“The Magus” (Post 8/9)

Magus 08

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

“The Magus” Month – Introduction

[339] Reference:

“The subject also conforms to the Adlerian descriptions of siblingless personality traits.”

(p.459 / r.p.509)

Alfred W. Adler (1870 – 1937) was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. He emphasized one’s birth order as having an influence on the style of life and the strengths and weaknesses in one’s psychological make up. Alder never produced any scientific support for his interpretations on birth order roles, nor did he feel the need to. He claimed younger and only children may be pampered and spoiled, affecting their later personalities.

[340] From the “psychiatrist’s” report on Nicholas (along with notes [341] and [342]):

“The subject has preyed sexually and emotionally on a number of young women. His method, according to Dr. Maxwell, is to stress and exhibit his loneliness and unhappiness – in short, to play the little boy in search of the lost mother. He thereby arouses repressed maternal instincts in his victims which he then proceeds to exploit with the semi-incestuous ruthlessness of this type.

“In the usual way the subject identifies God with the father figure, aggressively rejecting any belief in him.”

(p.459 / r.p.509)

[341] Reference:

“His caste in his own country, that of the professional middle-class, Zwiemann’s technobourgeoisie, is of course marked by an obsessional adherence to such regimes.”

(p.459 / r.p.509)

Zwiemann is the title of a German book published in 1930 by Carl Haensel but I can’t find any information in English about the book or the author. If Fowles is making a real reference, I don’t think the Haensel book is correct but I can’t find anything else.

Technobourgeoisie is defined in the text (“the professional middle-class”); a new middle class created/made possible by advances in technology. I don’t know how it connects to the name Zwiemann.

It’s possible that some of this report is completely made up (or this reference may just be too vague to pin down).

[342] Reference:

Paranosic sympathy with fellow rebels and nonconformers.”

(p.460 / r.p.510)


Paranosic gain (primary gain): interpersonal, social, or financial advantages from the conversion of emotional stress directly into demonstrably organic illnesses.

Nicholas aligns himself with outcasts (and as an outcast) for personal gain, not any true understanding of their positions.

[343] Reference:

I was the Eumenides, the merciless Furies.

(p.465 / r.p.515)


Female subterranean deities of vengeance, also known as the Erinyes and the Furies.

It’s interesting for Nicholas to compare himself to female creatures when considering whether to inflict punishment on Lily/Julie.

[344] Reference:

Faces disassociated from my anger, as close-remote and oblique as the faces in a Flemish Adoration.

(p.468 / r.p.519)


Flemish painting flourished from the early 15th century until the 17th century.

Looking up “Adoration painting” leads to references to Adoration of the Magi which can refer to many pieces of art that show the three Magi present at the Nativity of Jesus.

[345] Reference:

She was turned sideways towards me in a deliberate imitation of Goya’s Maja Desnuda.

(p.477 / r.p.527)


The Nude Maja“; an oil on canvas painting by Franciso Goya, dated between 1797-1800. It shows a naked woman reclining on pillows with her hands behind her head. Goya made a second version where the woman is fully clothed, known as La Maja Vestida (“The Clothed Maja”).

Maja was a feminine term (masc. majo) for people from the lower classes of Spanish society.

[346] Vocabulary:

They were too narrow, and had slender Moorish-ogive tops.

(p.477 / r.p.528)


noun – (architecture) – a pointed or Gothic arch.

(statistics) – a cumulative frequency graph.

[347] Reference:

Her head turned in profile and her right arm reached out gracefully and invitingly, in the classical gesture of camier.

(p.478 / r.p.528)


Jeanne-Francoise Julie Adelaide Recamier (1777 – 1849) was a French society leader whose salon drew Parisians from the leading literary and political circles of the early 19th century. She was the subject of several famous pieces of art, including Jacques-Louis David’s, Portrait of Madame Recamier (1800), which shows her reclining on a sofa, looking back over her shoulder. Another portrait by Francois Pascal Simon (1802) shows her seated and facing the viewer.

[348] Vocabulary:

Perhaps she wanted some state of complete sexual emancipation, and the demonstration of it was more necessary to her as self-proof than its exhibition was to me as my already supererogatory “disintoxication.”

