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1. Nostromo, a tale of the seaboard
2. The End of the Tether
3. Works of Joseph Conrad. (25+ Works)
4. Victory
5. Within the Tides
6. Chance
7. Heart of Darkness
8. The Works of Joseph Conrad
9. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale
10. The Secret Agent
11. Selected Short Stories - Conrad
12. Youth; Heart of Darkness; The
13. The Secret Sharer and Other Stories
14. Joseph Conrad and the Fiction
15. Lord Jim: A Tale (Penguin Classics)
16. The Nigger of the 'Narcissus'
17. Falk : A Reminiscence
18. The Shadow-Line
19. The Complete Short Fiction of
20. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale

1. Nostromo, a tale of the seaboard
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 648 Pages (2010-08-05)
list price: US$46.75 -- used & new: US$31.41
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1176886762
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

Set in the imaginary South American republic of Costaguana, this work is an illustration of the impact of foreign exploitation on a developing nation. As Sulaco, site of an English/American controlled silver mine establishes its independence, its ideals are inevitably compromised.
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Customer Reviews (43)

5-0 out of 5 stars Nostromo is a big canvas wherein Joseph Conrad displays his geniusand dark viewpoint on life
Nostromo is one of the greatest novels of the early modernist period of the twentieth century. It is a landmark in English fiction. Joseph Conrad(1857-1924 considered it as his masterpiece in a oeuvre comprising such classics as "Lord Jim"; "The Secret Agent"; "Almayer's Folly"; "Victory" and such novellas as the immortal "The Heart of Darkness." Conrad's world is characterized by:
a. Materialism and greed
b. The isolation of individuals in an uncaring universe
c. A comsos devoid of God.
Nostromo is set in the lush exotic mythical South American nation of Costaguana. The book discusses the Civil war of General Barrios against General Montero. We witness the independence movement in the port city of Sulaco which eventually becomes a wealthy republic free of control by Costaguana.
The book is memorable for the well drawn characters:
Nostromo-He is a sailor from Genoa Italy who was orphaned and abused as a child. The name of this strong and brave man means "boatswain" but can also mean "our man." He is the leader of the mine workers at the San Tomas mine. He steals a huge load of silver from the mine hiding it on one of the three Isabel islands. He becomes involved in a love triangle with the daughter of old Viola. He is killed by Viola who mistakenly thinks he is Ramirez the hated lover of his younger daughter Giselle. Nostromo was engaged to Linda the oldest Viola daughter but was smitten with the lovely Giselle. Nostromo like most of the major characters is tainted by his lustful worship of silver.
Charles Gould-He is the rich English educated native of Sulaco who is theowner of the St. Tomas mine. His wife Emilia is a saint-like woman. He is greedy for gain coming under the influence of the bumptious Holroyd. Holyrod is an American businessman who practices the Protestant religon but whose real gold is money!
Martin Decoud-The wealthy native of Constaguana is the editor of the anti-government newspaper in Sulaco. He joins with Nostromo in a plot to hide the silver from the mine. He is in love with the aristocratic Antonia Avellanos. Her father Don John Avellanos who is a respected leader in Sulaco's tight aristocratic community.
Decoud fears execution but instead commits suicide feeling abandoned and alone on a deserted stretch of beach alone in the universe/.
The major symbols of the book:
San Tomas Mine representing greed and the lure of materialistic accumulation.
Costaguana standing as a microcosm of the evil world we all inhabit
The Lighthouse-It is operated by old Viola and is a symbol of light and love in a dark world.
The book is far from an easy read! Conrad utilizes multiple narrators. Conrad tells the story through flashbacks and non-chronological plot development. The novelist also uses a complex political plot which some readers may find hard to unravel. Conrad writes in a poetic evocative style which is wordy. This is not a novel for one who is just beginning to become acquainted with the classics! Nostromo is divided into three long sections: 1. the Silver of the Mine. 2. The Isabels. 3. The Lighthouse. As the blurb on the back cover of the Penguin edition notes, "Nostromo is..a masterpiece of tension, adventure and mystery.' Joseph Conrad is a great writer and this book deserves careful reading. Excellent !

