THE RAZOR'S EDGE:

TRUE OR FALSE?



WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM


"I have invented nothing. To save embarrassment to people still living I have given
to the persons who play a part in this story names of my own contriving, and I have
in other ways taken pains to make sure that no one should recognize them."

W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM, The Razor's Edge


THE RAZOR'S EDGE: True or False?

the Wanderling


Almost from the very second The Razor's Edge was made available to the reading public there has been a raging controversy as to IF the storyline as presented by Somerset Maugham in what has turned out to be one of the Bestselling Novels of the 20th Century was true or false, fact or fiction, real or not real.

Throughout the years a variety of literary heavyweights from both sides of the aisle --- and some not so heavyweight --- have taken up the challenge in an attempt to either prove or disprove the contents as being nothing but factual to the storyline being no more than a total figment of the author's imagination. Thus far, no one from either side of the spectrum has been sucessful in proving their belief is 100 percent accurate without a doubt.

What you find, however, on the PRO or TRUE side of The Razor's Edge being factual, is not so much major attempts with major proofs, but little drops here and there --- expertly researched --- that cumulatively fill a bucket that spill over and become a torrent. Such an example is found in "MAUGHAM AND THE WEST: the Human Condition: Bondage," a monograph by Fulbright Scholar and Professor Emeriti of Comparative Literature, Hunter College, City University of New York, Mildred C. Kuner. Speaking of The Razor's Edge, Kuner writes as found in the source so cited below:


"(T)he oblique construction of the book is one of Maugham's happiest inventions. In Maugham's unique use of first person, the narrator (Maugham) is an entertaining host describing to his guests a series of events which HE witnessed and which are indisputably authentic."(source)


"A series of events which HE witnessed and which are indisputably authentic!" Strong words about a book thought by many to be fiction rather than based on fact. True, although what the good doctor says doesn't make it so, almost any Professor of Comparative Literature, professor Kuner included, no doubt has a much wider base of resources available to them in order to clarify and delineate issues related to literature, authors, and writers than the average reader or critic. It is a given they probably know people who know people who know people and being so said, able to elicit direct access and response in the process of their research as well as have reams of literature based information to call upon if so needed. So too, in their circle of Professor of Comparative Literature peers there is most likely ample discussion to shootdown or authenticate any proposal. Hence the use of "indisputably authentic" is probably based on more than mere speculation or wishful thinking --- even though the full spectrum behind the arrival at such a distinction may not be readily available to the common layperson.


Fortunately, there is a way to distinguish between facts readily available in order to determine if The Razor's Edge is TRUE rather than FALSE --- a way that falls somewhat between the exalted position of Professors of Comparative Literature and that of the common layperson, me for example, albeit based more on my own personal experience and personal knowledge than anything else.

W. Somerset Maugham was a writer. He wrote articles, books, plays, and novels of fiction. As a writer of novels of fiction he had a literary license to create, mix, match, invent or make up just about anything he liked. However, in The Razor's Edge, except for his efforts to "save embarrassment to people still living" by using "story names of his own contriving," he stuck to a fairly interesting set of facts, facts that could have been written, rewritten or changed in another way if he had so chose. He didn't. As he says, he invented nothing.

Maugham goes on to say, "I think my book, within its acknowledged limitations, will be a useful source of information for my friend's biographers," and for the most part, except for the few minor discrepancies presented earlier, the story pretty much self-substantiates itself.

Taking Maugham at his word, but eliminating certain obvious literary elaborations discussed by me elsewhere, and most assuredly so as found in the Mentor as to which this page is footnoted to, while fully taking into consideration Maugham's three earlier attempts using the exact SAME plot (see), it becomes clear the underlying storyline weaved throughout The Razor's Edge is based on fact and that the Darrell character is based on a real person. It is my contention that the person Maugham used in real life was the same person I met and knew and refer to in my writings as my Mentor (as linked above) and sometimes "the man nextdoor." For the doubters, however, the following presents what I consider as Three Main Facts in the story that help corroborate or solidify that Maugham "invented nothing" and what was told to me is accurate within the bounds of memory:


I. THE FACT THAT LARRY DARRELL WAS TOO YOUNG TO GO TO WAR:

II. THE FACT THAT LARRY DARRELL WAS AN AMERICAN:


"Since the dates or timing of those wounds are not part of the story, it could be that the Darrell character, in the process of one or the other or both wounds was picked up by Maugham PRIOR to his departure from the ambulance service. Now Maugham might not have remembered Darrell, but from my own experience, Darrell might have remembered him. Maugham, as an ambulance driver no doubt assisted hundreds of wounded, so in turn most would eventually become not much more than just a blur. The opposite would happen to the person wounded. I say so because of my own experience being found in a ditch unconscious with my stomach ripped open. The very second the staff sergeant that found me stepped next to my bed in the army hospital to see how I was three days later, even though I knew I didn't 'know' him, I 'recognized' him instantly."(see)



