of shedding of the leaves for a distant spring , in this regard.

    The book follows Strickland and his work from France to Tahiti, where the story ends. Strickland’s unwillingness to compromise for his pursuit of art is implausible.Living in penury, denigrated by the society with a proof of his existence nearly effaced, he starts abashing anyone and everyone who tries to come close to him, which includes his purveyors and even those whom he beseech.

    Like every other classic, it too presents the entry of a mellifluous young charming lady who leaving her equanimity becomes his minion and her own personality becomes a vile minuscule existence.
  • (4/5)
    Moon and Sixpence is a beautifully written novel about a very ugly person. I do not mean physically, but rather spiritually. The novel is loosely based on the life of the artist Paul Gaugin. The setting is a combination of London, Paris and Tahiti during the late 1800s and is told through the third person voice of a male character that acts as a witness and observer. The novel centers on the life of the artist and is about the drive of the artist to create. The thought and the idea Moon and Sixpence left me with is that great artists and great creators are so driven by something that non-creatives cannot understand. This drive leads them to live outside of regular life and be willing to abandon ties to loved ones and society. The theme and concept is similar to that in The Paris Wife which is about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife. To be great, to create big does one have to be an asshole? Must one surrender completely to the craft and the drive? I just do not accept it. What I really was left with at the end of this book is the conviction that Paul Gaugin was an ass.

    This novel drew me in and painted a very rich world for me as a reader to occupy for a short time. It is a short read and it is rewarding. Yet it was so unlike The Painted Veil by Maugham which I so loved. I loved the societal and gendered critique buried in The Painted Veil. But I found none of that in Moon and Sixpence. Instead it is full of dated gender, racial and ethnic concepts. And ultimately it is extremely ethnocentric and often times offensive. Yet, I think it may purposely portray misogynistic and ethnocentric values because these are suitable to the storyline. I am not sure. The descriptions and commentary on the Tahitians and women are in such strong contrast to the descriptions in The Painted Veil that I believe they were less of a message and more of ambience creators.

    So the artist that is the focus of the story is called Strickland and his is an A Class Asshole. He walks away from his family and children and leaves them to potentially starve. He does not care what happens to them and never looks back. He has no affection or gratitude for anyone. He has little care if those around him die or suffer because of him. Why? The why is because he is driven to paint, to create. Creation is all he wants to do and what he feels he must do. And as such – everyone around him suffers the consequences of his indifference.

    Does it really take such an extreme self-focus to be great? Does the creative process demand an abandonment of kindness and love? I may be naïve, but I just cannot accept that.

    I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the artist’s life, fans of Maugham’s writing and readers who enjoy reading about Paris at the turn of the century.
  • (5/5)
    easy to follow. interesting. not really gauguin. this edition has illustrations. good reader
  • (4/5)
    The moon and sixpence is a novel about artistic genius: it aims to show rather than tell what true genius is.The novel is said to be loosely based on the life of Paul Gauguin, but this is really rather immaterial and unimportant. There is no need to look into Gauguin's life. It is more likely that the novel contains a mixture of elements which Somerset Maugham was able to observe and absorb in the artistic milieu of the first quarter of the twentieth century, particularly in Paris. Gauguin lived there about a decade or two before Maugham, but surely Paris of the 1910s and 20s was a hotbed of artists, painters and writers, who were finding a way to express themselves, struggling to stay alive. Various other writers were influenced by Nietzsche's philosophy which suggested that among the herd of common men there were some individuals who were extraordinary, supermen, whose mindset and morals were entirely original and distinct from the ordinary plebs.In The moon and sixpence the main character, Charles Strickland, abruptly deserts his family to pursue a career as an artist. He gives up a sheltered and financially secure life for the poverty and uncertainties of a career in a field he has neither a background, experience or even recognition. The moment Strickland abandons his old lifestyle, he still needs to learn painting, and throughout the story, none but one other artist recognizes the quality of his work.Strickland's deserted wife asks the author to follow Strickland to Paris and report on his life there, an assignment the author takes up and extends into writing a full, albeit fragmented biography of Strickland's subsequent life, till his death in the Pacific islands region.The most