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Thread: Joseph Conrad

  1. #16
    Registered User bluosean's Avatar
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    It is not too much to call him one of the very best writers in the English language. His style may not be liked by everyone but he was a crazy good writer. Dark Muse: It's not that difficult when you get into it. Its perhaps worth remembering that many of his stories are narrated by a story teller within the book and this makes quotes and time changes somewhat hard at times. You just have to read carefully. Nostromo, the secret sharer, typhoon, heart of darkness, lord jim, the nigger of the narciciss he wrote some gret stuff.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vautrin View Post
    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.
    I can see how someone can see the writing as too dense and maybe laborious, but clunky? Conrad's writing is wonderfully fluid and poetic.

    And, I don't really get the chemistry professor analogy. Scientific writing is precise, no? Definitely not filled with adjectives and poetic language.

    Honestly, by your description, especially with the use of the word "laborious," it sounds like you didn't like it because you found it to be a difficult read.

  3. #18
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    Seems as though Conrad is a writer you either love or hate. Personally I love his style, his stories and find his view of the world to be very convincing.

    I like this description of Conrad's style by T. E. Lawrence:

    I wish I knew how every paragraph he writes goes on sounding in waves, like the note of a tenor bell, after it stops. It's not built in the rhythm of ordinary prose, but on something existing only in his head, and as he can never say what it is he wants to say, all his things end in a kind of hunger, a suggestion of something he can't say or do or think.
    I guess for some people this is exactly what they don't like about his writing, but for me it is what makes it so great.

  4. #19
    Registered User Heteronym's Avatar
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    I think I have to post some excerpts from Nostromo to show how beautiful his prose could be.

    Here's a passage about Giorgio Viola, an old Italian republican who fought with Garibaldi:

    The spirit of self-forgetfulness, the simple devotion to a vast humanitarian idea which inspired the thought and stress of that revolutionary time, had left its mark upon Giorgio in a sort of austere contempt for all personal advantage. This man, whom the lowest class in Sulaco suspected of having a buried hoard in his kitchen, had all his life despised money. The leaders of his youth had lived poor, had died poor. It had been a habit of his mind to disregard to-morrow. It was engendered partly by an existence of excitement, adventure, and wild warfare. But mostly it was a matter of principle. It did not resemble the carelessness of a condottiere, it was a puritanism of conduct, born of stern enthusiasm like the puritanism of religion.
    Or consider this description of the waste of human lives in the San Tomé silver mine:

    Mrs. Gould knew the history of the San Tome mine. Worked in the early days mostly by means of lashes on the backs of slaves, its yield had been paid for in its own weight of human bones. Whole tribes of Indians had perished in the exploitation; and then the mine was abandoned, since with this primitive method it had ceased to make a profitable return, no matter how many corpses were thrown into its maw. Then it became forgotten. It was rediscovered after the War of Independence. An English company obtained the right to work it, and found so rich a vein that neither the exactions of successive governments, nor the periodical raids of recruiting officers upon the population of paid miners they had created, could discourage their perseverance. But in the end, during the long turmoil of pronunciamentos that followed the death of the famous Guzman Bento, the native miners, incited to revolt by the emissaries sent out from the capital, had risen upon their English chiefs and murdered them to a man.
    Or how about this passage about a revolutionary impatiently torturing a man to learn where the silver is hidden:

    Sotillo, irritable, moody, walked restlessly about, held consultations with his officers, gave contradictory orders in this shrill clamour pervading the whole empty edifice. Sometimes there would be long and awful silences. Several times he had entered the torture-chamber where his sword, horsewhip, revolver, and field-glass were lying on the table, to ask with forced calmness, "Will you speak the truth now? No? I can wait." But he could not afford to wait much longer. That was just it. Every time he went in and came out with a slam of the door, the sentry on the landing presented arms, and got in return a black, venomous, unsteady glance, which, in reality, saw nothing at all, being merely the reflection of the soul within—a soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution, avarice, and fury.
    And this short meditation about greed:

    There is no credulity so eager and blind as the credulity of covetousness, which, in its universal extent, measures the moral misery and the intellectual destitution of mankind.

  5. #20
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    Well I like Conrad, but I consider him to be a much stronger Kerouac; a little short of being a peer of Dickens, Eliot, Swift, Sterne, Joyce, Melville, Faulkner, James, even the Brontes. Take this excerpt from an excerpt above:

    Several times he had entered the torture-chamber where his sword, horsewhip, revolver, and field-glass were lying on the table, to ask with forced calmness, "Will you speak the truth now? No? I can wait." But he could not afford to wait much longer. That was just it. Every time he went in and came out with a slam of the door, the sentry on the landing presented arms, and got in return a black, venomous, unsteady glance, which, in reality, saw nothing at all, being merely the reflection of the soul within—a soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution, avarice, and fury.

    That's pure Beat, just in a more serious setting. But he could not afford to wait much longer. That was just it. That's pretty low prose, though not half as melodramatic and, well, silly, as a black, venomous, unsteady glance, which, in reality, saw nothing at all, being merely the reflection of the soul within—a soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution, avarice, and fury.

