Amazon Book Description
- This final classic collection of stories reveals Somerset Maugham's unique talent for exposing and exploring the bitter realities of human relationships.
- Brilliant tales of love, infidelity, passion and prejudice, the stories range from 'The Lotus Eater' in which a man has a vision of a life of bliss in the Mediterranean, to the astringent tales of 'The Outstation' and 'The Back of Beyond' in Malaya and South East Asia.
- Largely set in favourite Maugham country, this colourful collection brilliantly evokes the numbered days of the British Empire.
- In this final volume I have placed the rest of my stories the scene of which is set in Malaya. They were written long before the Second World War and I should tell the reader that the sort of life with which they deal no longer exists. When I first visited those countries the lives the white men and their wives led there differed but little from what they had been twenty-five years before. They got home leave once in five years. They had besides a few weeks leave every year. If they lived where the climate was exhausting they sought the fresh air of some hill- station not too far away; if, like some of the government servants, they lived where they might not see another white man for weeks on end, they went to Singapore so that they might consort for a time with their kind. The Times when it arrived at a station up-country, in Borneo for instance, was six weeks old, and they were lucky if they received the Singapore paper in a fortnight.
- Aviation has changed all that. Even before the war people who could afford it were able to spend even their short leave at home. Papers, illustrated weeklies, magazines reached them fresh from the press. In the old days Sarawak, say, or Selangor were where they expected to spend their lives till it was time for them to retire on a pension; England was very far away and when at long intervals they went back was increasingly strange to them, their real home, their intimate friends, were in the land in which the better part of their lives was spent. But with the rapidity of communication it remained an alien land, a temporary rather than a permanent habitation, which circumstances obliged them for a spell to occupy; it was a longish halt in a life that had its roots in the Sussex downs or on the moors of Yorkshire. Their ties with the homeland, which before had insensibly loosened and sometimes broke asunder, remained fast. England, so to speak, was round the corner. They no longer felt cut off. It changed their whole outlook.
- The countries of which I wrote were then at peace. It may be that some of those peoples, Malays, Dyaks, Chinese, were restive under the British rule, but there was no outward sign of it. The British gave them justice, provided them with hospitals and schools, and encouraged their industries. There was no more crime than anywhere else. An unarmed man could wander through the length of the Federated Malay States in perfect safety. The only real trouble was the low price of rubber.
There is one more point I want to make. Most of these stories are on the tragic side. But the reader must not suppose that the incidents I have narrated were of common occurrence. The vast majority of these people, government servants, planters, and traders, who spent their working lives in Malaya were ordinary people ordinarily satisfied with their station in life. They did the jobs they were paid to do more or less competently. They were as happy with their wives as are most married couples. They led humdrum lives and did very much the same things every day. Sometimes by way of a change they got a little shooting; but as a rule, after they had done their day's work, they played tennis if there were people to play with, went to the club at sundown if there was a club in the vicinity, drank in moderation, and played bridge. They had their little tiffs, their little jealousies, their little flirtations, their little celebrations. They were good, decent, normal people.
- I respect, and even admire, such people, but they are not the sort of people I can write stories about. I write stories about people who have some singularity of character which suggests to me that they may be capable of behaving in such a way as to give me an idea that I can make use of, or about people who by some accident or another, accident of temperament, accident of environment, have been involved in unusual contingencies. But, I repeat, they are the exception.
- The book bag - 5
- French Joe – 46
- German Harry – 51
- The four Dutchmen – 55
- The back of beyond – 62
- P. & O. – 99
- Episode – 134
- The kite – 157
- A woman of fifty – 184
- Mayhew – 204
- The lotus eater – 208
- Salvatore – 225
- The wash-tub – 230
- A man with a conscience – 239
- An official position – 262
- Winter cruise – 285
- Mabel – 305
- Masterson – 310
- Princess September – 322
- A marriage of convenience – 331
- Mirage – 346
- The letter – 368
- The outstation – 406
- The portrait of a gentleman – 441
- Raw material – 447
- Straight flush – 452
- The end of the flight – 457
- A casual affair – 463
- Red – 486
- Neil MacAdam – 511
Vintage Classics; New Edition (7 Mar. 2002)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)