(p.479 / r.p.529)


Latin for “payment beyond what is due or asked.” The performance of more than is asked for; the action of doing more than duty requires.

[349] Vocabulary:

The metamorphoses of Lily ran wildly through my brain, like maenads, hunting some blindness, some demon in me down.

(p.480 / r.p.530)


In Greek mythology, maenads were the female followers of Dionysus and the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god’s retinue. Their name translates as “raving ones.”

[350] Reference:

He meant something far stranger by “Learn to smile” than a Smilesian “Grin and bear it.”

(p.481 / r.p.531)


Samuel Smiles (1812 – 1904) was a Scottish author and government reformer. His masterpiece, Self-Help (1859), promoted thrift and claimed that poverty was caused largely by irresponsible habits, while also attacking materialism and laissez-faire government.

[351] Translation:

It was a feu de joie, a refusal to die.

(p.484 / r.p.534)


French: fire of joy / bonfire

[352] References:

Presumably on some sort of retreat, one of those desiccated young Catholics that used to mince about Oxford when I was an undergraduate, twittering about Monsignor Knox and Farm Street.

(p.487 / r.p.537)


Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1888 – 1957) was an English priest, theologian and author of detective stories.

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street also known as Farm Street Church is a Roman Catholic parish church in central London.


All my life I had tried to turn life into fiction, to hold reality away; always I had acted as if a third person was watching and listening and giving me marks for good or bad behavior – a god like a novelist.

(p.488 / r.p.539)

These references to fiction and feeling that one is in a fiction (see Post 5, note [204]) force us to remember Nicholas is a creation but, at the same time, his self-awareness makes him seem more alive.

Fowles has also hit on something interesting here. I think many people have this feeling of some unseen force taking note of our actions – call it God or karma or what you will – there an expectation of reward for goodness (even goodness is done in private) and punishment for negative actions.

[354] Reference:

Whether it was in the nature of my nature, or in that of whatever Coue-method optimism Conchis had pumped into me during my last long sleep.

(p.489 / r.p.539)


Emile Coue (1857 – 1926) was a French psychologist and pharmacist who introduced a popular method of psychotherapy and self-improvement based on optimistic autosuggestion.

[355] Vocabulary:

He hated the Byzantine accidie that lingers in the Greek soul far more intensely than any foreigner could.

(p.492 / r.p.543)


Alternate spellings: acedia or accedie

noun – a state of listnessness of torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world.

[356] Translation:

Je veuz vous parler, Monsieur Urfe.

(p.492 / r.p.543)


French: I want to talk to you.

[357] Reference:

An antiquated linen swimming-costume with a lunatic ribboned Tam o’Shanter cap to match.

(p.497 / r.p.547)


The traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men. The name derives from Tam o’Shanter, the eponymous hero of the 1790 Robert Burns poem.

[358] Vocabulary:

They were pieces of roneographed paper.



A Roneograph or Roneo machine was a trademark used for mimeograph machines. The name was a contraction of Rotary Neostyle.

[359] Translation:

ominous dominus


homullus est



igitur meus

parvus pediculus

multo vult dare

sine morari

in culus illius



colossicus ciculus

(p.499 / r.p.549)

I tried putting this through Google translate and it gave me gibberish. Someone asked for help translating  it on a forum and Mike Lyle offered this:

Mr. Nicholas is a ridiculous little man

My little louse therefore wants to give [him] a lot without delay

In the arse of this ridiculous Nicholas, the great big [dickolas?]

Lyle added:

“I have no idea what /ciculus/ means. It seems like a bogus word, so I’ve inserted a suitable one of my own.”


“I don’t think the piece is meant to be grammatically correct (…) It’s meant to be schoolkid stuff.”

[360] Left among Lily and Rose’s notes, Nicholas finds a fairy story (“The Prince and the Magician”). Some of Fowles’s statements and visuals, especially in this “fairy story” and the beginning of the trial scene feel straight out of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s realm (he’s one of the most unique, inspired filmmakers to ever walk this earth; also an intense, strange figure in the Conchis tradition). Jodorowsky pulls off what Fowles attempts with great success. Side recommendation: watch the film Holy Mountain.

