Volume I: 1949-1965
Publication Date: May 3, 2005
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In 1963, John Fowles won international recognition with The Collector, his first published novel. In the years following—with the publication of The Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Ebony Tower, and his other critically acclaimed works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—Fowles took his place among the most innovative and important English novelists of our time. Now, with this first volume of his journals, which covers the years from 1949 to 1965, we see revealed not only the creative development of a great writer but also the deep connection between Fowles’s autobiographical experience and his literary inspiration.
Commencing in Fowles’s final year at Oxford, the journals in this volume chronicle the years he spent as a university lecturer in France; his experiences teaching school on the Greek island of Spetsai (which would inspire The Magus) and his love affair there with the married woman who would later become his first wife; and his return to England and his ongoing struggle to achieve literary success. It is an account of a life lived in total engagement with the world; although Fowles the novelist takes center stage, we see as well Fowles the nascent poet and critic, ornithologist and gardener, passionate naturalist and traveler, cinephile and collector of old books.
Soon after he fell in love with his first wife, Elizabeth, Fowles wrote in his journal, “She has asked me not to write about her in here. But I could not not write, loving her as I do. . . . What else I betrayed, I could not betray this diary.” It is that determined, unsparing honesty and forthrightness that imbues these journals with all the emotional power and narrative complexity of his novels. They are a revelation of both the man and the artist.
John Fowles was born in 1926. His books include The Collector, The Aristos, The Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Ebony Tower, Daniel Martin, Mantissa, A Maggot, and Wormholes. He lives in Lyme Regis, England.
Charles Drazin is an editor and writer whose previous books include In Search of the Third Man and Korda: Britain’s Only Movie Mogul.
“The book is gripping, and one can’t help feeling that Fowles was writing–with a dogged passion, and almost inadvertently–what may come to be seen as one of the very best of his works.”–Literary Review
“This is the first instalment of Mr Fowles’s journals. As in his novels, almost every sentence has life. Bring on volume two.”–The Economist
“[Fowles] has interesting views about other authors, can vividly evoke those he meets, and explain truthfully what he feels about them, and himself . . . He has a magnificent narrative gift.”–The Independent
“Fowles’s reputation has waned in recent years. These extraordinary diaries, ‘this portrait of the total living artist’, which he calls ‘the last novel I have to write’, should help bring about his richly deserved resuscitation.”–The Spectator
“John Fowles wrote: ‘Reading back through old diaries. Fantastic outbursts of priggishness, of vanity, of expectations. The temptation is to suppress such blemishes. But that defeats the diary.’ In this respect the diary remains triumphantly undefeated . . . [Fowles’s] intellectual perseverence and artistic integrity remain stubbornly impressive to the end.”–The Observer