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I. Read the text and do the assignments following it.
William Somerset Maugham is one of the best known English writers of modern literature. He was not only a novelist of considerable rank, but also one of the most successful dramatists and short-story writers. His first novel "Liza of Lambeth" came out in 1897, and he went on producing books at the rate of at least one a year for sixty odd years. "Of Human Bondage,” the first of his masterpieces, came out in 1919. This is a fine achievement, some part of which is recollective of phases of his own life. With the publication in 1919 of the "The Moon and Sixpence"2 his reputation as a novelist was established. "Cakes and Ale"3 written in 1930 had brilliance, genuine pathos and beauty. It is his best novel, for, here, sardonic wit and satire do not drive out human sympathy and understanding. It represents the backstage life of the literary profession and unmasks the scheming and humbug behind the popularity to which Driffield, the hero of the novel and "A Grand Old Man of Letters" is exposed.
Novels and novelists are usually meant chiefly for the literary genre, but the story of Driffield – whose attraction to common things and common people in bar parlour makes him faintly derisive of his own fame as an author – has a much wider appeal. The character of Rosie, the barmaid who becomes Driffield's first wife, is S. Maugham's masterpiece and one of the great creations in English fiction.
Always keeping in the public eye and striving to satisfy the public tastes so as to make his books sell, Maugham achieved a great popularity with the reading public in England and especially in the USA.
He triumphed not only as a novelist but as a short-story writer as well. He produced some of the finest stories in modern English literature. They are usually very sincere, well-constructed and logically developed. No matter how many times you read them, they always give you the same feeling of freshness and excitement that you experienced on the first reading.
Many of Maugham's stories are set in foreign lands where the author was as easily at home as he was in his native England. They were inspired by his travels in China, Malaya, Borneo, Siam and many other countries.
His rich experience of life and his acute insight into human nature gave Maugham an analytical and critical quality which found its expression in the vivid depiction of characters and situations.
The technique of short-story writing always interested Maugham. He has stated repeatedly that a story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. "I should define a short story as a piece of fiction that has unity of impression and that can be read at a single sitting." Maugham believes that the charm of a story lies in its interesting plot and exciting situation, but we cannot share this opinion: his own stories, though they are indeed interesting and exciting, at the same time convey deep thought, keen observation and sharpness of characterisation. These very qualities assure Maugham of an outstanding place in the annals of literature and in the hearts of all who love good stories.
1. "Of Human Bondage" – «Бремя страстей человеческих»
2. "The Moon and Sixpence" – «Луна и грош»
3. "Cakes and Ale" – «Пироги и пиво»
II. Translate the following word combinations into Russian and use them in sentences of your own:
a novelist of considerable rank, a fine achievement, sardonic wit and satire, human sympathy, to be derisive of one's own fame, to have a wide appeal, to keep in the public eye, to satisfy the public tastes, to triumph, well-constructed, logically developed, to be inspired by, an acute insight into, a piece of fiction, keen observation and sharpness of characterization.
III. Answer the following questions:
1. What was William Somerset Maugham?
2. What was his first novel?
3. What can you say about the novel "Of Human Bondage"?
4. Why is "Cakes and Ale" considered to be his best novel?
5. What does it represent?
6. Why did S. Maugham achieve such a great popularity with the reading public?
7. Can we speak about the influence of Chekhov and de Maupassant upon the works of S. Maugham?
8. What qualities assure Maugham of an enduring place in literature?
9. What novels or short stories by this author have you read?
IV. Translate the following extracts into Russian in writing.
1. Young persons, who are anxious to write, sometimes pay me a compliment of asking me to tell them of certain books necessary for them to read. I do. They seldom read them, for they seem to have little curiosity. They do not care what their predecessors have done. They think they know everything that it is necessary to know of the art of fiction when they have read two or three novels by Virginia Woolf, one by E.M. Foster, several by D.H. Lawrence and oddly enough, "The Forsyte Saga." It is true that contemporary literature has a vividness of appeal that classical literature can never have, and, it is well for a young writer to know what his contemporaries are writing about and how. But there are fashions in literature and it is not easy to tell what value there is in a style of writing that happens to be the vogue at the moment. An acquaintance with the great works of the past serves as a very good standard of comparison.
