Please turn on javascript in your browser to play chess.
Culture Forum

Culture Forum

  1. 11 Oct '13 01:41
    I love this author, having read 'Twixt Land and Sea and Heart of Darkness. He writes so evocatively and describes scenes with near perfection, always finding elegant and highly charged or precisely apt phrases and words. The subject matter, usually sea-related, is exciting in itself but he has so much more to teach us than simple genre-fiction authors due to his acute observations of human relationships and private thoughts. It's astounding how much I feel Conrad, who wrote a hundred years ago, seems to speak to my very 20th/21st century, digital-age soul.

    I'm reading Lord Jim. Only the first few chapters so far (I think it takes time to get up to speed with Conrad). It's utterly marvellous. I get to the coast very rarely but the book is helping me recall the salty sea breezes and occasional fierce storms from my growing-up years, the heady freedom and allure of boats and the mortal dangers and unique joys of the sea that bring out unexpected qualities in us and unite us in common purpose like very few other activities can. Today's true adventurers work in marine biology and other scientific fields and I love to observe them through television documentaries and newspaper features. I feel immensely sad, concerned and, frankly, frightened that oil companies are seeking to exploit the loss of the arctic ice with drilling platforms — they have no right to jeopardise all our lives in this way.

    Anyone else reading/has read Lord Jim or other Conrad books? I'd love to hear comments (but no spoilers, please).
  2. 11 Oct '13 09:34
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    I love this author, having read 'Twixt Land and Sea and Heart of Darkness. He writes so evocatively and describes scenes with near perfection, always finding elegant and highly charged or precisely apt phrases and words. The subject matter, usually sea-related, is exciting in itself but he has so much more to teach us than simple genre- ...[text shortened]... ng/has read Lord Jim or other Conrad books? I'd love to hear comments (but no spoilers, please).
    I read Lord Jim about ten years ago, when I had recently moved to Japan. At the time I remember being stunned by this passage from Chapter 7 (no spoiler involved, just in case you haven't quite got there):

    "There were married couples looking domesticated and bored with each other in the midst of their travels; there were small parties and large parties, and lone individuals dining solemnly or feasting boisterously, but all thinking, conversing, joking, or scowling as was their wont at home; and just as intelligently receptive of new impressions as their trunks upstairs. Henceforth they would be labelled as having passed through this and that place, and so would be their luggage. They would cherish this distinction of their persons, and preserve the gummed tickets on their portmanteaus as documentary evidence, as the only permanent trace of their improving enterprise."

    I remember thinking at the time that I must not let my experience in Japan be so superficial as that. And the strange and wonderful thing about Conrad is that whenever I've read one of his works, from my teenage years to now in my thirties, he seems to have at least one thing to say which is pretty much directly relevant to my life right at that moment!

    If you liked Heart of Darkness then you must read the two other novellas published alongside it, Youth and The End of the Tether. Both small masterpieces, and they form a elegant trilogy together with the more famous work. Nostromo may be Conrad's greatest book, but it requires great patience and concentration - so save it from a time when you have few other distractions. The Secret Agent is very contemporary in its focus on terrorists alienated from the dominant society. But I also think some of the later ones are very underrated - Victory is a cracking read, The Rescue is a bit of a mess as a story but has some of Conrad's most impressively atmospheric description, and The Rover is a vigorous yet sombre, elegiac last novel.
  3. Standard member Bosse de Nage
    Zellulärer Automat
    11 Oct '13 12:16
    Reading Lord Jim I was struck by the documentary quality of the descriptions: I could see what I was reading much more intensely than most writing.
  4. 20 Oct '13 09:55
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    I read Lord Jim about ten years ago, when I had recently moved to Japan. At the time I remember being stunned by this passage from Chapter 7 (no spoiler involved, just in case you haven't quite got there):

    "There were married couples looking domesticated and bored with each other in the midst of their travels; there were small parties and large p ...[text shortened]... vely atmospheric description, and The Rover is a vigorous yet sombre, elegiac last novel.
    I'm taking a very close reading of Lord Jim with a dictionary close at hand, stopping to look up all the many unfamiliar words and phrases, as well as some familiar ones to learn the definitions in more detail. Simple, versatile words with many meanings often have the most fascinating definitions, whereas with other words it's often the derivation that interests me most.

    I particularly like this phrase, describing the second engineer on the Patna during his argument with the vile, obese ship's captain: “[He had...] the imbecile gravity of a thinker evolving a system of philosophy from the hazy glimpse of a truth.” It's given me a bit of perspective on myself (and others)  as we are sometimes not without our comparable 'imbecile gravity'. 

    The scenes relating the alcoholic and post-traumatic madness of the engineer are superb, especially the hospital scene, which reminded me of Kurtz's madness in HoD. Conrad was a master of horror, as well as being so much more, of course. Obviously that's not to confuse the "horror" in his novels with what the label has come to mean today due to a preponderance of crass, exploitative "supernatural" and stereotyped psychopath Hollywood films playing on the prejudices and ignorance of their audiences. The nightmares of his characters are only too plausible and the richer for it.

    I'm looking forward to finishing Lord Jim and reading the two companion pieces to HoD that you recommended.

    Bosse de Nage, I completely agree—the writing is incredibly vivid, (I think) with a 'stillness' that is isn't found much these days due to the trend towards writing "cinematically". I prefer Conrad and others, for now, writers who don't give a vague sense of motion sickness due to being kinetically pulled—against one's will—towards what one knows is an anticlimax, but who rather take the time and play out the varying rhythms a good story needs to develop.
  5. 26 Oct '13 22:06
    Originally posted by NoEarthlyReason
    I'm looking forward to finishing Lord Jim and reading the two companion pieces to HoD that you recommended.

    Bosse de Nage, I completely agree—the writing is incredibly vivid, (I think) with a 'stillness' that is isn't found much these days due to the trend towards writing "cinematically". I prefer Conrad and others, for now, writers who don't give ...[text shortened]... ax, but who rather take the time and play out the varying rhythms a good story needs to develop.
    I hope you enjoy Youth and The End of the Tether.

    In some ways, actually, I find Conrad can be quite a cinematic writer, particularly in the way he imbues landscape with moral import. Indeed, The Rover (which is contemporary with the great era of late silent cinema in the mid-1920s) feels in some ways rather like an avant-garde silent film.