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Not just that this novel gives us an idea of the occult and art scene around 1900 from an outsider's perspective, it's also one of the best novels of that time. William Somerset Maugham met Aleister Crowley in Paris around the turn of the century and the Beast seemed to have made quite an impressiion on Maugham. Maugham didn't like Crowley much, rather felt disgusted about him, but nevertheless, when he left Paris he felt a sudden urge to write this novel. Some queer fascination had taken possession of him as it seems. So Maugham wrote this little novel with its outstanding villain Olliver Haddo who Crowley was the role model for. Even though Haddo is depicted more ugly, more cruel and more perverted than Crowley ever was, or at least Maugham admits that, it's still an interetsing perspective on him by a contemporary.The novel itself is entertaining to say the least. Nowadays it would be called a genre mix. It starts out as a satire of society around 1900, then becomes a tragic love story, than a classic gothic novel with a Horror ending that could make H. P. Lovecraft jealous.i recommend this to anyone who's interested in Crowley or in good literature form the turn of the century. Thiss is one of the best novels of that era, I'm sure.Cheers!Zeitl0ch