The Best English-Language Fiction of the Twentieth Century
A Composite List and Ranking
by Brian Kunde


<- Maugham, W. Somerset, 1874-1965.
         Full name: William Somerset Maugham. British novelist and playwright born in Paris and raised in France and Kent. One of the most popular authors of his time, he wrote in a plain style when more experimental writing was in vogue. Noted for creating characters with strong drives and conflicts, toward which he took a non-judgmental attitude. He established a literary prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, in 1947.
  • <- Of Human Bondage. 1915.
             A coming of age story whose protagonist, the club-footed Philip Carey, loses his parents at an early age and is raised by a coldly distant uncle. He becomes an art student in Paris and experiences a sequence of sexual entanglements, all of which end badly. After a period of penury Philip becomes a doctor, drifting into an association with the irascible Dr. South and an engagement to Sally, daughter of his friend Thorpe Athelny, ultimately finding satisfaction in his profession and marriage. Considered Maugham's masterpiece. The title is taken from a section title of Spinoza's Ethics. Adapted to film in 1934, 1946 and 1964.
  • <- The Razor's Edge. 1944.
             Semi-fictional novel featuring American pilot Larry Darrell, traumatized by his experience of World War I. Larry rejects the materialism of those close to him and embarks on a peripatetic quest for meaning which takes him through Europe and India. His achievement of happiness in a common, working existence is contrasted with the empty, self-destructive lives of his friends. The author appears as a minor figure impinging and commenting on the lives of the major characters. The title is from a verse in the Katha-Upushniad: "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." Adapted to film in 1946 and 1984.

Posted Nov. 27, 2013, and last updated Nov. 27, 2013.
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Published by Fleabonnet Press.
The source list data is public domain.
Additional material © 1999-2013 by Brian Kunde.