John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, on March 31, 1926, to Robert and Gladys Richards Fowles. During World War II, his family was evacuated to the more remote village of Ippeplen, South Devon, and it was there that Fowles discovered the beauty of the country of Devonshire, his “English Garden of Eden” that figures so prominently in other guises in his fiction. During that same period, he was a student at the exclusive Bedford School, where he studied German and French literature, eventually rising to the stature of head boy, a position of great power over the other boys in the school. It was there that he got his first taste of literature, which he loved, and power, which he despised. The knowledge of both was influential in his own writing.
From Bedford he went into military service, spending six months at the University of Edinburgh and completing training as a lieutenant in the merchant marine just as the war was ending. Following the war, he continued his education in German and more particularly French literature at New College, Oxford University; he graduated in 1950 with a B.A. with honors. His fiction owes many debts to his study of French literature, particularly his interest in existentialism as espoused by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and his knowledge of the Celtic romance, from which stemmed his expressed belief that all literature has its roots in the theme of the quest.
Upon graduation, Fowles taught English at the University of Poitiers. After a year at Poitiers, he took a job teaching English to Greek boys on the island of Spetsai in the Aegean Sea. The school, the island, the aura of Greece, and the thoughts of the young...
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