John Fowles died on Saturday,
November 5, 2005.
Read three different obituaries at:
And here is an interesting
by Bob Goosmann
John Fowles was quite simply a
great writer and a great man. In addition to producing two
of the finest novels of the 20th Century--The Magus and The
French Lieutenant's Woman--he was a brilliant essayist and a
keen observer of nature. He was also a man of liberal
thought who was willing to stand up against authority (to the
detriment of his reputation with the establishment) and fight
for such issues as conservation and the environment.
I first met Fowles in San
Francisco during his 1998 speaking tour to promote his new book Wormholes.
He graciously signed books for about an hour after his on-stage
interview, and I was struck by how soft-spoken and friendly he
was--not your typical famous person with an oversized ego.
The following year I had the
rare pleasure of spending about an hour with him at his home in
Lyme Regis, England. When I arrived at his house, I was
led through to the back yard and found Fowles quietly staring
out toward his much-beloved garden. In the distance was
the Cobb--made famous from the opening scene of The French
Lieutenant's Woman--stretching out from the coast into the
sea. It was a surreal moment, to be sure. Yet when
Fowles noticed me and came over to where I was standing, I might
have been paying a visit to a distant great uncle and not a
world-famous author, such was his friendliness and lack of
We subsequently sat in the
kitchen and chatted over a beer, and I proceeded to attempt to
remember the numerous questions I was anxious to ask him.
Much of the ensuing hour is now just a blur, but I do recall
asking about The Magus, my favorite novel from his
oeuvre. I had always wondered what Fowles' preferred
aftermath was for Nicholas and Alison, and I tried to get him to
talk about it. But he just smiled and gently shook his
head--a quiet reminder that The Magus, like all of his fiction,
was as much about the reader's interpretation as the author's.
Fowles in his later years was
portrayed by the mainstream media as everything from a curmudgeon
to a recluse, a reputation that he seemed to cultivate in a wry
sort of way. And his recently published diaries indicate
that he could be a bit of a bastard (in his own words),
especially in his
younger days. He certainly was not without his faults, and
at times it seems he was more comfortable with nature than with
his fellow man. Still, I think he was an individual with a
good heart who was deeply concerned with the human condition and
the plight of mankind.
It is The Magus, in my
opinion, that will ultimately be considered his
masterpiece. Certainly it was the novel closest to his
heart (he liked to refer to it as his "naughty little
child") and the fact that he took the time to revise it 11
years after its original publication is telling. It is by
far the Fowles title regarding which I receive the most
correspondence on this web site.
When Fowles and I had finished
our beer and he had walked with me to the front door of his
house, I thanked him for providing me with one of the great
experiences of my life. He smiled and said "you're
welcome," and I could see in his face that he was actually
pleased to have given me such a gift. I will never forget
that smile. Genius is rare, but genius combined with
kindness and humility rarer still.