Just finished ‘Maurice’ — E.M. Forster’s long-suppressed 1914 novel on the struggles of a homosexual man in Edwardian England

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‘Begun 1913

Finished 1914

Dedicated to a Happier Year’

Such is the dedication at the beginning of ‘Maurice’, written 1913-14 but not published until after Forster’s death, in 1971 (homosexuality was a crime until 1967 in England). At I first thought this novel would be fascinating from a sociological point of view, if nothing else — a rare and unfettered glimpse into Edwardian conceptions of the homosexual self. And it was fascinating. But it was also fantastic literature in its own right — compelling, rich in psychological insight, deeply honest, and with such beautiful prose (you can’t go wrong with Forster in that regard).

I’d read some of Forster’s other work (‘Howards End’, ‘A Room With A View’) but this felt much more personal and raw. I know some commentators have criticised it for being quite unlike the rest of his oeuvre, but I think that was sort of the point. The tone is much darker, less comic, and the whole thing is altogether much more insular, isolated — there isn’t the same rich, fleshed out cast as in Forster’s other novels. Maurice is ‘Maurice’ in a way that Howard’s End could never merely be ‘Margaret’, nor A Room With A View ‘Lucy’. It’s a novel about loneliness, isolation, and one man’s harrowing struggle towards an actualised, honest self. It feels sparse and almost empty (character-wise) for a reason, and the narrator allows few external intrusions or points of view bar Maurice’s own. It’s a real Bildungsroman.

This is an incredibly honest work, and deals with homosexuality (and class) and the social implications of which so unflinchingly. So much so that It feels almost anachronistic — like it shouldn’t belong to the era of its inception. This is a layered critique of the repressive, hierarchical and sheltered institutions of Edwardian England. But I think much of the core subject matter is still relevant today.

Has anyone else read this?

Source: reddit post


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