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Thread: Joseph Conrad

  1. #1
    Registered User Heteronym's Avatar
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    Post Joseph Conrad

    What are your thoughts about the author of Nostromo, The Secret Agent, Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness, The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' and many other novels, novellas and short-stories?

    I think he's one of the finest authors of the English language and beyond. For me his greatness isn't so much in his style, which, with its long sentences, was remarkable in itself, but in the sharpness of his reflections about humanity. He had great analytical powers which, aided by cynical, disillusioned view of men, he employed to dismantle certains myths and notions deeply rooted in the European society of his time. Nostromo and Heart of Darkness, for instance, lay bare the greed and the bloodshed behind the civilising rhetoric of colonialism.

    His work shows what a vicious endeavor is the creation of civilisation, and yet he has many doubts about the goodness of people. Lord Jim and Nostromo concern men who wrestle with their own consciousness, who take their inflated sense of virtue to self-destructive extremes.

    In his work live many colorful and complex characters, from all walks of life and with their own mentalities: sailors, colonials, marauders, terrorists, saboteurs, politicians, capitalists, idealists, revolutionaries, scoundrels, freedom fighters, thieves, dictators, detectives. The novel I'm reading right now, Nostromo, is populated with so many fully-realised individuals it's amazing how Conrad could put himself in the shoes of so many types of people and write them so truthfully and non-judgementally.

    Has anyone read Under Western Eyes? That's the novel I want to tackle next.

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    Heart of Darkness is still one of my favorite pieces of literature that I've ever read, and the most read of any piece of literature. I find it brilliant. I've only read one of his others--The Secret Agent--and did not enjoy it much. I've been meaning to read Lord Jim and Nostromo.

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    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    When I first attempted to read Lord Jim I have to give up on it and honestly I really did not care for how it was written. I could not get into the story, and I found it confusing to follow what was going on and initially after that I had swore of Conrad but after a while I relented a bit and decided to give him another chance. I have since read The Heart of Darkness which I did in fact really enjoy and so I am considering reattempting Lord Jim but have not yet been able to bring myself to do so.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    I've read Heart of Darkness, as any literature fan should, and loved it. I will be reading Lord Jim for class in the upcoming semester and I'm glad I'll be reading it with the support of a professor and class as I've heard it's a difficult read.

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    Registered User john7's Avatar
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    I agree.

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    Joseph Conrad has been called many things by many people. Racism, ethnocentrism, and all other similar charges aside, (though those are absolutely valid arguments) Conrad was a writer with the prose of a chemistry professor. He seemed like a writer picked out of another profession. His writing style is clunky, much too wordy, unnecessarily dense, and even laborious at times. Due to these particular flaws, Heart of Darkness - a novella - seemed longer than an eight hundred page Russian novel. He certainly created lasting images and scenes, but his writing style got in the way most of the time.

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    Conrad is verbose but even still his prose is technically superior in many ways to many other authors'. This reader is especially aware of this lately because the worst idea he has ever had here on LitNet was an attempt to disseminate one of Conrad's stories (The Point of Honor) in an effort to improve his own writing skill. This was a flawed idea for many reasons, not the least of which was that it was terribly slow going (and eventually abandoned. You can probably find the old skeleton of a thread if you're curious).

    But he's one of the few who really engineered his use of language (even if it was 'running rich', metaphorically speaking).






    J

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    Indeed his style is verbose, dense, sometimes confusing. But I think he took more chances than his contemporaries. His abrupt changes of perspective, unusual for his time, are now the bread and butter of any novelist. More impressive, but less copied, is the long sequence in HoD when Marlowe imagines meeting Kurtz and it takes a bit of attention to realise that's just happening in his mind, that it's not the real action. Confusing? Yes. Bold? Absolutely!

    And in Nostromo, which I'm reading now, he inserted a prolepsis in the middle of a chapter; it's a jump several years ahead of the events he describes; and then he returns to the main storyline. It's amazing!

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    I have read The Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, and I did not think much of the style or content of either. I got the impression that Conrad never really learned how to express himself in English. The stories were simple stories that were expanded into many more words than were needed. And, even with all of the extra words, it seemed like Conrad never really got to the heart of the matter.
    Last edited by PeterL; 07-24-2011 at 09:04 AM.

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    I think you overrate Conrad by calling him one of the fine authors in the English language. He's an inconsistent writer in my opinion, continually rehashing a kind (or maybe a few kinds) of story so as to get it right.Lord Jim is a fantastic book, but Heart of Darkness shows the worst of him. Sentence structures can be repetitive, overloaded with adjectives, and they often refuse to build upon one another - he tends to chose to continually invoke rather than to explore anything with particular depth. I suppose this is hardly a strong criticism, and Conrad can be very exploratory with his writing, even as he's seemingly only going about telling a story, but it can be, at least for me, a little tedious and unsatisfying. Reading Heart of Darkness I got too sick of his seeming inability to use any noun without attaching an adjective to the front of it - often a poetic cliche, along the lines of rushing, wavering, languid, rustling, spectral, etc - to enjoy the book.

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    I love Heart of Darkness, and have re-read it several times, exactly because of the fact that Conrad suggests more than he shows. Indeed he chooses adjectives thematically connected to darkness that pull up a veil of indefinition, mystery, vaguness, incompleteness around the story; this, of course, can be see as Marlow's inability to fully verbalise the full horrors of what he witnessed in Africa, which in turn refers to the truth that, he writes in the end, must be kept hidden from civilisation for its own protection.

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    Registered User Adam Zemelka's Avatar
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    Joseph Conrad was from my country - Poland and his real name was: Józef Teodor Korzeniowski. His books such as: "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness" are school readings in Poland. Frankly, I regret that he is more popular abroad than in my country.

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    Cool Conrad verbose? Hard to read maybe,

    but generally his books are worth the effort. I've read about half of his novels, and hopefully I will read the other half. Conrad is not nearly as verbose as Thackeray or Henry James. Nor as hard to read as Ulysses.

    I have read Nostromo and Lord Jim twice, because they are somewhat deep books and require concentration. But I found them worth the extra effort I put into reading them. I have Conrad's complete novels. Anyone who likes literature should be willing to leap into the breecrh and read one of the world's greatest writers.
    Last edited by dfloyd; 07-25-2011 at 08:18 AM.

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    His prose lacks clarity but he had an incisive mind. Nostromo, for instance, deals with questions that are making headlines in the European Union and the USA right now: national debt crises, the influence of private capital on the sovereignty of states, bankrupt countries unable to get credit in the markets. He even writes about companies financing pro-business dictators.

    He was ahead of his time and his influence is visible, for example, in writers like Mario Vargas Llosa and V.S. Naipaul. The War of the End of the World, for instance, is a tale of revolution, self-autonomy and political repression told with the bird's eye view that captures an entire society and changing perspectives that characterise Conrad's style.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Zemelka View Post
    Joseph Conrad was from my country - Poland and his real name was: Józef Teodor Korzeniowski. His books such as: "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness" are school readings in Poland. Frankly, I regret that he is more popular abroad than in my country.
    It's an interesting, complicated situation: he was Polish, but he wrote in English; I presume Polish schoolchildren read him in translation. It's hard then to call him a true Polish writer. I myself never thought of him like that, with all due respect. To paraphrase Fernando Pessoa, "my fatherland is my language."

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