Writer of the Week: John Fowles

John Robert Fowles, born on March 31, 1926, was one of the pinnacles of postmodern writing of his time. He spent most of his childhood attended by his cousin, Peggy Fowles, due to his mother’s untimely death in 1932. His escapades into postmodernism began at this early age, mostly through his childhood hero, Richard Jeffries. Fowles’ favorite book by Jeffries, Wood Magic: A Fable, was laden with cynical viewpoints and a story about garden animals overthrowing a tyrant magpie. It was through these roots that coerced Fowles into postmodern writing. This, combined with his legal training, shows through his works; his stories are often heavily involved in metafiction (which questions the relationship between fiction and reality) and symbolism.

After his training at law school and becoming a star athlete at the Bedford School, he joined the Royal Marines through a Naval course at Edinburgh University. Though he only served for two years and didn’t receive any medals, his military service was exemplary, and when he completed in 1947, he returned to school. It was at this time that he began changing, saying that he “began to hate what [he] was becoming in life”, instead turning to existentialism and anarchy. Again, this is reflected in his works, particularly in the illusory nature of “The Magus.”

Fowles’ novels are rife with symbolism, entendre, and unreliability. Each one of his major works tackles a different issue in postmodernism: “The Collector,” a story about a young man kidnapping the girl he admires, deals with moral relativism, while “The Magus,” a tale of a young man who is continually fooled by a master trickster, rigidly sticks towards a distrust of grand narratives and ideologies. Fowles as a creator is talented, but it is the philosophies that are woven into his creations that make him truly stand out among novelists.

Fowles, unfortunately, is deceased. After marrying his wife Sarah Smith seven years before, he suffered from heart failure on Nov. 5, 2005. Though he has passed on, you can still find his website here to learn more about this incredible author.