The Razor’s Edge – W. Somerset Maugham

Part One
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It is very difficult to know people and I don’t think any one can ever really know any but one’s own countrymen. For men and women are not only themselves, they are also the region in which they are born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives’ tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It is all these things that have made them what they are, and these are things that you can’t come to know by hearsay, you can only know if you are them if you have lived them.
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Part Six
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‘What are your plans now?’

‘I’ve got a job of work to finish here and then I shall go back to America.’

‘What to do?’

‘Live.’

‘How?’

He answered coolly, but with an impish twinkle in his eyes, for he knew very well how little I expected such a reply.

‘With calmness, forbearance, compassion, selflessness and continence’

‘A tall order,’ I said. ‘And why continence? You’re a young man; is it wise to attempt to supress what with hunger is the strongest instinct of human animal?’

‘I am in the fortunate position that sexual indulgence with me has been a pleasure rather than a need. I know by personal experience that in nothing are the wise men of India more dead right than in their contention that chastity intensely enhances the power of spirit.’
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‘Well, all I can say is that it’s damned lucky for you that you have a private income.’

‘It’s been of great use to me. Except for that I shouldn’t have been able to do all I’ve done. But my apprenticeship is over. From now on it can only be a burden to me. I shall rid myself of it.’

‘That would be very unwise. The only thing that may make the kind of life you propose possible is financial independence.’

‘On the contrary, financial independence would make the life I propose meaningless’
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‘Will you allow me to give you a piece of advice, Larry? It’s not a thing I give often.’

‘It’s not something I take often,’ he answered with a grin.

‘Will you think carefully before you dispossess yourself of your very small fortune? When it’s gone, it’s gone forever. A time may come when you’ll want money very badly, either for yourself or for somebody else, and then you’ll bitterly regret that you were such a fool.’

There was a glint of mockery in this eyes as he answered, but it was devoid of malice.

‘You attach more importance to money than I do.’

‘I can well believe it,’ I answered tartly. ‘You see, you’ve always had it and I haven’t. It’s given me what I value almost more than anything else in life – independence. You can’t think what a comfort it’s been to me to think that if I wanted to I could tell anyone in the world to go to hell.’

‘But I don’t want to tell anyone in the world to go to hell, and if I did the lack of bank balance wouldn’t prevent me. You see, money to you means freedom; to me it means bondage.
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