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"History is like therapy for the present: it makes it talk about its parents."
- Maya Jasanoff, The Dawn Watch
I should admit I was attracted to the book, while browsing at Las Vegas' fantastic bookstore Writers Block by four things: 1. the art (done by the Bill Bragg), 2. the le Carré blurb (if you don't know, late le Carré has a heavy Conrad flavor, 3. Conrad himself. I've read about 2/3 of what he has produced and love him more with every word, 4. the concept of Conrad as the dawn watch of globalization, and perhaps even modernity. The book was brisk, interesting, and filled with enough Conrad prose to almost dance. Jasanoff's writing is meant more for the New York Times Magazine crowd than the academic crowd, but if you enjoy Conrad this book will not disappoint. It isn't brilliant history or biography, but she manages to blend the edges of history, biography, and literary analysis and keep all three balls afloat. No easy feat. She is also able to thread the needle between cutting Conrad too much slack and too little for his views. Also, no easy feat.
For me Conrad is one of the great writers of the late 19th, early 20th century. He enchants and haunts at the same time. He is a fascinating character, but more than that, he is a damn fine complicated writer. Jasanoff explores Conrad's world, and in this exploration, she attempts to show us another way to view our own. "In all his writing", says Jasanoff, "Conrad grappled with the ramifications of living in a global world: the moral and material impact of dislocation, the tension and opportunity of multiethnic societies, the disruption wrought by technological change." Conrad understood us before there really was an us. Conrad saw us before the sun had even risen on the 20th and 21st centuries.
11 of 15 people found this review helpful
Starts off a bit slow, but when the author leaves the first person pronouns behind and turns to Conrad the book quickly picks up steam (a bad metaphor for those who have read the book). The links that the author establishes between Conrad’s major works and the source material from which he drew were mostly new to me, and I will reread Nostromo, Heart of Darkness, The Secret Agent, and Lord Jim with a new appreciation. Well done, indeed. Great job by the reader, too.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful