John Fowles and his Important Works

John Fowles is a novelist and essayist-studied French at Oxford. He became a teacher and spent some time working in Greece before the success of his first novel, The Collector (1963), which enabled him to write full- time.

Fowles’s fiction was characterized by an extreme heterogeneity of subject matter and treatment, and his preoccupation with the possibilities of genuinely free action. The Collector is a psychological thriller in which a young girl Miranda is kidnapped by a psychotically possessive and introverted clerk, Clegg. In The Magus (1966, revised 1977), a young man takes a teaching post on a Greek island and becomes involved with a mysterious Greek millionaire. A long and compulsive masquerade of sexual enticement and historical manipulation follows, which often blurs identities and reality.

His best- known work-The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) – is a careful pastiche of a Victorian novel undercut by twentieth-century literary and social insights. Fowles goes on to reconstitute a Victorian love- triangle, an appropriate idiom and with a proper ethos and mental climate, and then to impose upon it a twentieth-century perspective. The narrative is equipped with alternative endings, Victorian and modern. The work is a remarkable example of the postmodern novel, bridging contrasts innovative and yet traditional, subversive yet telling a good story, authoritative and however questioning. The book is interspersed with quotations from Darwin, Marx, Arnold and Tennyson, and authorial interruptions. It is an exploration of different levels of deceit and hypocrisy, mostly sexual, and it also reflects deep existential anxiety. The heroine, Sarah Woodruff, is a version of the mysterious woman who appears throughout Fowles’s fiction, notably in the novella ‘The Ebony Tower’ (1974).

Daniel Martin (1977) is a bildungsroman rooted in post-war Britain. Mantissa (1983) is a satire of structuralism, while A Maggot (1985) is a murder mystery set in the eighteenth century. Fowles’s style is richly allusive and descriptive. In his works, he combines psychological probing, chiefly of sex and love, with interest in the social and philosophical contexts of human behavior. His effective use of time, often spanning centuries, his creative imagination, his range of subjects from psychological thrillers to the use of magic, and his experiments with themes and forms added a unique quality to his work. They ensured great academic and commercial success in Europe as well as in the USA.