City Journal Summer 2014

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Theodore Dalrymple
The Noble Conrad « Back to Story

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I'm a taxicab driver/writer and once had a lawyer fare who had a bachelpr's in english. He said the greatest American writer was Fitzgerald. I said it had to be Conrad and that I claim him as American because he was sponsored by Emerson (I think) who put Conrad on the world map. The lawyer conceded I was right!...who can forget that one scene where the ship is battered so bad that there is no way it can survive. The chapter ends...The next chapter begins with the ship limping into port in a bright sun, calm sea....WOW!
Dave said:
"Dear tbraton, please don't mention some damn movie in the same breath at Conrad's novels. Long after your "great director" is forgotten Conrad will still be remembered."

Dave, I was merely making a factual statement (that Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" formed the basis for the plot of Coppola's movie "Apocalypse Now"). I wasn't making any critical judgment about the relative merits of the two works.

Books and movies are merely two different media of artistic expression. The former have often formed the basis for the latter, and sometimes vice versa (Graham Greene's "The Third Man" comes to mind, a great movie which later came out as a novella).

I am sure there were critics like you in the agora of ancient Athens complaining about how these upstart poets who called themselves "dramatists" (like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides) were borrowing from traditional Greek myths and transforming them in significant ways to use as plots for their new medium of "drama," which had only been invented about a hundred years earlier. I am sure there were some critics who were saying "don't worry, this new form of artistic expression won't last."
Quoting tbraton,

"For a shorter work, the "Heart of Darkness," cited by Mr. Dalrymple, is superb. It formed the basis of "Apocalypse Now," the Vietnam movie by the great director Francis Ford Coppola."

Dear tbraton, please don't mention some damn movie in the same breath at Conrad's novels. Long after your "great director" is forgotten Conrad will still be remembered.

Dr. D, STOP! can't bear it. More books I must read!
Bertrand Russell was wrong about Conrad’s literary reputation, and he was wrong to repeat the myth that one can see stars during the day from a well.
Re Mike Harris:

For a shorter work, the "Heart of Darkness," cited by Mr. Dalrymple, is superb. It formed the basis of "Apocalypse Now," the Vietnam movie by the great director Francis Ford Coppola.

"Typhoon," also cited and also on the short side, is an exceptional work.

"Secret Agent" is great.

"Lord Jim" is definitely worth reading.

A later, longer work is "Nostradomus," which involves revolutionary (what else is there?)politics in South America (read Chile)and is much more demanding. I would suggest starting with the first three.
@ mike harris

The Secret Agent is a masterpiece.

http://laughterhopesockintheeye.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/vanity-the-mother-of-all-noble-and-vile-illusions/
To jgury: JC was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, in Wikipedia, at your fingertips.

I think the author should have included JC's family name in the biographical paragraph.
save and read
TD you have excelled yourself again pity your fellow Manhattanite Institute editor Matthew Hennessey cannot take praise or is that punishment for his glib jottings and prefers censure to debate.

So flights of thought occasioned by Dalrymple's Conrad.

I believe that there is a defining incident in people's lives that characterizes theirs subsequent actions. Conrad's internal exile in presumably Siberia reminds me of another Joseph – Joseph Stalin also exiled in a railway hotel on the trans-Siberian line. This Joseph reflected differently on the largess of Imperial Russia in providing a revolutionary free bed and board and the freedom to dally. He when he became powerful would not show that magnanimity but instead provided a new word and human gruesomeness gulag.

Conrad in my eyes learned in his exile and whenever I can I'll express the nuanced English of words also exiled. “The Nigger of the “Narcissus”” I'll rub in American faces and demand both words life – the one because I prefer it to African-American. And I'm no racist. The other a new entry into DSM-IV that is more appalling than Nigger yes the core conceit of Americans “Narcissus”.That Conrad marries the two is telling that Americans can't see the greater danger in the unexiled word is tragic.