5-0 out of 5 stars Awesomo
"Nostromo" is arguably Conrad's best novel. The book is about silver, which in and of itself is trivial, but Conrad uses this simple theme to connect his most well-developed, meticulously written novel set in the imaginary town of Sulaco, a mining town and port in the imaginary South American country of Costaguana. And as expected, Conrad's silver has an affect on the people of Costaguana that is anything but trivial.

Sulaco is physically isolated from the surrounding countries; on one side by a bay that is difficult to navigate and on the other by a mountain range whose pinnacle is the "Mighty Higuerota". Within this context Conrad is able to instill the physical isolation of Sulaco into the persona of his characters. By doing this Conrad creates a greater sense of identity, loneliness and despair in his characters, much moreso than in his other novels. Conrad relates the physical settings to the thoughts of his characters throughout the novel and it creates a very dark picture of the human condition - Conrad's specialty.

Conrad carefully develops the story through many characters in the first half of the novel, each of which help to build a picture of Sulaco and Costaguana; its political instability and corruption, the imperial interests in its resources, the bleak existence of the native people, its complete lack of moral decency. While Conrad develops the story there is one character who is seemingly above all of the corruption of Sulaco and he is Giovanni Battista Fidanza (a.k.a. "Nostromo"), who is an Italian expatriate working as a longshoreman in Sulaco. Throughout the first half of the novel the reader hears about Nostromo's heroic and selfless acts that make him a favorite among the people and seemingly apart from the insidiousatmosphere of Sulaco. And just when the reader believes that Nostromo's honor cannot be comprised, silver takes front stage. It is at this point in the novel that the reader is fully introduced to Nostromo's character through the events that follow, all of which form a suspenseful climax that connects the characters and events that were so carefully planned in the first half of the novel.

Another interesting aspect of the novel is the story's narration. The primary narrator is Captain Mitchell, Nostromo's employer. It is Captain Mitchell who recounts many of the events that lead up to, but not including, what ultimately led to Nostromo's fate. However, Conrad uses a universal narrator that fills in the gaps so to speak, who provides the true insight into Nostromo's thoughts, character, and the terrible secret that guided his actions through the end of the story. Conrad was one clever writer.

"Nostromo" is a unique and brilliant novel - I highly recommend it! Also, the Everyman's Library edition is well worth the purchase for such a great work of literature.

1-0 out of 5 stars Bad edition
The flow of this edition is poor as the text is broken poorly. You will find full lines followed by a brief partial phrase, followed by a full line, followed by a brief partial phrase, etc., etc.

In my opinion it is a shame a great piece of literature is presented in such a way.I would not pay the .99 cents over again.

5-0 out of 5 stars Who has the silver? Or: the somber imbecilities of political fanatism
`Nostromo' was one of Conrad's most political and least personal stories. It is probably not one of his best, but it offers a lot of issues for discussion and disagreement.

JC's first hand experience in South and Central America was limited and dated. Therefore he had to build on knowledge acquired from books. He used travel reports and memories of independence wars and dictatorships and revolutions. I am by no means an expert on South American history, but from what I remember of Latino writers like Garcia Marques or Asturias, Conrad sounds fairly authentic in a generic way. (I would be interested in differing opinions here.)

His political world in the international dimension was firmly based on 3 antis: anti- Russian, -German and -American. While the first two are natural for a Pole of the time and not so relevant for this novel (but very much for some of his others), his anti-American stance is of a less automatic nature and needs a closer look.
Conrad's basic stance was pro-capitalist. He sided with the innovator, the risk taker, the builder, the entrepreneur, as opposed to the profiteer. He also had a sympathetic regard for the working man, but was not free of condescension.
He was not free of racial prejudices of the time either. There is a Jewish trader in the story who could havejumped out of a Stuermer article a few decades later. His `good guys', the Blancos, don't just have this name as a party colour, it has a racial meaning as well.
The bad guys happen to be mostly the Indio military and politicians and the `friends of blacks' ie the liberated former black slaves.
JC's travels exposed him to colonialism of different varieties. He saw mainly the more established English and Dutch versions, which he treated with critical irony, but without heavy polemics. He met and hated the newcomers from Belgium in Heart of Darkness. At the time of JC's writing, the US was just about to assert itself. JC disliked what he saw. He was a conservative man. The Americans upset things: Panama, Cuba, Philippines...

