In particular he admired Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, whose writings corresponded with his own ideas about conformity and the will of the individual.
He received a degree in French in and began to consider a career as a writer. Several teaching jobs followed: a year lecturing in English literature at the University of Poitiers, France; two years teaching English at Anargyrios College on the Greek island of Spetsai; and finally, between and , teaching English at St. The time spent in Greece was of great importance to Fowles. During his tenure on the island he began to write poetry and to overcome a long-time repression about writing.
Between and he wrote several novels but offered none to a publisher, considering them all incomplete in some way and too lengthy.
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In late Fowles completed the first draft of The Collector in just four weeks. He continued to revise it until the summer of , when he submitted it to a publisher; it appeared in the spring of and was an immediate best-seller. The critical acclaim and commercial success of the book allowed Fowles to devote all of his time to writing. The Aristos , a collection of philosophical thoughts and musings on art, human nature and other subjects, appeared the following year.
Then in , The Magus —drafts of which Fowles had been working on for over a decade— was published. Among the seven novels that Fowles has written, The Magus has perhaps generated the most enduring interest, becoming something of a cult novel, particularly in the U.
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It resembles a Victorian novel in structure and detail, while pushing the traditional boundaries of narrative in a very modern manner. In the s Fowles worked on a variety of literary projects—including a series of essays on nature—and in he published a collection of poetry, Poems. Though Fowles did not identify as an existentialist, their writing was motivated from a feeling that the world was absurd, a feeling he shared. Fowles spent his early adult life as a teacher. His first year after Oxford was spent at the University of Poitiers.
At the end of the year, he received two offers: one from the French department at Winchester , the other "from a ratty school in Greece," Fowles said: "Of course, I went against all the dictates of common sense and took the Greek job. Inspired by his experiences and feelings there, he used it as the setting of his novel, The Magus Fowles was happy in Greece, especially outside the school. He wrote poems that he later published, and became close to his fellow expatriates. But during , Fowles and the other masters at the school were all dismissed for trying to institute reforms, and Fowles returned to England.
On the island of Spetses, Fowles had developed a relationship with Elizabeth Christy, then married to another teacher.
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Christy's marriage was already ending because of Fowles. Although they returned to England at the same time, they were no longer in each other's company. It was during this period that Fowles began drafting The Magus. His separation from Elizabeth did not last long. On 2 April , they were married. Fowles became stepfather to Elizabeth's daughter from her first marriage, Anna. For nearly ten years, Fowles taught English as a foreign language to students from other countries at St.
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Godric's College , an all-girls establishment in Hampstead , London. He finished his first draft in a month, but spent more than a year making revisions before showing it to his agent. Michael S. Howard, the publisher at Jonathan Cape was enthusiastic about the manuscript. The book was published in and when the paperback rights were sold in the spring of that year, it was "probably the highest price that had hitherto been paid for a first novel," according to Howard.
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British reviewers found the novel to be an innovative thriller, but several American critics detected a serious promotion of existentialist thought. The success of his novel meant that Fowles could stop teaching and devote himself full-time to a literary career. The Collector was also optioned and was adapted as a feature film of the same name in Afterward, he set about collating all the drafts he had written of what would become his most studied work, The Magus , based in part on his experiences in Greece.
Finding the farm too remote, as "total solitude gets a bit monotonous," Fowles remarked, in he and his wife moved to Belmont, in Lyme Regis. His conception of femininity and myth of masculinity as developed in this text is psychoanalytically informed. In the same year, he adapted The Magus for cinema, and the film was released in The French Lieutenant's Woman was released to critical and popular success.
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It was eventually translated into more than ten languages, and established Fowles' international reputation. It was adapted as a feature film in with a screenplay by the noted British playwright and later Nobel laureate Harold Pinter , and starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.
Fowles lived the rest of his life in Lyme Regis. In , he was quoted in the New York Times Book Review as saying, "Being an atheist is a matter not of moral choice, but of human obligation. Fowles composed a number of poems and short stories throughout his life, most of which were lost or destroyed. In December he wrote My Kingdom for a Corkscrew. For A Casebook was rejected by various magazines.
In he wrote The Last Chapter. Joining the community, Fowles served as the curator of the Lyme Regis Museum from to ,  retiring from the museum after having a mild stroke. Fowles was involved occasionally in politics in the town.
He occasionally wrote letters to the editor advocating preservation. Despite this involvement, he was generally considered reclusive. In , his first wife Elizabeth died of cancer, only a week after it was diagnosed. With Sarah by his side, Fowles died of heart failure on 5 November , aged 79, in Axminster Hospital, 5 miles 8.
In , Elena van Lieshout, a former girlfriend of Fowles, presented a series of love letters and postcards for auction at Sotheby's. Elena, a young Welsh admirer and a student at St.