The Magus, by John Fowles, is one of my favorite books. Here's why.
In The French Lietenant's Woman, Fowles writes a conventional plot with a contrived narrative form. In The Magus, Fowles writes in a conventional narrative form with a contrived plot. I explored the metafiction of each novel more fully in my Master's Essay at St. Thomas, "Playing God: the Reader and Author in John Fowles' The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman," where I used reader-response criticism to illuminate the metafiction. Fowles never just straight writes--he's always playing with narrative, always aware that he's writing fiction, always inviting his reader in on the game.
Existential Freedom and Responsibility
Conchis' dilemma at the execution is the greatest illustration of existential freedom in all of literature: Conchis makes a deliberate decision to assert his freedom at the expense of utilitarian practicality.
It is not only that decision that illustrates existential freedom and responsibility, but the entire lesson Nicholas is forced to learn. Nicholas, Conchis, Fowles, and the reader explore the themes of post-modern existentialist humanity and dilemma.
There are many breathtaking passages in the novel. Each autobiographical story that Conchis shares is captivating. The final chapter is brilliant. Fowles is a masterful writer, capable of beauty and inspiration.
This book takes the reader on a journey, a journey that is always a game. But the reader may come away from the game altered, seeing the world forever differently.