The story is set in a fictional country in Latin America: Costaguana and its occidental province Sulaco. Topography suggests it is certainly Columbia/Panama.
Protagonists in the plot are: the American financier with larger interests and a belief in manifest destiny; the railway company that is confronted and disturbed by `conservative' landholders' interests; the shipping line that serves the harbor of Sulaco; the silver mine, whose manager has English roots and wife; the Italian hotelier with the revolutionary (Garibaldinian) resume and his family; and our man who gave his name: Nostromo, an Italian adventurer and mercenary, more a useful foreman for whoever needs him than a leader in his own right. His real name is not Nostromo, that is what the bosses call him. Another example of the caste system of the place.

There is also an old local politico, ex-diplomat and historian, whom JC claims as his source of the alleged non-fiction, even a dozen years later in an author's note for a collected edition. Maybe he is trying to find an excuse for the not so convincing narrator?

There are some more people. There is a medico, a priest, a journalist... And the old man's beautiful daughter... The latter two provide a love story.

One should know that Nostromo is by no means the real hero; he is more an anti-hero, an object of sarcasm and zoological curiosity. The real hero is the good capitalist with his heroic wife, Charles and Emily Gould. The problem with favoring entrepreneurship, but disliking colonialism was of course that they went together like horse and carriage. Conrad was aware of that contradiction. He lets the journalist voice the misgivings about development based on imperialist money. Gould (the silver miner, another pun) is the hero, but he is also the one who needs the support from the foreign devils.

The country is constantly shaken and stirred by revolutions and coup d'etats, which are not good for stability, wealth and progress. Resources might be waiting for exploration, but exploitation would need a firm hand. The US is stretching its tentacles into the continent. Empire needs control and that may require regime change. It will in any case require the bribing of officials. The silver mine has roused the greed of all kinds of bad guys.

The canal does not yet exist, people travel from one ocean to the other over land. Sulaco, the main location of the action, is located on the Pacific coast. But there seems to be a sea connection too, which is a little puzzling, and is maybe only explainable by poetic license. (JC can't possibly mean the route around the cape, at least not for regular traffic.)

The story is told in typically Conradian jumps back and forth, by an anonymous omniscient narrator, who will let himself be distracted by his own thinking. It doesn't make the story unclear though, as long as you are willing to try and remember the characters, which are far fewer than the average Tolstoyan list of protagonists.

Had Conrad been popular in the 1930s, Sinclair Lewis would surely have remembered to let his US Nazis in `It Can't Happen Here' burn Nostromo, like other anti-American books, or anything else that looked vaguely suspicious.
I wonder if Graham Greene had Nostromo in mind when he called his spy satire `Our Man in Havana'.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the great novels of literature
I am in the midst of reading, or re-reading, the major seven or eight works of Joseph Conrad.I have not previously reviewed any of them because of a general reticence as regards the "canon" of Western literature.But I am departing from that practice for NOSTROMO, which I just finished reading for the second time in my life, because I don't believe it is fully appreciated for what it is -- truly, one of the great novels of English, indeed Western, literature (not that my weighing in on the matter is likely to change things).

The setting of the novel -- the South American republic of Costaguana -- is a staggering achievement of imagination and research.Conrad's maritime novels were based on years of personal experience, but his experience of South America was limited to only three or four days at two ports in Venezuela. The scope of NOSTROMO is epic; it is a large canvas indeed.An apt comparison in literature might be Tolstoy's "War and Peace".But NOSTROMO also has characteristics of Dostoevsky, especially the acute psychology and the general existential pessimism.The writing is superb, at times almost poetic, probably Conrad's best sustained effort.(Yet, curiously, Ford Madox Ford contributed one or more passages when Conrad could not keep pace with the demands imposed by serialization, the form by which the novel was first published.)

The narrative proceeds through continuous shiftings in perspective, both in time and by character.Although Conrad's handling of these shifts is masterly, it is primarily that feature, I think, that can make reading NOSTROMO somewhat hard going, as many other reviewers have noted.Also contributing to its relative density is that there is no central character (despite the fact that the name in the title, "Nostromo", is also the popular name of the supposedly "incorruptible" Italian captain of the stevedores of the port of Sulaco) and no principal one or two themes.

