“The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham
(First publication: 1944 / This edition: Vintage Books 2000)
Taken during a coffee break over the weekend at Rocket x Siwilai. Ended up ordering the buckwheat waffles with berries as well. Indulgence.
I only wanted to suggest to you that self-confidence is a passion so overwhelming that beside it even lust and hunger are trifling. It whirls its victim to destruction in the highest affirmation of his personality. […]
No wine is so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. (pg.225)
This is my second Maugham. I read “Of Human Bondage” about half a year ago and it became one of my favorite books.
I read “The Razor’s Edge” over the course of about 2 weeks. During these 2 weeks, I’ve been insanely busy at work—late nights and even all-nighters. I only got to read on the commute or sometimes during some down-time at work, but still… to make it short, I wasn’t able to give it my full attention.
I wish I had though. I think it would actually be on my “Favorites” shelves if I had read it with more concentration and devotion and was able to take in everything. I was able to focus for maybe only 75% of the book, and had to put it down every so often.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed it.
It triggered many emotions and raised many questions. The story is narrated by Maugham himself—he’s actually a character in it. He talks about the lives of a handful of characters and the different lives and philosophies they live by. Elliot is a slightly-snobby, sophisticated man who spends his life so luxuriously—but he does have the kindest, most caring heart. His sister, Isabel, spends her life chasing that luxury and puts high importance in it. On the other hand, the man that she loves but does not get to marry, Larry, despises luxury and money and spends his life traveling the world and trying to live as free from money as possible. All their views on “how you spend your life” just clash.
Not one or the other is better or is “right”. They just have different importance and priorities.
I just gave a very diluted summary, but reading it, it made me reflect a lot about my life, my perspectives, and my own life goals.
The story actually made me kind of depressed—the kind of depressed you get with questions starting with “What if”. It reminded me of the films “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” a little. Well, it makes me think of my life combining the film and this story. Confusing? Confusing.
I guess I am at that crucial point in life where I need (or should) really think about these things and kind of “figure it out”—at least figure out who I am.
I really enjoyed this book and wish I had been able to put more focus in it. There was only one part towards the end of the book that I really got lost and didn’t find interesting at all—about Larry’s learned philosophy when he was in India—but other than that, the story was a fun read.
I will definitely have a re-read it again.
Here are a few of my favorite lines from the book:
Unfortunately, sometimes one can’t do what one thinks is right without making some else unhappy. (pg.80)
You know, when one’s in love and things go wrong, one’s terribly unhappy and one think one won’t ever get over it. But you’ll be astounded to learn what the sea will do. (pg.102)
Most people when they’re in love invent every kind of reason to persuade themselves that it’s only sensible to do what they want. (pg.103)
You know, often the best way to overcome desire is to satisfy it. (pg.178)
Passion is destructive. (pg.181)
The best to be said for it is that when you’ve come to the conclusion that something is inevitable all you can do is to make the best of it. (pg.303)
We’ve had some good times together. Keep a good recollection of me. (pg.339)