Friday, 24 January 2014

W. Somerset Maugham - 140th Birthday (25 January 1874 - 2014)


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAUGHAM!


Dear fellow Maugham admirers,

This post is to celebrate the 140th anniversary of W. Somerset Maugham’s birthday. Regretfully, he is not here with us. As a line from Musset’s Rolla that Maugham appeared to love says: "Je suis venu trop tard dans un monde trop vieux.”

For this special occasion (we humans have a penchant for round numbers), I have prepared a video. I love birthdays, a rare personal event in this overpopulated world.



There are only three authors whose works I have read all with certain kind of pleasure: Jane Austen, Dostoevsky, and Maugham.

I would’t mind reading all of Jane Austen's again (and perhaps again, after that); Dostoevsky's are an enterprise that is fit only for a certain age, and I have long passed that. For some time I have almost finished all of Thomas Hardy’s, but then I read one book too many and gave the whole thing up as a lost cause.

But Maugham, there is something about his works that I am able to read them more than once and still enjoy the experience.

Not many people would share my opinion, but there it is.

I hope that you enjoy the video. Please leave a comment if you do and don’t be too harsh on my editing!

Have a look at Maugham's 80th birthday announcement on the BBC too:




13 comments :

  1. Very nice video. Plenty of rare material. Great to see the introductions to "Quartet", "Trio" and "Encore" included. I hope you wouldn't mind my sharing the link in Maugham group on LibraryThing.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Alexander! Of course not, please do.

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  2. May I ask where the recordings from the non-fiction works come from? Fantastic to have these excerpts in Maugham's voice.

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    1. It's from The Spoken Word. British Writers, issued by BBC and the British Library. It's an extract from A Writer's Notebook. If you want I can send you the track. Let me know.

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    2. I would greatly appreciate it if you could send the track. It is priceless. Do you know of any other excerpts from the non-fiction writings that Maugham recorded? Off the record, so to say, I suppose his BBC broadcasts were - and still are - preserved and would love to hear "Twenty Days in a Ship" or the complete address on his 80th birthday, but I doubt they are available online or will be released officially some day.

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    3. At the moment I haven't found any other. For example, this extract lasts only ~ 7 mins.; it's a pity that they don't put the whole 30 mins. I hope one day they would issue a whole CD for Maugham only, like they have done for some authors. (By the way, in the booklet for another collection,The Spoken Word Short Stories Vol. 2, they say that Maugham was born on Christmas Day! I wrote to the British Library and they replied saying that if ever they were going to reissue they would correct the mistake...)

      I am hoping that since they appear to be organizing their archives, some day they will be accessible online. Like the interview with Muggerich, originally it lasted 45 mins.! I wonder what else they talked about.

      If my memory is correct, once I read somewhere that BBC was attempting to preserve their archives, but some years ago, perhaps in the 50s, they threw away their videos or there was a fire or whatever, and in order to recover the recordings they had to resort to individuals who had recorded their programmes! But don't trust me too much about this.

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  3. You're lucky. I once wrote to the BBC about a possible mistake in their blurb of "For Services Rendered", but I never got a reply.

    It seems there is more than enough material for a box-set with "The Complete Recordings of WSM". May it be released one day. It's somewhat ironic that so many of his books are still print (yet older editions of them are easily available at excellent prices), but such treasures as these recordings remain very difficult to access.

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  4. May I enquire about the music? The beginning and the end I could easily identify myself, but have no idea about those strings and that piano between them. Who are the composers and which are the works?

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    1. The first one after the intro. is Debussy's Pour l'Egyptienne. The second one that accompanies the garden scene is Satie's Je te veux, which sort of merges with what they have put originally in the background when Maugham was talking. I don't know what it is that they put.

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    2. So far as I could discover online, Debussy's piece was originally written for piano (four hands). The only orchestration I came across was one by Ernest Ansermet. Is this the one you used or is it another arrangement?

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    3. The one I used is by Ensemble Musical de Paris, from the Henry & June soundtrack. I used to like the movie very much, but my enthusiasm diminished when I watched it again one or two years ago. However, I continue to like the soundtrack.

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    4. Never heard of this movie, I'm afraid. Would you like me to send you Ansermet's own recording?

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    5. Yes, please, that would be very nice. Henry & June is about Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. I think it's worth checking out. Paris in the 30s, romance, music.

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