Instead, a number of subjects, themes, or ideas are raised and explored, among them:politics, capitalism, colonialism, revolution, fatalism vs. idealism, the relationship of the individual to the world, the problems for one who derives his value in life from material things and the problems for one who instead derives his value in life from his reputation or the esteem and admiration of others, and, finally, the corruptive effect of silver.

Contrary to many, I don't believe a single, comprehensive "interpretation" of NOSTROMO -- or more broadly, for that matter, of Conrad -- is possible.In NOSTROMO and Conrad's other great novels (particularly "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness") Conrad struggles to limn an elusive and ultimately illusory truth.Now Conrad knows that truth is elusive and illusory, but he keeps trying to hone in on it, from a number of different angles.Each effort, each investigation, might come close to at least part of the truth (analogous to a Cubist painting?), but cumulatively those efforts and investigations do not coalesce to form a cogent, rational rendering of truth -- even less so than does a Cubist painting; more like the most impressionistic seascape of Turner.As Marlow comments to his audience in "Lord Jim" about the "visions of remote unattainable truth": "I have that feeling about me now; perhaps it is that feeling which had incited me to tell you the story, to try to hand over to you, as it were, its very existence, its reality--the truth disclosed in a moment of illusion."Further, Conrad knows that even this impressionistic illusory truth is personal; it differs from person to person.From NOSTROMO: "In the most skeptical heart there lurks at such moments * * * a desire to leave a correct impression of the feelings, like a light by which the action may be seen when personality is gone, gone where no light of investigation can ever reach the truth which every death takes out of the world."

"Heart of Darkness" is justly admired, a century later, for being so prophetic about the horrors of the Twentieth Century.In many respects, NOSTROMO is equally prophetic of the century.One example can be found in the words ofHolroyd, the rich American financier from San Francisco before committing to furnish the capital for the development of the San Tome silver mine:"Now, what is Costaguana?It is the bottomless pit of ten-per-cent loans and other fool investments.European capital had been flung into it with both hands for years.Not ours, though.We in this country [the United States] know just about enough to keep indoors when it rains.We can sit and watch.Of course, some day we shall step in. * * * But there's no hurry.Time itself has got to wait on the greatest country in the whole of God's Universe.We shall be giving the word for everything; industry, trade, law, journalism, art, politics, and religion, from Cape Horn clear over to Smith's Sound, and beyond, too, if anything worthy taking hold of turns up at the north Pole.And then we shall have the leisure to take in hand the outlying islands and continents of the earth.We shall run the world's business whether the world likes it or not.The world can't help it -- and neither can we, I guess."That was written in 1904.

For me, NOSTROMO is Conrad's greatest novel.And, again, it is one of the true classics in all of literature.

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2. The End of the Tether
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 96 Pages (2010-07-06)
list price: US$9.99 -- used & new: US$9.99
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Asin: B003VS180O
Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars
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The End of the Tether is presented here in a high quality paperback edition. This popular classic work by Joseph Conrad is in the English language. If you enjoy the works of Joseph Conrad then we highly recommend this publication for your book collection. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

2-0 out of 5 stars For die-hard Conrad fans only
And I thought I WAS a die-hard Conrad fan!He's one of those writers by whom I must read a book every two or three years -- but this one I did not like at all.Despite the usual brilliant prose, much of it as good asanything Conrad has done, "Tether" is a let-down -- astoundinglydepressing!Most Conrad work posits a world that is inimical and uncaring,yet holds out hope that courage and integrity will serve to help us endureit all; "Tether" holds out no such hope.It concerns a captainwho continues to pilot his ship even though he is legally blind, doing soin order to provide for his family.Nothing turns out okay, and no oneends up happy.I don't ask for a lot of hope from the books I read -- butat least a little! ... Read more

3. Works of Joseph Conrad. (25+ Works) Includes Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes, Lord Jim, Nostromo, Under Western Eyes and more (mobi)
by Joseph Conrad
Kindle Edition: Pages (2008-08-13)
list price: US$5.99
Asin: B001E8OW7Y
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

This collection was designed for optimal navigation on Kindle and other electronic devices. It is indexed alphabetically, chronologically and by category, making it easier to access individual books, stories and poems. This collection offers lower price, the convenience of a one-time download, and it reduces the clutter in your digital library. All books included in this collection feature a hyperlinked table of contents and footnotes. The collection is complimented by an author biography. Author's biography and stories in the trial version.