“I must know the real truth, the truth beyond magic.”

“There is no truth beyond magic.”

(p.501 / r.p.552)

[361] The plot falls apart during and post-trial. The Nicholas that has been established would not stay on the island and continue to be baited after such a blow to his ego. He would return to England and sulk and ignore the commands and games. But then we wouldn’t have a story.

So Fowles makes the mistake most writers make at some point: he keeps pushing a character along in a situation that the character has no reason to stay in. Nicholas even tells himself to stop pursuing the mystery shortly before leaving the island:

By searching so fanatically I was making a detective story out of the summer’s events, and to view life as a detective story, as something that could be deduced, hunted, and arrested, was no more realistic (let alone poetic) than to view the detective story as the most important literary genre, instead of what it {really} was, one of the least.

(p.502 / r.p.552)

…yet, we will follow Nicholas for a hundred more pages as he attempts to puzzle out the events of the year.

[362] Vocabulary:

She would vitiate or haunt any relationship I might form with another woman.

(p.503 / r.p.553)


verb – (formal) – spoil or impair the quality or efficiency of.

destroy or impair the legal validity of.

[363] Translation:

Perhaps {this} [the] statue was the center of Bourani, its omphalos.

(p.504 / r.p.554)


Greek: navel

[364] Reference:

There were signs, among the fallen rafters and charred walls, that tramps or Vlach gypsies had lived there.

(p.506 / r.p.557)


Vlachs is a historical term used for Eastern Romance-speaking peoples in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

[365] Vocabulary:

I walked past lines of toy Ionic temples and columned busts and fancy steles.

(p.508 / r.p.558)


noun – (botany) – the central core of the stem and root of a vascular plant.

(archaeology) – another term for stela


noun – (archaeology) – an upright stone slab or column typically bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design, often serving as a gravestone.

[366] Reference:

Between two cypresses, shaded by a mournful aspidistra-like plant, lay a simple Pentelic marble slab.

(p.508 / r.p.559)


Coming from Mount Pentelicus (or Pentelikon), a mountain range in Attica, Greece.


I understood; it was his way of telling me what I had already guessed, that detective work would lead me nowhere – to a false grave, to yet another joke, a smile fading into thin air.

(p.508 / r.p.559)

…but Nicholas continues his detective work.

[368] Reference, changed between versions:

“Has anyone read Murdoch’s latest?”



“Has anyone read Henry Green’s latest?”



Iris Murdoch (1919 – 1999) was an Irish novelist and philosopher, best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious.

Henry Green was the penname of Henry Vincent Yorke (1905 – 1973), an English author. His novels, important works of English modernist literature, were published between 1926 and 1952.

Murdoch’s first published novel came out in 1954; The Magus takes place mostly in 1953. Fowles caught this – or someone pointed it out to him – and he replaced the reference with one that made more sense.


I looked round the other faces, after he had done this for the tenth time, hoping to see a flicker of fellow feeling, someone else who wanted to shout at him that writing was about books, not the trivia of private lives. But they were all the same, each mind set in the same weird armor, like an archosaur’s ruff, like a fringe of icicles. All I heard the whole evening was the tinkle of broken ice needles as people tried timidly and vainly to reach through the stale fence of words, tinkle, tinkle, and then withdrew.

Nobody said what they really wanted, what they really thought. Nobody behaved with breadth, with warmth, with naturalness; and finally it became pathetic.

(p.509 / r.p.560)

[370] Reference:

The critic made a perceptive little disquisition on Leavis, and then ruined it by a cheap squirt of malice.

(p.509 / r.p.560)


F.R. Leavis (1895 – 1978) was an influential British literary critic.

[371] I don’t think the reader is ever supposed to fully believe Alison’s suicide. The question of it being false always lingers. Especially when there is so much book left after Nicholas leaves Phraxos. The only thing left is for him to meet up with her again.

Confirmation of her appears “on-screen” again on (p.511 / r.p.562).

[372] Reference:

Playing an invisible Maria to Lily’s Olivia and my Malvolio – always these echoes of Shakespearean situations.

