Vintage International

The Skeptical Romancer

Selected Travel Writing

Publisher: Vintage

One of the seminal writers of the twentieth century, W. Somerset Maugham was also a fearless and constant traveler who chronicled his adventures with a rare mix of wit and excitement. In The Skeptical Romancer, acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer selects vignettes of Maugham's wise and vivid prose that track his transformation from a boyish traveler in Spain to a worldly man of letters, looking back on India, China, Russia, and America. Beginning with an early book on Spain and culminating in excerpts from old age, this collection introduces us to Maugham at his most surprising, charming, and prophetic. In piece after piece, one can see the spirit that continues to cast an unrivaled influence over successors from Graham Greene to Paul Theroux, from Jan Morris to V. S. Naipaul.

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I N T R O D U C T I O N
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When one travelled in the East, it was astonishing how often one came acrossmen who had modelled themselves on the creatures of his imagination.
—W. Somerset Maugham, of Rudyard Kipling
 
What makes a great traveler? Those of us who spend much of our lives on...
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PRAISE FOR

“Maugham is a great artist. . . . A genius.” —Theodore Dreiser
 
“An expert craftsman. . . . His style is sharp, quick, subdued, casual.” —The New York Times
 
“Maugham has given infinite pleasure and left us a splendour of writing which will remain for as long as the written English word is permitted to exist.” —The Daily Telegraph
 
“The modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham.” —George Orwell
 
“Maugham remains the consummate craftsman. . . . [His prose is] so compact, so economical, so closely motivated, so skillfully written, that it rivets attention from the first page to last.” —The Saturday Review of Literature
 
“It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham. . . . He was always so entirely there.” —Gore Vidal