Table of Contents

List of Works in Alphabetical Order
List of Works in Chronological Order
Joseph Conrad Biography

Novels :: Play :: Short Stories :: Non-Fiction

Almayer's Folly
The Arrow of Gold
End of the Tether
Gaspar Ruiz
Heart of Darkness
The Inheritors with Ford Madox Ford
Lord Jim
The Nigger of The "Narcissus"
An Outcast of the Islands
The Point of Honor
The Rescue
Romance with Ford Madox Ford
The Secret Agent
The Shadow Line
Some Reminiscences
Under Western Eyes

One Day More

Short Stories
Amy Foster
A Set of Six (collection) [Gaspar Ruiz, The Informer, The Brute, An Anarchist, The Duel, Il Conde]
Tales of Hearsay (collection) [The Warrior's Soul, Prince Roman, The Tale, The Black Mate]
Tales of Unrest (collection) [Karain, The Idiots, An Outpost of Progress, The Return, The Lagoon]
'Twixt Land & Sea (collection) [A Smile of Fortune, The Secret Sharer, Freya of the Seven Isles]
Within the Tides (collection) [The Planter of Malata, The Partner, The Inn of the Two Witches, Because of the Dollars]

Notes on Life and Letters
Notes on My Books
A Personal Record
The Mirror of the Sea

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Comments from the publisher
Comments from the publisher:

This page mixes reviews for two books: one published by MobileReference Works of Joseph Conrad. (25+ Works) Includes Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes, Lord Jim, Nostromo, Under Western Eyes and more (mobi) and another one published by a different publisher The Works of Joseph Conrad (34 books). It is unclear which review corresponds to which book. We assure you that MobileReference book has no issues with font. All MobileReference books were tested thoroughly on all Kindle Readers.


5-0 out of 5 stars beautiful prose
Works of Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness is an acclaimed work of literature. I recommend this book for fans of Apocalypse Now. ... Read more

4. Victory
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 416 Pages (2010-08-30)
list price: US$34.75 -- used & new: US$25.09
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1178077683
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Axel Heyst, a disenchanted Swede, becomes involved in the operation of a coal company on a remote island in the Malay archipelago. When that fails, he turns his back on humanity until, once again, he is drawn into contact with the world by a girl whom he rescues and bears off to his island retreat.
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Customer Reviews (35)

3-0 out of 5 stars A Unique Reading Experience
I will in all likelihood remember "Victory" as one of the more inconsistent reads I've ever encountered, not in terms of tone, style or plot but in terms of my fluctuating interest in the tale Conrad spun and what he wanted to say with it. Often I felt myself pushed away by a lumbering pace and wooden caricatures to the outer ionosphere of reader absorption, nearing a point where the thin gravity of my interest in its grander themes was the only thing keeping me from snapping off into orbit and relegating the book unfinished to the dusty shelves. Then, the book would pull me back in by way of a beautifully phrased summation of Heyst's life or philosophy, which is what I seemed to admire and/or connect with most about "Victory". In fact, my problem with the first third of the book was not knowing more about Heyst - far too many pages are used up on Schomberg and the villains, who to me felt more goofy than menacing.

The book's characterizations also dip in and out of authenticity and humanity. Perhaps we are meant to feel detached from Heyst for much of the story, unable to truly "touch" him, as it were. But the girl Lena and his Chinese island companion Wang are, for the most part, two-dimensional, every once in a while popping into the third-dimension albeit all-too-briefly, yet just enough to keep my hand turning the pages. I also found the presence of the strange wildman Pedro completely inexplicable and rather campy, which served further to undermine the villains' menace.

The novel retains very hearty, muscular prose throughout. It's regrettable that Conrad's beautiful line-by-line style, in conjunction with a very promising premise, wasn't married to fuller, more believable characters and better pacing.

2-0 out of 5 stars Capitulation
I suppose it is rather a commonplace to find an author you love and set out to read all his works until you chance across one of them that is not so very good at all, that seems at times as if it were written by some other, less magisterial, author and are taken aback:Such is the case with me, Joseph Conrad and this book.