(p.513 / r.p.564)

I think I’ve warned you that my knowledge of Shakespeare is shaky at best (I don’t do very well at Jeopardy). Fowles, like many authors, loves his Shakespeare references and they’re usually over my head. So you’ll see me looking up things that should probably be obvious. I’m not proud of this.


Maria, Olivia and Malvolio are characters in Twelfth Night (~1600). Malvolio is the steward of Olivia’s household and the main antagonist. He hates fun and games and wishes the world to be free of human sin. Olivia is the main character, with various suitors. Maria is a servant in her household.

[373] Nicholas identifies the third flower left, along with a lily and rose, on Conchis’s false grave:

Thin green leaves, small white flowers, Alysson maritime… parfum de meil… from the Greek a (without), {and} lyssa (madness). Called this in Italian, this in German.

In English: Sweet Alison.

(p.515 / r.p.566) 

Alison’s name has been symbolically significant before (Post 5, note [196]).

[374] Part Three opens with our last De Sade quote from Les Infortunes de la Vertu (Post 1, note [2]; Post 2, note [50]). This thread translates it as:

The triumph of philosophy would be to cast the light of day on the obscurity of the ways Providence uses to achieve the ends it proposes for man, and to trace therefrom a map that could make this unfortunate bipedal individual, perpetually shaken by the caprices of this being which, they say, directs him to despotically, the way in which he must interpret the decrees of Providence on him.

(p.517 / r.p.567)

[375] Vocabulary:

A Gothic loggia looked out prettily over the green ravine.

(p.519 / r.p.569)


noun – a gallery or room with one or more open sides, especially one that forms part of a house and has one side open to the garden.

[376] Vocabulary:

A medieval strip-cartoon of a girl, first titivating herself in front of a glass, then fresh in her coffin.

(p.519 / r.p.569)



verb – (informal) – make small enhancing alterations (to something).

make oneself look attractive.

[377] Translation:

“Oh, sit u penses que le football est un digne sujet de meditation…”

(p.520 / r.p.570)


French: Oh, if you think that football is a worthy topic of meditation…

[378] Reference:

I found the Peruginos easier to feel reverence for.

(p.521 / r.p.570)


Pietro Perugino (~1446 – 1523) was an Italian Renaissance painter. Raphael was his most famous pupil.

[379] Vocabulary:

He stared out across a box-bordered parterre into the blue heat of the sun-baked ravine.

(p.521 / r.p.571)


noun – a level space in a garden or yard occupied by an ornamental arrangement of flower beds.

(North American) – the part of the ground floor of an auditorium in the rear and on the sides, especially the part beneath the balcony.

[380] Reference:

An indigo{-blue} hilltop under the lemon-green sky to the west was where the poet Horace had had his farm.

(p.523 / r.p.572)


Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the author of the book Lily/Julie showed Nicholas (Post 6, note [241]).


But I had to do something while I waited, while I absorbed the experience osmotically into my life. So throughout the latter half of August I pursued the trail of Conchis and Lily in England; and through them, of Alison.

(p.527 / r.p.577)

[382] Reference:

Did I have a violent argument with him once about Racine and predestination?

(p.530 / r.p.579)


Jean Racine (1639 – 1699) was a French dramatist and an important figure in the Western tradition. He was primarily a tragedian. Racine’s dramaturgy is marked by his psychological insight, the prevailing passion of his characters, and the nakedness of both the plot and stage.

[383] Translation:

If you are ever in this part of the world, I should be delighted to talk over old times with you, and to offer you, if not an ouzo, at least a sake pou na pinete.

(p.530 / r.p.580)

I think this is an attempt to write out a Greek phrase, but it doesn’t translate with this spelling. Pinete means “pinewoods” in Italian. That’s all I’ve got.

[384] Reference:

From masonic ritual, but believed to descend from the Eleusinian mysteries.

(p.531 / r.p.580)


The annual rites performed by the ancient Greeks at the village of Eleusis near Athens in honor of Demeter and Persephone.

[385] Reference:

Lily and Rose (…) must, if they had been {up} at Oxford or Cambridge, have been the double Zuleika Dobsons of their years.

