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William Somerset Maugham

(1874 - 1965)

William Somerset Maugham, born on January 25, 1874, in the British Embassy in Paris, was an English playwright, novelist, and short story writer. Maugham was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest-paid author during the 1930s. His work is characterized by a clear, unadorned style, a focus on human weaknesses, and a keen insight into human nature and the complexities of society.

Following initial struggles, Maugham gained fame with the novel "Of Human Bondage" (1915), a semiautobiographical work that is widely regarded as his masterpiece. His disillusionment with the medical profession, which he trained for at St Thomas's Hospital in London, imbued his writing with a distinctive cynicism that captivated readers.

Other notable contributions include "The Moon and Sixpence" (1919), inspired by the life of painter Paul Gauguin, and "The Razor's Edge" (1944), exploring themes of existential search for meaning after World War I. As a playwright, Maugham also succeeded, with plays like "The Circle" (1921) and "The Constant Wife" (1926) solidifying his reputation.

Maugham's experiences as a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service during World War I and his extensive travels influenced his celebrated short stories, collected in volumes such as "The Trembling of a Leaf" (1921) and "Ashenden: Or the British Agent" (1928).

Despite personal controversies and a reserved private life, Maugham's legacy endures through his exploration of human nature, morality, and the societal mores of his time. He passed away in Nice, France, on December 16, 1965, leaving behind a substantial body of work that continues to be read and adapted for stage and screen.

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