May 09, 2012

Of Human Bondage


Just finished reading Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. The ghastly-looking paperback edition was one of the husband’s wise purchases on our recent trip to Bangalore, and once I started, I did not know much peace or quiet till I finished it.

My mother started feeding me “good” literature from her dad’s collection in early teens when it was, among other things, a practical way to keep noise levels down in the house. Quite cocky and self-assured at 17, I embarked on a 5-year study of English literature and read most of the defining works of fiction of the last 500 years or so, and perhaps these shaped the kind of person I grew up to be. At the same time, I’m not sure I did (or indeed could have done) justice to the brilliant writing and thinking I consumed, and there was a considerable element of pearls-before-swine in my history of burying my nose into books.

In recent times, while I’m surrounded by a very diverse selection of books courtesy the husband’s myriad interests, my own purchases are of dubious literary standards, and seem to be evading the truths of life, much like me.

(If you’re married to me, do not read beyond this line. Hugs.)

It was wonderful, therefore, to come across this semi-autobiographical work by Maugham, and as the bildungsroman progressed and a philosophy of life unfurled, the air was knocked out of me more than a dozen times. The academic or casual study of a writer’s perspective is a faint spark compared to the blazing fire of near-complete identification with a world-view espoused by someone decades before you were born, and who came to it by a path completely different from yours. As the book came closer to its end, the sense of identification started to wear off a bit, and the final resolution offered by Maugham disappointed me immensely, but as he and I believe, there are other ends to stories.

2 comments:

Devika Rajeev said...

Exactly my thoughts, many years ago! http://devikarajeev.blogspot.in/2004/10/of-human-bondage-william-somerset.html

Ink Spill said...

Lovely blog, Devika! Thanks for stopping by and introducing me to it!