important chapters of the novel are chapters 41 through 43, which interpret and explore the contrasts between Strickland and the other characters. In the preceding chapters, Strickland is shown living a completely irrational and immoral life.Dirk Stroeve is Dutch painter, financially secure and successful, painting conventional pieces, which are much in demand. He is portrayed as utterly sentimental, and a deeply decent and good man, the only person to recognize Strickland's talent. He saves Strickland's life and is rewarded by Strickland absconding with his wife Blanche. However, Strickland cares nothing for Blanche, who ends her life through suicide.Charles Strickland bears strong resemblance with the main character of The fountainhead by Ayn Rand, a novel which, while published in 1943, spiritually belongs to the same period.Strickland takes what he wants or needs and discards what he no longer fancies. His life is an example of the shredding of convention. His moral standards are on an entirely different plane, and cannot be understood by common, ordinary people. "I don't care a twopenny damn what you think about me" is what he says (p. 420).The extraordinary genius of Strickland is illustrated by contrast with the other characters, who are displayed as humble and imperfect. The (unnamed) author (and narrator) is portrayed as a moderately successful author. ("He spoke to me as if I were a child that needed to be distracted" p. 420) Ironically, the wife Strickland leaves, is shown to pick up her life and set up independently running a business, but naturally, running a business, administrating and accounting is ultimately seen as unimaginative, grey and bland. Stroeve is shown to be immature, sentimental and artistically mediocre, while Blanche is portrayed as the ultimate looser, a stunningly beautiful wife who has wasted her life on an ugly man, is seduced by a strong and powerful man, and is subsequently too weak to shape her life, resorting to suicide. Strickland's morals would surely suggest that these people deserve no better.Rejecting the herd mentality, Strickland has given up materialism and become like "a disembodied spirit" (p. 421), a great idealist (p. 430). He had a vision (ibid.)Much of the author's admiration, and exaltation emerges post-facto. The last part of the book is of little import, it reports the motions the narrator went through to trace down and talk with witnesses, to complete the biography of Charles Strickland. These witnesses have very little useful information to tell him. The author / narrator regrets that he never bought any of Strickland's paintings, realizing that at the time he, also, was not able to recognize the revolutionary genius. In his assessment, "Strickland was an odious man, but I still think he was a great one. (p. 431){Note: Page numbers are to the edition of Shanghai: Yiwen Press (2012) 上海:译文出版社 (2012), which is preceded by the translation of the novel into Chinese. The English original version of the novel is printed on pp. 279 - 493}
  • (4/5)
    I came to this book having read a few others by Somerset Maugham, all of which I had greatly enjoyed.Maugham always, to my mind, describes facets of character extremely keenly, and here I find the device of having the story told by a character acqauinted with the protagonist (if you can call him that) very effective: do we trust what he says, are we being told Maugham's views on the issues raised by this portrayal and how do we take slightly confessional asides?There is no doubt that Maugham was often concerned with what it is to be an artist (or writer, more specifically), and I think he is here exploring one extreme personality trait that he is perhaps worried that he at times exhibits himself, rationalising it perhaps as pure selfishness: when put under the spotlight like this, that would be a too facile interpretation and he comes here more to seeing it as a complete disjunct with modern, Western societal norms, and esxamines those mores somewhat through this prism. If taken to extremes, behaviour such as Strickland's could be seen as some kind of analogue to Ayn Rand's objectivism.The other issue seems to be about the nature of art, and whether or not we should take into account such things as the character of the person who produced it.Ultimately I am not sure that Maugham comes to any conclusions about this, and the narrative method he chooses allows the issues raised to be left open, to my mind, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even if it isn't quite what I was expecting, or as enjoyable as I found, for example, Cakes and Ale.
  • (5/5)
    Many of the characters here will be memorable, whether you like it or not. It raises a set of interesting questions about how the single-minded pursuit of goals, even worthy ones like artistic achievement, become depraved unless moderated by a larger sense of compassion and empathy. The protagonist devotes himself selfishly only to his art, even at the expense of his health and rudimentary comforts and callously uses everyone he can with ice cube logic. The narrator turns out to be an interesting character too because he barely passes judgment on the anti-hero protagonist and enjoys the back-and-forth of their conversations, though this may be a device to keep up the narration.
