, February 14, 2013
(view all comments by Gold Gato)
"He didn't think in English". So spoke the owner of a secondhand bookstore in Monterey, who was discussing Joseph Conrad. I had never really thought about him that way before, which might explain the barrier that usually seems to sit between his work and my eyes. LORD JIM is different. Conrad may not have thought in English, but he sure could write the language. For me, this is my favorite Conrad tome, the one that broke down the barrier.
In 1880, the S.S. Jeddah set sail from Singapore with mostly Malay passengers on their way to Mecca. When the ship started taking on water, the captain and crew quickly abandoned the ship, leaving the pilgrims alone on the ship. The crew reached civilization and told a tale of being attacked by the pilgrims. Unfortunately for these sailors, the ship was found and towed to shore where the true story was revealed. Conrad uses the tale of the Jeddah to weave a fictional scenario which begins with a similar maritime incident but continues with the saga of Jim, the ship's first mate, as he builds a fiefdom in the tropics.
It wasn't until I visited Poland that I understood Jim's battle with his conscience throughout this novel. The tug-of-war that always seems to exist on Polish soil is brought to the fore with Lord Jim's adventures, even though the setting is really the British Empire. Thankfully, Mr. Conrad didn't think in English...but it's taken me far too long to appreciate that little fact.
Book Season = Winter (while watching the snow fall in Warsaw)