On Human Bondage


I can already say that this is going to me my favourite book from all the books I’m going to read this year. I absolutely fell in love with its’ narrative and the characters. Somerset Maugham is a great storyteller!

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The novel is a classic bildungroman with Philip Carrey as a main character. Philip is an orphaned child that after losing his mother ends up with his uncle (a curate) and his aunt in a small village. He is raised in a very religious manner and he seeks comfort in God hoping for a miracle that he will get well: he has a clubfoot and he is extremely sensitive about his condition. Philip becomes his education hoping to become a curate or a minister, he hates his years as a schoolboy as public school turns out to be a nightmare.

Deep down he seeks adventure, he wants to really live his life in the greatest manner possible. So that’s how, eventually, he moves to Paris where he tries to make the most of his talent as a painter. He doesn’t become one as he has no real talent, but he meets interesting people there.

I really love the Paris scenes, and the conversations about art, love, life and the meaning of live between all those free dreamers Philip encountered there. Philip realizes all by himself that he has no talent and comes back to England, returning to London where he starts to study medicine, the path his natural deceased father had also followed. He loves his new studies, but unfortunately he meets Mildred, the woman that destroys his inner life, first of all, but also destroys him financially.

Nevertheless, those lines filled with love, passion and infatuation for a woman unworthy of the greatest feelings, the loneliness, the waiting, the yearning and the hoping which makes from Philip yet another heartbroken young fellow tell us all about the power of love bound to the blindness of the soul and eyes …even when the sun it’s right into our faces! Because love feels this way: bitter but sweet, sour but tasty…There’s no need to search for deeper meaning. Life and love seem meaningless.

„Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment.”

„Mrs. Carey sighed as a woman but obeyed as a wife.”

…reading isolated him: it became such a need that after reading in company for some time he grew tired and restless; he was vain of the wider knowledge he had acquired from the perusal of so many books, his mind was alert, and he had not the skill to hide his contempt for his companions’s stupidity.

„And do you find it more poetic when you don’t quite know what it means? I thought it was only in revealed religion that a mistranslation impoved the scene.”

„After all, it’s not my fault. I can’t force myself to believe. If there is a God after all and he punishes me because I honestly don’t believe in Him I can’t help it.”

It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know that they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy. (…) They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.”

He never knew that he was happy there.

There are only two things in the world that make life worth living, love and art.

He had pondered for twenty years the problem whether he loved liquor because it made him talk or whether he loved conversation because it made him thirsty.

„Why, merely, the futility of regret. It’s no good crying over spilt milk, because all the forces of the universe were bent on spilling it.

There’s always one who loves and one who lets himself be loved.

„Oh, it’s always the same”, she sighed, „if you want men to behave well to you, you must be beastly to them; if you treat them decently they make you suffer for it.”

„It’s folly the Christian argument that you should live always in view of your death. The only way to live is to forget that you’re going to die. Death is unimportant. The fear of it should never influence a single action of the wise man.

They acted according to their emotions, but their emotions might be good or bad; it seemed just a chance whether they led to triumph or disaster. Life seemed an inextricable confusion. Men hurried hither and thither, urged by forces they knew not; and the purpose of it all escaped them; they seemed to hurry just for hurrying’s sake.

I don’t know what it is that makes someone love you, but whatever it is, it’s the only thing that matters, and if it isn’t there you won’t create it by kindness, or generosity, or anything of that sort.

It was one of the queer thing of life that you saw a person every day for months and were so intimate with him that you could not imagine existence without him; the separation came, and everything went on in the same way, and the companion who seemed essential proved unnecessary.

…he was born, he suffered, and he died. There was no meaning in life, and man by living served no end. It was immaterial whether he was born or not born, whether he lived or ceased to live. Life was insignificant and death without consequence.

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