Finally, and one of the most interesting and basic reasons for this footnote, is what Maugham writes about regarding Darrell's Enlightenment experience --- and the one thing that almost everybody who reads the novel, critic, aficionado, or casual reader alike, NEVER gets:


III. THE FACT THAT LARRY DARRELL DID NOT AWAKEN AT THE ASHRAMA OR THE HOLY MOUNTAIN OF ARUNACHALA:


DID MAUGHAM KNOWN ABOUT SRI RAMANA BEFORE HE LEFT ENGLAND?

From the source so cited:

Although many people have claimed Maugham never even heard of Sri Ramana before he left England for India he actually followed a well planned itinerary with every step on the way leading directly to the ashram. After arrival in India Maugham traveled to Madura then on to Madras. From Madras he went by car to Tiruvannamalai. During his Travels In India he celebrated his 64th birthday. The day he arrived at the Ramana ashrama he didn't enter the main room where Ramana was seated because "he was wearing big klunky boots and, because he was tired from his long journey, was not up to taking them off."(see) Such a scenario indicates that just the mere fact of traveling in India for the sixty-four year old was fatiguing, that is, he couldn't even take his boots off --- so it isn't likely, even though he traveled clear to India to meet the Maharshi and see the ashrama, that he went trekking off to see some forest retreat two days ride by bus and a long hike into the mountains just for background material UNLESS it was absolutely necessary. He could have just written the story so Darrell Awakened at the ashrama or maybe in the caves, but he didn't. Instead he wrote it the same way it was told to him during his talks in Paris and the same way it was described to me by my Mentor and how I've presented it in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds.

There is a very interesting tid-bit of information in The Saint essay, one of five essays found in Maugham's book "Points of View." Maugham writes, and I quote:


"What follows is what I wrote in my note-book immediately on my return to Madras. The Maharshi was of average height for an Indian, of a dark honey colour, with close-cropped white hair and a close-cropped white beard. He was plump rather than stout. Though he wore nothing but an exiguous loin-cloth (what his biographer somewhat inelegantly calls a cod-piece) he looked neat, very clean and almost dapper. He had a slight limp, and he walked slowly, leaning on a stick. His mouth was somewhat large, with thickish lips, and the whites of his eyes were bloodshot. He bore himself with naturalness and at the same time with dignity. His mien was cheerful, smiling, polite; he did not give me the impression of a scholar, but rather of a sweet-natured old peasant. He uttered a few words of cordial greeting and sat down on the ground not far from the pallet on which I lay."


Maugham writes that the Maharshi wore a loin-cloth followed by and I quote, "what his biographer somewhat inelegantly called a cod-piece." So, Maugham leaves the ashram and immediately on his return to Madras, not hours, days, or years later, but immediately after and writes in his notebook a number of things including his comparison to what the Maharshi wore (a loin-cloth) to that of what the Maharshi's biographer called it (a cod-piece). The biographer Maugham refers to is Narasimha and the biography on Ramana he wrote, Self Realization: The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (1931). How do we know Narasimha is the biographer of which Maugham speaks? Because he includes the Ramana biography Narasimha wrote at the end of his essay.

Since Maugham wrote what he did in his note book immediately upon leaving the Ramana ashram and arrival at Madras the question arises, how would he have known Narasimha's specific use of the word/term "cod-piece" to describe what Ramana was wearing if he had not already read the biography?(source)


Even though The Razor's Edge is a book and a movie and a great number of people simply take it for that, as the above attests to, the story is based on real life and real life people. I met and knew the actual person the Larry Darrell character is based on. Maugham wrote down what he learned from the person he calls Larry Darrell and turned it into a book which was made into a movie.



There is a massive 1749 page two volume book set titled "Ashrams of India" that explores over 500 ashrams, temples, and other significant sites of eastern religious and spiritual interest located throughout the Indian sub-continent. The compilers have backed up their explorations with reems of classical, historical, and recent background information. In a section regarding westerners known to have historically visited the ashram of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi the following is presented:


"(S)ometime in the late 1920s a young traveller from America bumped into Swami Ramdas one night at the Meenakshi Temple in Madura, the two of them had previously met in the caves of Elephanta three years earlier. The young American would eventually gain fame, albeit anonymously, in W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 novel The Razor's Edge. Given the name Larry Darrell by Maugham in the book, that same American, in real life following the advice of Ramdas, went to see Ramana Maharshi. Through the grace and light of the Maharshi, the anonymous American awakened to the absolute."


