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John Fowles Biography

(1926–2005), The Collector, The Aristos: A Self Portrait in Ideas, The Magus

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British novelist and essayist, born in Leighton-on-Sea, Essex, educated at New College, Oxford. Fowles was a teacher in France and Greece (which resurface as landscapes in his fiction), there increasing his knowledge of classical and contemporary philosophies, and assimilating the French literary influences absorbed during his university years. His first novel, The Collector (1963), was a best-seller, and was made into a film by William Wyler two years later. His second published work, The Aristos: A Self Portrait in Ideas (1964), was an extended essay elucidating Fowles's evolving personal credo in the context of explorations of other philosophies, notably existentialism, which seems to have had some influence on him, as have the ideas of Jung. In spite of Fowles's avowed left-wing sympathies, the self-confessed élitism of his non-fictional debut has inspired some controversy, engaging as it does with the foundation of right-wing thought. Fowles continused his preoccupations in The Magus (1966; revised 1977), set on a vividly evoked Greek island. In an atmosphere of mystery, fantasy, and obsession, the novel concerns an Englishman, Nicholas Urfe, who obtains a teaching post on the island, and his involvement with an enigmatic Greek millionaire and his entourage; with its mythological dimension the novel suggests magic realism, and in the agnostic fatalism of its ending point, Greek tragedy. Fowles's move to Lyme Regis in Dorset initiated the compelling sequence of images immortalized in his best-known work, The French Lieutenant's Woman; the novel was filmed by Karel Reisz in 1981. His other works of fiction include The Ebony Tower (1974), a collection of short fiction, significant for its skilled craftsmanship; Daniel Martin (1977), a portrait of a modern man, with marked autobiographical overtones; Mantissa (1982), an erotic satire on Fowles's own previous imaginings of the artist and his anima/muse; and A Maggot (1985), an ambitious historical novel with a powerful element of fantasy. While not enjoying the success of The French Lieutenant's Woman, these novels nevertheless continue to be the focus of much literary debate. Fowles is also the author of such short works on natural history as Islands (1978) and The Tree (1980), and A Short History of Lyme Regis (1982).

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