From his many years on the high seas as a mariner, mate, and captain, Joseph Conrad created unique works, including Heart of Darkness, that have left an indelible mark on world literature. First published in 1899, his haunting novel Lord Jim is both a riveting sea adventure and a fascinating portrait of a unique outcast from civilization. One long evening, over cigars and brandy, the seasoned sea captain, Marlow, recalls the life of a handsome young first mate who loses his ship and his honor, but becomes a god. As his friends listen and question, the powerful and eloquent story of Lord Jim unfolds. Joseph Conrad’s novels are timeless. The images he creates in Lord Jim, of man’s struggle to maintain a balance between morality and human weakness, have been echoed in countless other novels and major motion pictures. Narrator Steven Crossley provides the perfect voice to convey both the worldly-wise Marlow and the brilliant but deeply flawed Jim.
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" ...there are as many shipwrecks as there are men ..."
Imagine, for a moment, that it was Brown's sunken schooner which makes its way back to the beginning of the novel and becomes the wreckage that caves in the Patna's bulkhead ("as though the ship had steamed across a narrow belt of vibrating water and of humming air"), thus setting the events in motion all over again. This novel would then be a wholly contained circle of doomed fate and circumstance destined to play out the same way over and over, time after time. Perhaps this is why Conrad chose to not only describe Jim as "inscrutable" but also to tell the story through Marlow - a story within a story so that Jim, in essence, more easily becomes us ("one of us" and, truly, "any of us") and Marlow becomes a sort of God who dispassionately watches us folly.
The nested storytelling, the subtle wordplay, the idea that "three hundred miles beyond the end of telegraph cables and mail-boat lines, the haggard utilitarian lies of our civilization wither and die, to be replaced by pure exercises of imagination" creates an unreality that speaks to a truth of our own being better than if we were given an exact replica of Jim. Conrad gives us something infinitely better than an anatomically perfect recreation of a man who, for all the reasons and complexities that make a person a person, fails in his honor and shipwrecks his future - we get "the exact description of the form of a cloud" - a cloud in which we each see something different but is just simply a cloud - just simply us.
Ultimately, for me, the novel was about chances, specifically the chances that are missed in life; the missed chances we always remember and can never let go of and forgive ourselves for. And Jim could have easily asked for forgiveness, too - his father, a parson, seemed a very thin analogy with God himself, a God who will forgive if only you truly believe in him, but Jim couldn't even forgive himself for the missed chance and for how he ruined his life.
And I kept wondering about his father. Jim kept that letter all those years so you knew it pained him to turn his back on his family and even though he 'knew' he could never go back, he also knew that he didn't actually know that - he still held onto a sliver of hope, even if it was only a hopelessly romantic and boyishly nostalgic one.
I wonder if what Conrad was also trying to say is that man is always doomed? There really are no heroes in the novel, in fact the best man we come across, the most successful man, Captain Brierly, just up and decides one day to jump off his ship and drown himself. Did Brierly see his fate clearly to know that he too was doomed, like Jim? Or did he know that if push came to shove he would be just as cowardly as Jim and he couldn't face it, not like Jim could? And how come the biggest bastard in the novel, Captain Brown, is most able to act 'heroically'? Is Conrad trying to say that heroism is born only from selfishness? From wanting to fill one's belly?
While I don't know what Conrad actually thought, it seems clear to me that he felt it important to write an entire novel that makes you question the definition of morality, of honor, and of character. That's why Conrad created the 'character' of Jim because he could be any of us, he could be all of us, he represents every one of our individual failures and missed chances and misunderstandings. Jim is like the inner doll of a Russian nesting doll and each character in the novel is one doll larger until we get to the outer doll, us.
However, I'm still unsure of what I think the novel was all about. Conrad plays such a literary master game with us that by the end I feel like my head is spinning. The language is beautiful but nonspecific (as Conrad always writes), and the "point" is unclear and open to really any interpretation - I have more questions than answers, but I love that he got me thinking about so many ideas.
And this has been the most difficult review of a novel I've ever had to write because it would be like trying to recreate one of Steins perfect butterflies from far away based off of just the verbal description given to us through multiple sources handed out from the jungle 300 miles in and pieced together over a life time. I could spend my life getting caught up in this beautiful novel, constantly going around and around, like Jim, or like fate, or like all of mankind.
