John Fowles (1926-2005)
innovative British novelist, author of The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969) and other allusive, archetypal stories that address the collision between individual psychology and social convention. John Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, England, a middle-class suburb of London. He attended the Bedford School and the University of Edinburgh, then studied French at New College at Oxford. After serving in the Royal Marines from 1945 to 1946, Fowles taught at schools in London, France, and Greece. Fowles’s first novel, The Collector (1963), tells the story of a pathological clerk and butterfly collector who kidnaps an attractive young woman. The book, made into a successful film in 1965, is told from both characters’ points of view. His book The Magus (1965; film, 1968) is a novel about a young English teacher lured into a series of sinister, magical illusions on a Greek island. The French Lieutenant's Woman, a love story with a fractured narrative structure, became his most renowned work. The book was also the basis for a hit movie released in 1981, for which British playwright and Nobel laureate Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay. Fowles earned a reputation as a postmodernist for his use of experimental literary techniques. One constant theme in his work is the issue of free will versus societal constraints, including the conventions placed on traditional literature. In The French Lieutenant's Woman, for example, Fowles supplies two endings, and The Magus also concludes ambiguously. Subsequent novels by Fowles included the loosely autobiographical Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa (1982), and A Maggot (1985). The author also produced a volume of linked short stories—The Ebony Tower (1974), which shows the influence of medieval romance—and a number of nonfiction works, including a history of the seaside resort of Lyme Regis, England, where he lived for many years.
“In essence the Renaissance was simply...
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