  • (4/5)
    This was a really interesting book. The writing was lovely. Apparently the narrator is Maugham himself, and the protagonist is a thinly veiled version of Paul Gaugain. The narrator trails Gaugain and the multitude of offended and broken hearted whom he left in his wake. Gaugain is painted as a stark, honest, totally self-centered man of genius. The story moves from London to Paris to Tahiti and back to London. The story is a little slow to become engaging, but once the story moved to Paris it was tough to put down. Educational and engaging.....not bad!
  • (4/5)
    Somerset Maugham writes skillfully and beautifully. His descriptions of characters are perceptive, and he delves into motivations and connections with the precision of laser surgery.The Moon and Sixpence tells the story of Charles Strickland, who at 40 years of age, leaves his job as a stockbroker and his wife and children because of an overwhelming desire to paint. The story is based on the life of Paul Gaugin.My one disappointment is that Stickland was portrayed as almost singularly unfeeling, and was contrasted by Dirk Stroeve, who was unfailingly good and compassionate. The contrast was, in my view, over done, with both men becoming almost caricatures rather than real people. But, that was (to me) a small fault in what was an engrossing read.
  • (4/5)
    The main character of this book, Charles Strickland, was a thoroughly unlikeable fellow. His departure from home left his first wife in despair. He took up with a woman in Paris and destroyed her life. It was only when he went to Tahiti that he found a haven for his art and lifestyle. That Strickland was based on the artist Gauguin adds to the story. I didn’t like the character, but I did like the book.
  • (5/5)
    This novel is beautifully written and gives a good life lesson to who ever reads it. Strickland the protagonist of the plot starts out as a middle class stockbroker in London who feels that he is born to paint, leaves his wife his normal life and moves to Paris to start his painting career. The story keeps you hooked until the end following a man in his own world absolutely careless of people who surround him. He felt that he was born to make something beautiful and denies women and luxury in his life. To him a woman would just be a model he would hold on to just for the sake of painting but later getting her out of her mind. I found this novel amazing for the fact that you get a chance to follow a person who is sacrificing everything to achieve his goal in life. You can feel the passion , the value the dedication he puts into the beauty of his art (his goal) showing that everything around him is of no value to him. This story depicts well of how people really are around us and many connections can be easily to the everyday people we meet.
  • (4/5)
    Could not figure out the title.
  • (5/5)
    the Moon Sixpence is a novel which is based on the life of the artist Paul Gauguin, as Maugham imagined it.Of course, given the subject and the author, it was not a cheerful book with a happy ending for all. Maugham seems to have felt an urge to write about the darker side of human nature, while Gauguin's life seems to have lent itself easily to that purpose. I do feel sure that this says as much or more about the author than it does about the subject.I loved this book and sped through it.The tormented, artistic soul was laid bare and it was no easier to put the book down than it would be to look away from a train wreck.
  • (4/5)
    This wasn't the absolute perfection that was The Razor's Edge, and yet it was still better than 99.9% of the books out there. It is a testament to Maugham's talents that although I have never given a damn about Paul Gauguin, I loved this book.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book. Inspired by the life of Paul Gaugin, Somerset Maughn creats a biography for Charles Strickland, a man who under an incomprehnsible compulsion throws up his life as stockbroker, husband and father, and seeking only to paint, flees to France and then Tahiti leaving human casualties and great art in his wake. It's a seductive read but once finished you realise it's also a case of special pleading for genius to have it's head, no matter the cost. So I'm left feeling ambivalent, liking it against my better judgement, which may be just the effect that the author was intending!
  • (5/5)
    Vivid illustration of the destructive pursuit and rebirth of the main character, Charles Strickland, which is loosely based on the life of Primitivist painter, Paul Gaugin.