Finally the prevail of snake oil and how with education we've become dumber. Donkin “(a) stickler for what he calls “justice”” is the epitome of Socialism. That with proper education we will all be equal. NO, cunt will never be equal to a prick both have their place to be and make life. It is always Stalin's view of what socialism and equality is. It is always the leader's – now there's he rub – view of what others should do or be or what words are proper that we are deceived into believing.

It is best exemplified in stone. My view of the two houses of state parliament in South Australia show a decline in the nobility of labor the first built in about 1890 shows all the artisan skills in wood glass stone The second build in 1930's shows less examples of the handwork. But the ultimate example of Socialism and Equality in all its deceit is the Federal Parliament House of Australia in Canberra built in 1980's by socialist invoking all the labor ideals – nary a curve not a single artifact not a single item that speaks “THIS IS MY LABOR” The only “art” is a stick on stencil of Wattle flowers above the speaker's chair and that done months later.

See it on TV news and weep at our blind faith in a new aristocracy the dictatorship of the proletariat.

NO “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Socialism is the living dead!
If the Donkins have not won in UK then the Widmerpools most certainly have.
I admire Conrad, and am in general in Dalrymple's corner on social issues. But stoicism not grounded, as it were, in a transcendent reality, is the flip side of the coin tossed by epicureans and wild romantics like Nietzsche; it is, in the end just as self-indulgent.
Conrad went to sea when sail ships still existed. There is saying " one hand for your self and one hand for the ship". The sea requires a person to be strong, resilient, agile, adaptable and wise: not clever. Wisdom requires a degree of humility, a realisation that one is dealing with something mightier than one's self. The ship requires each person to do his duty but also work as a team. Someone who is self centred, shallow, easily panicked, glib, vain, narcisstic,ego-centric, ignorant will not survive at sea. In fact the modern dumbed down celebrity obsessed, thuggish, immature society would die out very quickly on a sailing ship. How many modern people could climb the rigging in a storm and reef a sail in a winter storm?
Could someone tell me which they think are the best Conrad novels?
The last paragraph spoils the entire article.
Albert Constantine Jr. March 10, 2014 at 5:55 PM
If only Romney had referenced "the Donkins" instead of "the 47%"...
The ending is consistent with the themes of social, moral & cultural decay in England about which the author has written several books & essays. It should not come as a surprise to any reader familiar with Mr. Dalrymple's. As for Conrad, I live in Connecticut. They don't teach Conrad in the public high schools, and I suspect most teachers under 40 have never read Conrad. But smart boards in every classroom!
Wonderful. One of the best essays Dalrymple has ever written.

The ending was expected. For more on this read:

"ST GEORGE’S Day should be an occasion for patriotic celebration.
But for those of us who love this land, today has the tone of a funeral wake.

The England that we cherished has disappeared. We can only raise our glasses to the memory of a once great country whose spirit has been broken by her own rulers, its fabric torn apart by social revolution."

The entire 2007 article by Leo McKinstry,
well worth reading, can be found here:

http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/5158/How-this-one-great-land-lost-its-soul

The only thing missing from this essay is the solution---end the massive immigration that has changed England into a country that Conrad would no longer recognize.



Being new to Conrad, I would appreciate it if someone could tell me what he/she considers to be Conrad's best works.
The ending spoils it for me, because it rings so false. It just is not true that the layabouts, the lazy and feckless, the dregs of British society, rule the UK, and it is humbug to say so. I was going to send this around to literary friends, but the foolish, and benighted flourish at the end prevents me from doing so. Pity; up to just before the ending it was terrific.
superb doctor, superb...
Spectacular recollections; thanks.
"He was born in 1857 into the Polish landowning class in the Ukraine"
I thought he was born in the Canada or the Mexico.
SocraticConservative March 09, 2014 at 3:27 PM
I did not see that ending coming. Sucker Punch!

Not that I don't agree. I do. Entirely.