Willie: The Life of W. Somerset Maugham by Canadian author Robert Calder, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan who has written the forewords for several of the Penguin Classics editions of Maugham’s novels, is a literary author biography, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Endeavour Press’ The Odyssey Press imprint.
This was originally published in 1989 by William Heinemann, was later reprinted by St. Martin’s Press, and won the 1989 Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction (Canada’s top literary prize).
This biography of the highly influential early 20th century British playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham—author of classics such as Of Human Bondage, which was adapted to film several times—was written with the co-operation of his late secretary and companion Alan Searle. It sought to present a comprehensive and nuanced look at the author’s complex and sometimes contradictory personality, with a more sympathetic view of the effects of Maugham’s sexual orientation, and the fear of its exposure had on both his writing and his personal life, than previous biographers had used at the time (circa the 1980s), and includes some useful commentary about said previous biographies in the introductory foreword.
Offered worldwide, available at Amazon.
Free for a limited time @ Amazon (should be available worldwide).
Winner of the 1989 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction
William Somerset Maugham went to a lot of trouble to ensure that no biography of himself could be written.
Ever in terror of disrespectful leaks, he left strict directives with his Literary Executor and organised ‘bonfire nights’ of letters and unpublished writings. It brought him a good deal of attention – most of it unfriendly.
As doctor, spy, homosexual, husband, father, nonagenarian and one of this century’s most admired and successful writers, he was, in any case, an extraordinary man.
By nature aloof, imperious and emotional, he was a curious mixture of kindness and cruelty, a writer frightened only of his own psyche.
Robert Calder provides a sympathetic portrait of the stammering and elusive individual behind the austere persona.
With the active co-operation of Maugham’s secretary and companion, Alan Searle, he identifies the writer’s central fear of being exposed as a homosexual, and discusses his disastrous marriage and later unedifying public squabbling with his family.
Few writers have suffered so acutely from their weaknesses at the end of their days.
Robert Calder pleads admirably and persuasively for a more compassionate understanding of an essentially kind individual, torn between the opposing forces of instinct and social conformity.