The graphic below, from the black and white 1946 movie version of The Razor's Edge, shows Larry Darrell, the central character in the story, meeting with the holy man for the very first time. To see a short video excerpt from the movie of that meeting and what Maugham reported the holy man had to say to Darrell that changed his life, and possibly could yours, please click the graphic below:


WHAT THE HOLY MAN TOLD DARRELL, IT IS HIGHLY RELEVANT

(please click image)

The graphic below will take you to the complete Razor's Edge movie including how Darrell was led to the point where he met the holy man and what happened after. To watch is free with no sign ups and is expandable to full screen size. It is well worth watching:



(for full length movie please click image)


THE RAZOR'S EDGE NOTES


SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
RECOUNTING A YOUNG BOY'S NEARLY INSTANT TRANSFORMATION INTO THE ABSOLUTE DURING HIS ONLY DARSHAN WITH THE MAHARSHI


SEE ALSO:


PART I: FOOTNOTE [1]: Did Maugham Know About Sri Ramana Before Going To India?


PART II: FOOTNOTE [1]: Why Was Somerset Maugham DRIVEN To Go To India and Meet Sri Ramana


________FOOTNOTE [2]: Sri Ramana and Eye Contact Sequences



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.


(PLEASE CLICK)


HOW TO ACHIEVE ENLIGHTENMENT


ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL


30 MINUTES TO ENLIGHTENMENT



CLICK
HERE FOR
ENLIGHTENMENT

ON THE RAZOR'S
EDGE


E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

(please click)


RETURN TO:
PAGE TWO


















Mildred Christophe Kuner: Recipient of an MFA, Yale University and a PhD, Columbia University. Professor Emerita, Department of Drama and of Comparative Literature, Hunter College, City University. Has taught at the New School and New York University. Fulbright Scholar, Vienna, Austria. Winner of Maxwell Anderson and Charles Sergel Awards for Playwriting. Plays produced at university and community theatres, off-Broadway and at the Bristol Young Vic. Author of articles on theatre; a monograph on W. Somerset Maugham published in England and Japan titled "MAUGHAM AND THE WEST: the Human Condition: Bondage"; a critical biography of Thornton Wilder; a dramatic adaptation of Victoria Holt's novel The Mistress of Mellyn; and a lecturer on theatre for New York CIty radio station WNYC. Member, Internaional Society for Theatre Research; member, Dramatists Guild.

Kuner's monograph MAUGHAM AND THE WEST: the Human Condition: Bondage can be found in THE WORLD OF SOMERSET MAUGHAM, Klaus W. Jones (editor), 1959. If you call up the link below a complete free online version of the book comes up. Kuner's quote can be found on book page 75. The PDF version is expandable to full screen


THE WORLD OF SOMERSET MAUGHAM
















A hundred years ago Arunachala was covered by a thick forest where tigers roamed and streams flowed down its sides. However, photographs of Sri Ramana on the mountain taken well before his death in 1950 show the forests long depleted and most of the trees along the slopes above the plain gone. The mountain was hot and dry; there were thorns and goats, but few other animals or birds.

The environment of the Holy Hill was unique in that originally it had a system of lakes and over 300 ponds and temple-tanks charging the water-table within a small area of 50 sq.km. These were charged mostly by over and under-ground springs from the Hill. There were several small ponds on the Hill also. The ancient history of the mountain testifies to dense forest cover, home to many wild animals living in harmony with the humans who dwelt in simple Ashrams all around the Hill. But today, unchecked human encroachment with no concern for one's responsibility towards Nature, has led to a situation where the watershed system has all but vanished. Only about 150 of the over 300 ponds and tirthas mentioned above can be visually located. Of these less than 50 are functional, mostly through the thanks of repair and desilting by philanthropists and the Government.(source) See also: Mountain of Medicine


THE MEETING: An Untold Story of Sri Ramana























THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:


SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE:





















IF FOR SOME REASON THE VIDEO DOESN'T COME UP CLICK HERE

SRI RAMANA AND SOMERSET MAUGHAM
THE HOLY MAN, LARRY DARRELL, AND THE RAZOR'S EDGE