Razor's Edge, The
The Razor's Edge, arriviste
a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, published in 1944. This was the first work in which the narrative voice is identified as Maugham's by name. Written after much painstaking research into Eastern philosophy and mysticism, The Razor's Edge is Maugham's twentieth-century manifesto for human fulfilment. In it he mercilessly satirizes American and European materialism, and holds up the figure of the spiritual seeker as a model for those searching for meaning in existence. Maugham's serious observations on the nature of being are complemented with a brilliantly realized portrait of Paris in the 1920s, and a gallery of closely observed characters who in their various ways point up the vacuity of the social values of the time. The finest of these are Elliot Templeton, an American arriviste who devotes himself to social niceties with religious fervour, and his niece Isabel Maturin, whose desire for material wealth blinds her to the possibilities of a different and deeper kind of happiness. These are affectionate portrayals, and Maugham's narrative voice is at its most warmly urbane as it wanders through the drawing-rooms and bohemian cafés of Paris. The character of Larry Darrell is less convincing, but the skilful unfolding of his mysterious quest makes his spiritual journey compelling, if not inspirational.