I shall not even attempt a plot summary because a) The other reviewers have belaboured it to death and, b) It's embarrassingly silly and lacking in all subtlety, pace to all who found the "thriller" aspects here so exciting.There is also the issue of racialism here so pervasively thrust upon the reader, with nearly every other page containing lines such as, "A meditation is always - in a white man, at least - more or less an interrogative exercise."Such constant lack of nuance - in a writer, at least - is more or less the death of him as an artist. Some of the reviews here made me laugh at their attempts to dismiss all this.Where, this reader wants to ask, to beseech, is the stylistic atavism of, say, Lord Jim and Conrad's other great books which cloak whatever such notions Conrad may or may not have possessed himself in the mystery and deeps of time?

The only redeeming feature to the book is Conrad's prose, which still sings, especially in the - astutely noticed by others - passages reminiscent of The Tempest, "The islands are very quiet.One sees them lying about, clothed in their dark garments of leaves, in a hush of silver and azure, where the sea without murmurs meets the sky in a ring of magic stillness."Beautiful, no?

Still, I wish Conrad had plonked this narrative - so unworthy of him - full fathom five - into such a sea, without murmur or regret.

5-0 out of 5 stars Never underestimate the power of calumny
that is an additional message i got from this very readable, chilling book. Other reviewers have already touched upon many aspects of this book, so i won't replicate. One of the most illuminating books i have read, and i read this about 15 years ago.

5-0 out of 5 stars A page-turner, possibly Conrad's only
This is a good one. Of Conrad's novels, only the equally fascinating (albeit tougher going) Chance is more maligned. But Victory, which is not a great deal less audacious than the earlier proto-modernist illuminations of Nostromo and Lord Jim, is also Conrad's leanest, most titillating and romantic fiction, an extrapolation and mythic abstraction of the latter half of Lord Jim. The broad strokes of the abstraction conceal a considerable blackening of Conrad's heart since the early masterpieces: there are shades of The Waste Land in this Paradise. This is, after all, the only Conrad novel in which anyone has sex - and yet it is also the Conrad novel with the bleakest ending.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Dark and Tormented Island Tale
Victory: An Island Tale is, of course, one of Conrad's classic novels and deserves to be among the great books of the English language, nevertheless I found this work to be uneven and in some ways disappointing.This is hard to explain without spoiling but I'll try.Until the final episodes Victory: An Island Tale is brilliant, absorbing, and disturbing, and of course Conrad's unsurpassed prose is a marvel.The final, episodes, however, are weird, extremely unsettling, and finally obscure and unconvincing.Some passages were simply incomprehensible to me.It all became too highly derived, symbolic, Jamesian, and despite this, in places, crude and vulgar.Of course, these same reservations are standard in Conrad criticism by the experts according to the very helpful introduction in the Modern Library edition that I read.But there it is:The ending is not worthy of Conrad.

Also, aromas of racism and sexism waft around and from this book.I can understand this in the context in which it was written and the context of the story, and I can tune it out or bracket it for the most part.I worry, though, at the same time how complicit I am.Despite the racism and sexism, Conrad has a fundamentally universally human and sympathetic attitude for underdogs, outcasts, the oppressed, and disenchanted which makes his works, and especially this work, so engaging and tends to overshadow the slimier aspects.

The conversation between Schomberg and Ricardo from about page 97 to about 132 is the best part of the novel and the part I enjoyed the most.It is brilliant, funny, insightful, and trenchant.Conrad gets to air some of his social criticism in a very clever way and spin some wild yarns--and in the mouth of a villain!And, by the way, the editor missed mentioning the Nietzschean influences that are evident throughout, but especially in this conversation.

More about the Modern Library edition:As I mentioned the introduction by Peter Lancelot Mallios is worth reading and useful.The notes are for the most part very informative and explain some obscure references.Some of the notes are silly--too much is made of biblical references and derivations from other authors.A map of the area (Indonesia) with locations is included right on the first page.I would recommend this edition. ... Read more

5. Within the Tides
by Joseph Conrad
Hardcover: 168 Pages (2008-08-18)
list price: US$26.99 -- used & new: US$21.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0554309734
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Includes qThe Planter of Malata q qThe Partner q qThe Inn of the Two Witches q and qBecause of the Dollars.q ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Four Tales of "Men Who Go to Sea or Live on Lonely Islands"
These are not Conrad's most famous stories: Until I read the book, I had not heard of any of them. Nonetheless, this is one author whose worst work is better than most others' best. On a recent plane trip to Seattle, I found two of the four stories merely diverting, and the other two equal to his best.

