Synopses & Reviews
In Victory (1915) Conrad returns to the Malay Archipelago, to the setting of his first mature novel, Lord Jim, and in Axel Heyst he creates a hero who is in many ways similar to Jim, a noble altruist destroyed by his ideals. Heyst is emotionally crippled by the influence of his dead father, a sceptical philosopher who has bequeathed to Heyst an attitude to life summed up in the father's dying words: 'Look on - make no sound.' Despite this injunction Heyst allows himself to become inextricably involved with an English Cockney girl whom he rescues from Giancomo's Travelling Ladies' Orchestra and carries off to his isolated retreat on the island of Samburan. His action incurs the fatal wrath of Schomberg, the island's innkeeper, who sends in pursuit of Heyst three demonic strangers whose invasion of his island paradise leads rapidly to the novel's violent and tragic close. Victory was the first of Conrad's novels to be completed after the commercial success of Chance (1914) had transformed Conrad's fortunes and made him internationally famous. It is a more complex example of the literary form which Conrad evolved for Lord Jim: a story of action and high adventure coexisting with an exhaustive study of the psychology of the central character.
Axel Heyst, a dreamer and a restless drifter, believes he can avoid suffering by cutting himself off from others. Then he becomes involved in the operation of a coal company on a remote island in the Malay Archipelago, and when it fails he turns his back on humanity once more. But his life alters when he rescues a young English girl, Lena, from Zangiacomo's Ladies' Orchestra and the evil innkeeper Schomberg, taking her to his island retreat. The affair between Heyst and Lena begins with her release, but the relationship shifts as Lena struggles to save Heyst from the detachment and isolation that have inhibited and influenced his life.
Marked by a violent and tragic conclusion, Victory is both a tale of rescue and adventure and a perceptive study of a complex relationship and of the power of love.
About the Author
Joseph Conrad (originally Józef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and grew up under Tsarist autocracy. His parents, ardent Polish patriots, died when he was a child, following their exile for anti-Russian activities, and he came under the protection of his tradition-conscious uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, who watched over him for the next twenty-five years. In 1874 Bobrowski conceded to his nephew's passionate desire to go to sea, and Conrad travelled to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant vessels before joining a British ship in 1878 as an apprentice. In 1886 he obtained British nationality and his Master's certificate in the British Merchant Service. Eight years later he left the sea to devote himself to writing, publishing his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. The following year he married Jessie George and eventually settled in Kent, where he produced within fifteen years such modern classics as Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes. He continued to write until his death in 1924. Today Conrad is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of fiction in Englishhis third language. He once described himself as being concerned 'with the ideal value of things, events and people'; in the Preface to The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' he defined his task as 'by the power of the written word ... before all, to make you see'.