  • (4/5)
    When Maugham writes like this, I want to just consume every word he produces. I was talking about him to a friend recently - a friend who has now read this and "The Razor's Edge" because I asked her to - and I decided that of all the creations in all of literature, the one I most want to be like - or even just to be - is the narrator in a Maugham novel."The Moon and Sixpence" holds me in thrall in the same way, even though one could say it is slightly inferior to some of Maugham's other work. It concerns the life of a genius artist, I kind of Gauguin, I suppose, called Strickland; an obscure, obtuse man who suddenly gives up his life in London and moves abroad to study and become a painter.In true Maugham fashion, the story isn't just about Strickland, but about everything his story means - about doing things contrary to the expectations of society, of following one's own will; everything that could touch on the subject seems to interest the narrator, lifting the story from the place most would be content to let it rest.
  • (5/5)
    Wow.Oh. That can't stand as a review, right? Dang. It expressed my feelings about this book exactly.Hmm. Maugham uses three or four facts from the life of Paul Gauguin and spins a tale of selfishness, art, and social commentary. It's an amazing tour de force, not a term I use lightly. Reading this is like watching some horrid event that you can't turn away from.Our narrator is reliable, within his frame of knowledge, but is surely one the most unlikable narrators in literature. His mean, nasty remarks, which unfortunately are cunningly acute, give the book a bitter taste.The main character, artist Charles Strickland, is a beast of self-interest, without a care or even a thought as to how his behavior might blight the lives of others. People are no more important to him than a suit of old clothes. A man (Dirk Stroeve, the only likable character in the book, who is mocked without mercy by everyone) saves his life. Strickland repays him by stealing away his beloved wife, and his studio into the bargain. (Not a spoiler; the reader can see this the instant they meet.)The artist/genius is portrayed here as being above the norms and mores of society. Society is portrayed as empty and venal. A person of genuine kindness and selflessness is portrayed as an amiable but contemptible buffoon. And the ending? Oh my. Nature and life at its cruelest.And yet...and yet. This is a compulsively readable book which I couldn't put down until I finished it. Something about it rings so horribly true, so life-like, that the reader comes to the appalled conclusion that life and society is pretty awful after all; might as well admit that right up front and get on with it.Whew! 5 depressed stars
  • (4/5)
    Maugham's novel, based on the life of Paul Gaugin, features Charles Strickland, an Englishman who leaves his wife when he is 40 years of age for France. The narrator pursues him on behalf of the wife only to discover that he had not left her for another woman but to paint. Five years later, the narrator moves to France and barely recognizes Strickland. He is told that Strickland is a great artist although he has sold nothing. The novel continues to follow Strickland's life in France and later to Tahiti. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this story in spite of some of the plot elements. Just an additional note: I downloaded the Project Gutenberg edition of this book to read, but it was so full of OCR errors that it was very cumbersome to try to follow. I ended up downloading the free Kindle version instead which was much more readable.
  • (4/5)
    This novel is not a biography of Paul Gaugin but was inspired by the life of the French post-impressionist. There are a few similarities in the lives of Gaugin and Charles Strickland, but the story is Maugham's creation. Strickland is a repulsive character and from my limited knowledge of Gauguin, it appears there was a distinct similarity. It's not an attractive or appealing story, but still the reader feels the urge to continue, to see it through, possibly to discover deeper motives. Maugham's writing is a joy to read: beautifully clear and precise while able to depict emotions and traits, many of which we would rather deny. When rating this book I was torn between my enjoyment of the story and the quality of the writing. As one of my favourite writers, Maugham deserves more, but the characters - and they were, after all, created by Maugham - influenced my decision to give this book just 4 stars.
  • (3/5)
    A fictionalised life based on Gauguin. This is the "good Maugham".Read Samoa Oct 2003
  • (4/5)
    Oh wow, I'm not sure what to think or say about this. Maugham's writing was beautiful. But the whole thing left such a bitter taste in my mouth. It was compulsively readable, but a little like watching a car crash. And I think better to go into it not knowing the similarities between the life of the main character here (Strickland), and Gaugin, because really Maugham just seems to take a couple of main points and just use those as a jumping point to inspire the novel. I.... hmm. I think I need to track down paper copies of this and some other Maugham books, they beg to be re-read ("straight to the pool room" she says, in a quote that possibly no-one else will recognise)
  • (3/5)
    A man gives up his comfortable life to become a painter.