(p.532 / r.p.581)


Zuleika Dobson, or, an Oxford love story is a 1911 novel by Max Beerbohm, a satire of undergraduate life at Oxford. It includes the famous line, “Death cancels all engagements.” The title character is a devastatingly attractive young woman and something of a small-time celebrity, who all the boys want.


We [always] tend to believe people who have had the same experiences as ourselves, {who mirror us}.

(p.532 / r.p.582)

[387] Reference:

Polymus Films. I didn’t see the obvious, that one misplaced letter, until painfully late.

(p.533 / r.p.583)

I’m not sure what he’s getting at here. Polymuse? (Many muses?)

UPDATE (Feb. 18, 2018): A message left on this post by Christopher points out that Polymuse = Olympus. Once you see it, it’s so obvious but I never would have gotten there on my own. (Thank you!)


I was aware that in all this I was acting the role I had decided not to act: that of detective, of hunter, and several times I abandoned the chase.

(p.534 / r.p.583)

[389] Vocabulary/Reference:

I waited in the splendid hall. An ostentation of marble and ormolu; pier-glasses; what looked like a Fragonard.

(p.536 / r.p.585)


pier glass

noun – a large mirror, used originally to fill wall space between windows.

Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732 – 1806) was a French painter and printmaker with remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism.

[390] Vocabulary:

She leant the besom she was carrying against the wall.

(p.537 / r.p.587)


noun – a broom made of twigs tied around a stick.

[391] Reference:

I saw a lifetime of dropped bricks behind her; but her tanned skin and her clear bluish eyes, and the body that had conspicuously not run to seed, made her forgivable.

(p.538 / r.p.587)


To “drop a brick” is to unintentionally say or do something embarrassing, tactless, or indiscreet; to commit some social faux pas or mistake. Primarily heard in UK.

[392] Vocabulary:

Benjie came and stood about twenty yards away, by an astrolabe on a stone column.

(p.542 / r.p.592)


A “star-taker”; an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers.

[393] The real names of the twins are finally given: Lily and Rose de Seitas (p.546 / r.p.595).

[394] Reference:

{One} [The second one] was a limited edition of a translation of Longus, dated 1936.

(p.550 / r.p.599)


The author of an ancient Greek novel or romance, Daphnis and Chloe. Nothing is known of his life; it is assumed he lived on the isle of Lesbos during the 2nd century AD.

[395] References:

The other book was an edition of translations from the poems of Palamas, Solomos, and other modern Greek poets; even some by Seferis.

(p.550 / r.p.599)


Kostis Palamas (1859 – 1943) was a Greek poet who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn.

Dionysios Solomos (1798 – 1857) was a Greek poet best known for writing the Hymn to Liberty which became the Greek national anthem in 1865.

Seferis wrote the “broken pomegranate full of stars” haiku which Conchis quoted to Nicholas (Post 3, note [86]).


“My poor resentful young man, let me tell you something. Love may really be more a capacity for love in oneself than anything very lovable in the other person. I believe Alison has a very rare capacity for attachment and devotion. Far more than I have ever had. I think it is very precious. And all I have done is to persuade her that she must not underestimate, as I believe she has all her life till now, what she has to give.”

“How kind.”

She sighed. “Sarcasm again.”

“Well, what do you expect? Tears of remorse?”

“Sarcasm is so ugly. And so revealing.”

(p.551 / r.p.601)

Post 9/9


8 thoughts on ““The Magus” (Post 8/9)

  1. Polymus – πόλεμος (polymos) is Greek for war
    Pou na pinete – που να πίνετε – that you might drink [although I would expect the subjunctive πιείτε after να] also could be πού meaning ‘where’.


  2. Sone items I have figured out over the years – Polymus films: Olympus. Pou na pinete : bad Greek for ‘to drink’ . The Latin poem is playful schoolboy Latin, roughly, ‘my little foot really wants to give Nicolas a little kick..’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I see someone has also replied about που να πίνετε or πίνεται. I don’t think it’s meant to be correct, given the context and the deceptive nature of the letter. It’s another of the many language games.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s