My biggest problem with Crossley's voice work, is that he uses virtually the same voice and accent for the narrator as he does for the main character, "Jim". He should have differentiated the two voices, at the very least to show the sizable age difference between the two and to help make this book a little more understandable. This along with the meandering style of Conrad makes it a very hard book to follow.
There are some nice descriptions of places, people and philosophies but they are brief pit stops in this jerky tail. I expected this to be an action packed story, but any action that took place quickly lost momentum due to Conrad's erratic writing style.
Also I didn't understand the necessity of using a narrator to rehash Jim's life. There also didn't seem to be sufficient reason for the narrator to have followed Jim around on his various exploits. Often times, I found the motivations of the narrator and Jim perplexing. Whatever point Conrad was trying to make, it surely could have been made in an easier way.
I'll give everything a try
What can I say, Conrad never disappoints. This book has gone down as one of my top favourite books. Once you get past the language and delve into the themes of social evil, redemption and the question of how or if redemption could ever be obtained, you just won't be able to resist coming back to this book again and again.
Let's explore the subtle ways in which Conrad exposes the way the past haunts and hounds a person, all of us. Ask yourself what dictates a person's reaction and what it takes for one to be truly redeemed. Is it enough to for one's failures to be forgotten by the world? Is that enough to give a person the courage to forgive one's self? Or is there more; what does it takes for one to be free of social conventions and expectations, to find the self and to banish and win against the fears that a person constructs for the self?
Is Lord Jim freed by the end or is that just a partial redemption from himself? Or, has he been found redemption at all?
Conrad puts these questions forward and as these questions allies to all of us across all ages, the questions asked each time yields a bit more. This is a book that you learn more and get more out of it with ever read. More than this, this is a book that makes you learn as much about who you are by asking these questions as you do the characters.
If you read nothing else in literary fiction or anything else by Conrad, you MUST read this, for it teaches us about humanity.
I have enjoyed previous Conrad works that I have listened to. This one too. But its not one of his best.
It feels a bit like he had a collection of tales and characters that kinda sorta fit together but he couldn't quite come up with a story to unite them all. So he decide to stitch them together in a bit of a patchwork quilt. They are all interesting and well written and if presented as seperate short stories I would have probably enjoyed them more. The pace is slow, both in the original work and in the narration. There were several bits where I realised I had stopped paying attention and on rewinding to relisten realised that i had lost nothing from the story. The writing isn't exactly bloated , just a bit extended. If you are looking for a Conrad to start off on then "The Secret Agent" is a better story.
The narration is very clear and measured - sometimes so measured that I checked my player to make sure it hadn't come to a halt.
Tried to listen to while traveling a long trip. Both my son and I found the early parts of the book seemingly discombobulated and turrned book off. Concievably we did not have a situation foor sufficient focus as the early parts of the book has multiple features linked to establish the story. I know the film -- that was great but seemed much more focused than the book. Conrad is a genius and likely the listener needs a quiet environment to focus on the story's linkages. My guess is that all gets well tied together in a sophisticated way by the stories end. The movied was powerful. Likely the book is also if finished.
Oh yes. As noted in my headline, Conrad can be perfectly readable. _Youth_ , for-instance, is an easy enough read. So is, _The Duel_, and _The Brute_. Even _Heart of Darkness_, while challenging, is ultimately work the effort. But then there's _Lord Jim_. Saying it stinks on ice is entirely too kind.
The first four chapters are told in conventional third person narration. They're perfectly fine. The last part of the book, involving Mr Brown, are very nearly a conventional third person narration, even thought Marlow makes a point of citing his sources. The last part of the book is also just fine and well realized. The middle of the book, however, is unreadable and is difficult going even on an audio book.
Now, the middle of the book is not worthless. The bit about the Captain who committed suicide is quite memorable. The signal to noise ration is just to low. It's not worth slogging thru the endless bits of people telling Marlow who's telling Conrad who's telling us. It's a gimmick and it works poorly.
Crossley was perfectly adequate. Not great, not bad, but I wouldn't hesitate to buy another book narrated by him.
My principle reaction to the middle of the book was "OMG, will somebody smack Marlow upside the head until he gets to the point."
"I want to return this book but cannot find how to"
all of it
I want to return the book but cannot find how to do this
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