2. The only two dramatists in our time who have made their mark as thinkers are Ibsen and Shaw. Both were fortunate in the time of their appearance. Ibsen's advent coincided with the movement for the liberation of women from their inferior position in which they had so long stood; Shaw's with the revolt of youth from the conventionality of the Victorian epoch. They had to their hands subjects new to the theatre that could be displayed with dramatic effectiveness. Shaw had the advantage, useful to any dramatist, of high spirits, rollicking humour, wit and fertility of comic invention. Ibsen as we know had a meagre power of invention; his characters under different names are very dully repeated, and his intrigue from play to play is little varied. It is not a gross exaggeration to say that his only gambit is the sudden arrival of a stranger who comes into a stuffy room and opens the windows; whereupon the people who were sitting there catch their death of cold and everything ends unhappily.
(From "The Summing Up" by W.S. Maugham)
V. Read the two extracts and answer the questions following them.
1. His only passion was for the beauty of nature and he sought felicity in the simple and natural things that life offers to everyone. You may say that it was a grossly selfish existence. It was. He was of no use to anybody, but on the other hand he did nobody any harm. His only object was his happiness, and it looked as though he had attained it. Very few people know where to look for happiness; fewer still find it. I don't know whether he was a fool or a wise man. He was certainly a man who knew his own mind. The odd thing about him to me was that he was so immensely commonplace. I should never have given him a second thought but for what I knew, that on a certain day, ten years from then, unless a chance illness cut the thread before, he must deliberately take leave of the world he loved so well.
(From "The Lotus Eater" by W.S. Maugham)
2. For thirty years now I have been studying my fellow men. I do not know very much about them. I suppose it is on the face that for the most part we judge the persons we meet. We draw our conclusions from the shape of the jaw, the look in the eyes, the shape of the mouth. I shrug my shoulders when people tell me that their first impressions of a person are always right. For my own part I find that the longer I know people the more they puzzle me; my oldest friends are just those of whom I can say that I don't know anything about them.
(From "A Friend in Need" by W.S. Maugham)
1. What impressions did the hero of "The Lotus Eater," Wilson, make on the author?
2. On what do most people judge the persons from Maugham's point of view? (See extract 2.)
3. Which sentences of these extracts can serve as Maugham's sayings? Comment on them.
VI. Render the following text into English and be ready to speak on W.S. Maugham's way of writing. Use the given key words and word combinations:
to concentrate on, a triumph over, public opinion, a compatriot, natural aspiration, humiliating, a clearly-cut plot, dependence on, artistic details, to give a reserved appraisal, to ensure demand and success of the play, a link in a chain connecting... .
Один из самых проницательных в английской литературе XX столетия авторов, писавших о трагикомедии жизни, Моэм делал упор на комедии, но не с меньшим мастерством изображал трагические судьбы, торжество «общественного мнения» над естественными стремлениями личности. Он предпочитал говорить своим соотечественникам вещи малоприятные и даже оскорбительные. В этом он продолжал традиции Свифта, Филдинга, Смоллета, Диккенса, Теккерея.
Моэм не пролагал новых путей в литературе, но создал свой оригинальный стиль, составляющими которого были крепко сбитый сюжет, строгий отбор жизненного материала, емкость художественной детали, естественный диалог, подчинение своим целям богатств родного языка. Он писал выразительно и точно, экономно и просто.
Биограф Моэма Энтони Кертис давал довольно сдержанную оценку его драматургическому наследию: «Моэм... превратил себя в своеобразный компьютер по производству пьес, заложив в программу все элементы, необходимые для того, чтобы обеспечить пьесе спрос и успех».
Он писал для того, чтобы его читали, он этого хотел, и он этого добился: с его смерти минуло более 30 лет, а его читают все так же. Как-то незаметно он перешел из современников – в классики.
Пьесы Моэма – неотъемлемая страница английской драматургии XX века, звено в цепочке, соединяющей драматургию О. Уайльда, Д. Б. Пристли и Д. Осборна.
(В. Скороденко. Вступительная статья к собранию сочинений У.С. Моэма в 5 томах. М., 1991)
VII. Read and comment on W.S. Maugham's quotations:
1. People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise.
2. I would sooner read a timetable or a catalogue than nothing at all. They are much more entertaining than half the novels that are written.
3. It is very seldom that life provides the writer with a ready-made story.
4. We know our friends by their defects rather than by their merits.
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