Trading places: Somerset Maugham's tales from abroad

Glenn Hooper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this paper I want to examine the stories of a writer who appeared to many as a quintessentially ‘English’ figure, but one who was born in France, albeit technically on British soil. A cosmopolitan writer, at ease within many cultures, Maugham married what he understood best to those themes which he knew would be of the utmost interest to his readers: exotic locations, stories of adventure and, frequently loss, among the ’high seas’, and of lives that were filled with intense desires and animosities. While some of the stories gathered in collections such as Cosmopolitans are quite short, others stretch our idea of what constitutes a short story considerably; and although the subject matter for many of the stories varies - complete with a Maupassant-Poe formulation not suited to all tastes - the tales have a very topical flavour. It is this topicality - the representationalism, the pseudo-anthropological charge that Maugham gives to his writing, and the very relevence that he has for students of empire - that I wish to discuss. Fallen from critical favour in recent years, I will argue that Maugham’s writing needs to be re-examined within the context of colonial and postcolonial writing, and that his short stories, in particular, present one of the most detailed and evocative studies of end-of-era imperialism
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)69-83
    Number of pages15
    JournalLes Cahiers de la nouvelle
    Issue numberAutumn
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


    • Somerset Maugham
    • english literature
    • bilingual authors


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