    A glance that is black and venomous? A soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution, avarice and fury? Perhaps Poe could pull this off - and 'gloomy hatred' certainly seems like a phrase only Poe could have used - but in a serious prose narrative this is inadequate, vague, cheap, what-you-will writing.

    And as I say, I like Conrad.

  6. #21
    Registered User Heteronym's Avatar
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    It's not low prose, it's a passage that interweaves the prose with the thoughts of the character to give his sense of urgency; he's desperate to discover a load of silver because his life depends on it. If Conrad had written it in an ornate style, it'd have been silly.

    Also, a soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution, avarice, and fury captures the essence of the character in question. And an unsteady glance that is a reflection of the soul within is a marvellous turn of phrase to describe the inner life of the character.

  7. #22
    Registered User PoeticPassions's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of Hearts View Post
    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

    While I was never able to get through Heart of Darkness (and I attempted two times, but I have not given up yet, because I think everything is about timing...) I will say that I agree about his use of language... His writing is difficult to digest at times, but when he succeeds in engineering his words, as you so adequately put it, he can come up with some of the most striking and stunning lines in literature.

    here is an example from one of his short stories, 'The Idiots':

    "The clear and gentle streams of summer days rushed discoloured and raging at the stones that barred the way to the sea, with the fury of madness bent upon suicide."
    "All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours." -Aldous Huxley

    "Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." -William Blake

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    Oldest thread bump in the world, PP!

    That's a fine example. And what you said about timing... seems wise.







    J

  9. #24
    Registered User PoeticPassions's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of Hearts View Post
    Oldest thread bump in the world, PP!


    J

    I like bumping things which have been forgotten. (not sure that made sense)
    "All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours." -Aldous Huxley

    "Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." -William Blake

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticPassions View Post
    I like bumping things which have been forgotten. (not sure that made sense)
    I would rather forget Conrad, but it's too lte for bumping him.

  11. #26
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    Cool Much like Nabokov, Conrad didn't write in his native tongue ....

    Conrad didn't even speak English until he was 21. I remember having to read Lord Jim in Freshman English many, many years ago. And like som of the people here, students were *****ing about the novel. There were a lot of Cs and Ds given in this course. But I stuck with it and now have read many of his novels, In fact, I have all his novels and stories in Folio Society editions. Conrad is hard to read at times, but the effort is worth it.

    If your having trouble with Lord Jim, watch the movie with Peter O'Toole as
    Jim and James Mason as Mr. Brown. It follows the book rather closely.

  12. #27
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    Much like Nabokov, Conrad didn't write in his native tongue ....
    Nabokov was fluent in English before age eight. His first language was French. I'd have to look it up, but Russian may have come after German, but maybe it came before. In any case Russian was no Nabokov's first or second language, but he learned it better than most native speakers.

    Conrad never seems to have really learned English.His syntax was not always English syntax. He may have thought that it was, but it was not right. Tht's what makes Conrad unpleasant to read.There are places where his language closely approximates English,and things move nicely, then he drop s in half Polish, and it becomes unreadable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    Nabokov was fluent in English before age eight. His first language was French. I'd have to look it up, but Russian may have come after German, but maybe it came before. In any case Russian was no Nabokov's first or second language, but he learned it better than most native speakers.

    Conrad never seems to have really learned English.His syntax was not always English syntax. He may have thought that it was, but it was not right. Tht's what makes Conrad unpleasant to read.There are places where his language closely approximates English,and things move nicely, then he drop s in half Polish, and it becomes unreadable.
    It's odd how so many disagree with you, isn't it?

  14. #29
    Registered User PoeticPassions's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    Nabokov was fluent in English before age eight. His first language was French. I'd have to look it up, but Russian may have come after German, but maybe it came before. In any case Russian was no Nabokov's first or second language, but he learned it better than most native speakers.

    Conrad never seems to have really learned English.His syntax was not always English syntax. He may have thought that it was, but it was not right. Tht's what makes Conrad unpleasant to read.There are places where his language closely approximates English,and things move nicely, then he drop s in half Polish, and it becomes unreadable.
    Actually, Nabokov learned French, English and Russian all at once, basically. His household was trilingual, and it is said that he actually could write English before he could write Russian. However, having read a lot of his thoughts and some short biographies, he always thought that English was deficient and that you couldn't really beat Russian as far as writing goes... However, most critics believe his best work was written in English.

    As for Conrad, it is natural that he could not completely master the English language as far as structure and syntax go, since he learned it so late in life. However, I still think that his writing is quite spectacular, and I don't think it is unreadable... it can be dense, but definitely not unreadable. Besides, I think it is quite a feat that he was able to learn the language to such a degree to be considered as one of the best English novelists of his time.

    I still don't really fancy him, but I must give credit where credit is due.
    "All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours." -Aldous Huxley

    "Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." -William Blake

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticPassions View Post
    Actually, Nabokov learned French, English and Russian all at once, basically. His household was trilingual, and it is said that he actually could write English before he could write Russian. However, having read a lot of his thoughts and some short biographies, he always thought that English was deficient and that you couldn't really beat Russian as far as writing goes... However, most critics believe his best work was written in English.
    You may be right, but I have seen in more than one source that Russian was his third language, and that he did not start to learn it until he was several years old; but I will confess that I ws not there.

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