W. Somerset Maugham was one of the seminal writers of the twentieth century, and his travel writing has long been considered among his finest work. Now, acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer maps out a masterful tour of these vivid, evocative pieces that are collected here for the first time.
Maugham worked as a secret agent in Russia, published novels in London, staged plays in New York, and traveled throughout Europe, Asia, India, and the United States, chronicling his travels, wherever he went, with exceptional insight. Beginning with “In the Land of the Blessed Virgin” and culminating in “A Partial View,” Iyer selects vignettes of Maugham’s razor-sharp prose that track his transformation from a boyish traveler in Spain to a worldly man of letters.
This is Maugham at his most keenly observant, direct, and powerful.
About the Author
William Somerset Maugham was an English author, playwright, and doctor best known for the semi-autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage. Orphaned at a young age, Maugham was raised, unhappily, by his uncle, who urged him into a medical career despite his talent and interest in writing. Maugham gave up his career in medicine after his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, sold out its initial printing in several weeks, and next ventured into playwriting with Lady Frederick, which was such a success that by the following year Maugham had four plays running simultaneously. Maugham worked for the British Secret Service during the First World War, travelling all over the world before making his home in the south of France after Second World War and using his experiences as inspiration for new stories. Before his death in 1965, Maugham published many more successful novels including The Letter and The Razor's Edge, both of which were adapted into feature films. Maugham has been remembered as one of the most influential and successful writers of his era, and is believed to have been the highest paid author of the 1930s.
Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist long based in both California and Japan. He is the author of numerous books about crossing cultures, among them Video Night in Kathmandu", The Lady and the Monk, "and The Global Soul". An essayist for Time" since 1986, he also publishes regularly in Harper's", The New York Review of Books", The New York Times", and many other publications across the globe.
“Maugham is a great artist. . . . A genius.” —Theodore Dreiser
“An expert craftsman. . . . His style is sharp, quick, subdued, casual.” —The New York Times
“Maugham has given infinite pleasure and left us a splendour of writing which will remain for as long as the written English word is permitted to exist.” —The Daily Telegraph
“The modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham.” —George Orwell
“Maugham remains the consummate craftsman. . . . [His prose is] so compact, so economical, so closely motivated, so skillfully written, that it rivets attention from the first page to last.” —The Saturday Review of Literature
“It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham. . . . He was always so entirely there.” —Gore Vidal