This final classic collection of stories reveals Somerset Maugham's unique talent for exposing and exploring the bitter realities of human relationships. Brilliant tales of love, infidelity, passion and prejudice, the stories range from 'The Lotus Eater' in which a man has a vision of a life of bliss in the Mediterranean, to the astringent tales of 'The Outstation' and 'The Back of Beyond' in Malaya and South East Asia. Largely set in favourite Maugham country, this colourful collection brilliantly evokes the numbered days of the British Empire.
In 1916, William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) travelled to the Pacific to research his novel "The Moon and Sixpence," based on the life of Paul Gauguin. This was the first of those journeys through the late-Imperial world of the 1920s and 1930s which were to establish Maugham forever in the popular imagination as the chronicler of the last days of colonialism in India, Southeast Asia, China and the Pacific, although the books on which this reputation rests represent only a fraction of his output.---Maugham reused elements of his Pacific diaries in "The Trembling of a Leaf" (1921), which contains one of his most recognized stories, "Rain," adapted to the stage by John Colton and Clemence Randolph in 1922.
When war broke out in 1914, Somerset Maugham was dispatched by the British Secret Service to Switzerland under the guise of completing a play. Multilingual, knowledgeable about many European countries and a celebrated writer, Maugham had the perfect cover, and the assignment appealed to his love of romance, and of the ridiculous. The stories collected in Ashenden are rooted in Maugham's own experiences as an agent, reflecting the ruthlessness and brutality of espionage, its intrigue and treachery, as well as its absurdity.