Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Waiting Room

Waiting Room. Facetious name that the wealthy Greek-English philosopher Maurice Conchis gives to his villa, where the novel’s narrator, Nicholas Urfe, finds himself the subject—or perhaps victim—of a series of shifting realities orchestrated by Conchis. At first the experiments seem like a strange game, but it is one that eventually comes to have a more sinister cast. The isolation of the villa is emphasized in several ways. It is on the southern tip of the island of Phraxos, with no other human habitation anywhere near. It is surrounded by barbed wire, left over from World War II, it has its own private beach, and only its rooftop is visible from the forest outside the estate.

The character of the villa itself seems to change as the nature of Conchis’s experiments on Urfe change; at times the novel emphasizes the richness of the villa’s furnishings, which include original paintings by Amedeo Modigliani and Pierre Bonnard. At other times, the novel focuses on the plainness and simplicity of the villa’s fittings. Readers quickly understand that the Waiting Room—whose name comes from a salle d’attente sign from a French railway station, left behind by German occupation troops after the war—is a stage set whose different features are emphasized depending on each new mystery that is played out there.

The appearance of attractive English twins, June and Julia, turns the villa into a place of sexual attraction, even though their roles within Conchis’s ever-shifting drama make it difficult to get the measure of them. The villa is a place...

(The entire section is 662 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The technique Fowles uses in The Magus gives it richness, complexity, and mystery, all of which mirror its theme. The protagonist,...

(The entire section is 155 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Fowles's acknowledged literary precedent in the Celtic or medieval romance is apparent in The Magus with its notion of the questing...

(The entire section is 151 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Fowles wrote the screenplay for a movie version of The Magus, which was filmed on the island of Majorca and which starred Anthony...

(The entire section is 46 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Garard, Charles. Point of View in Fiction and Film: Focus on John Fowles. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. Important because three of Fowles’s novels—The Collector (1963), The Magus, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969)—have been made into films and because Fowles’s narrative techniques are often cinematic in nature.

Huffaker, Robert. John Fowles. Boston: Twayne, 1980. A fine introduction to Fowles and his work, including a critical bibliography.

Onega, Susana. Form and Meaning in the Novels of John Fowles. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989. Includes essays on Fowles’s novels of the 1980’s. Notes that the structures of the novels always reflect their meanings.

Palmer, William J. The Fiction of John Fowles. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1974. A brief but stimulating reading of Fowles’s novels in the light of philosophical, social, and cultural contexts.

Wolfe, Peter. John Fowles: Magus and Moralist. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1976. Especially interesting in that the author applies the concepts of magic and ethical behavior, two concerns of The Magus, to all of Fowles’s fiction.