"The Partner" is a grim tale of human weakness spiralling down to a predictable horror; whereas his humorously baroque "The Inn of the Two Witches" reminds me in its tone of Washington Irving in LEGENDS OF THE ALHAMBRA, though set in a later time period.

What happens when you fall so deeply in love so fast that you can't act to save your life? Conrad gives his answer in "The Planter of Malata," in which a successful loner named Renouard confronts the yawning vastness of an empty life. Felicia Moorsom is a bit two-dimensional and a prim and proper Victorian to the nth degree. This tale is a psychological thriller that does not let you breathe until the last line.

The final tale -- "Because of the Dollars" -- is my favorite. It reminds me of ALMAYER'S FOLLY and OUTPOST OF THE ISLANDS with its shallow-draft vessels penetrating into the heart of remote islands. Captain Davidson is a classic Conrad hero caught in a trap: How he manages to escape it at the cost of a wife who doesn't love him and, by the way, his ability to smile is one of the author's most perfectly taut stories.

It is amusing to read Conrad's preface to the stories: He seems to be wincing excessively in response to early criticism after circulating the stories to his friends. Needless to say, his friends were over-critical: WITHIN THE TIDES struck me as a treasure that I had somehow overlooked all these years. ... Read more

6. Chance
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 230 Pages (2010-03-06)
list price: US$9.97 -- used & new: US$9.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 144323205X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The book has no illustrations or index. Purchasers are entitled to a free trial membership in the General Books Club where they can select from more than a million books without charge. Subjects: Young women; Children of prisoners; Fathers and daughters; Ship captains' spouses; ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Series of Misdirections
Chance contains many of the themes found in Conrad's more critically acclaimed work: the role of womanhood in the Empire (HOD), the pressure of external events on personal relations, (The Secret Agent), the psychological struggle for dominance as well, often found in Conrad's shorter sea tales, but where Chance succeeds is in its narrative misdirection geared toward the reader. We at first assume that the novel will settle on some misadventure that is flashed back by Powell, and then we discover Marlow at the table, and discover it with a sinking feeling, and then get sucked into a series of narratives within narratives, a technique for which Modernism owes Conrad a great debt. We have the unnamed narrator who tries to contain Marlow, and Marlow who has to contain the Fynes, who have to contain Flora de Barral and her comically dim-witted father, whose narrow intelligence later becomes monstrous toward the novel's end; but this multi-layered technique is also the story's greatest weakness. Conrad weighs even minor characters down with a wee bit too much pressure: One expects a consequence from the second Mr. Powell and Flora's embittered governess, a consequence that never quite materializes given the effort Conrad puts into their backstories. It is mildly anti-climatic, and had it been shorter would have amounted to less labor for the amusingly frustrated spectators we are invited to be as Flora moves through her various stages of despair and then making terms with the world. The final picture we have of her, as a virtual goddess about to be united with the salt of the earth, relieves the burden the faithful reader carries along.

4-0 out of 5 stars As it says in the Title....

A chance meeting with a Mr Powell leads Marlow to recollect his chance connections To the Feins-and Mrs Feins' brother Captain Anthony ; his chance meeting with Flora De Barrel,daughter of a disgraced financier,and their elopement on Anthonys ship.
Chance occurances and happenings connect lifes machinations according to Conrad, and this story unfolds gracefully on such chances ,with the proceedings kept in witty check by Marlows narration.
Conrad is the master of descriptive, meticulously detailed story telling and 'Chance' is no exception to this rule. Perhaps a little over long, and your sympathies wax and wane at times, but a great tale written in a style and manner few in the past-and possibly none today-could match and master,

4-0 out of 5 stars Confusing and verbose narrative: Conrad past his best
It is paradoxical that Conrad's most successful work at the time of its publishing should also be the least satisfactory of his major works. Narrated largely by Conrad's alter ego Marlow it is the story of young Flora de Barral who is torn emotionally between her imprisoned financier father (who bears a strong resemblance to Trollope's Augustus Melmotte) and Captain Anthony, the respected brother of her Feminist guardian Mrs Fyne. Written during the suffragette era Conrad attempts to address directly the issue of feminism but the prejudices of the time (Victorian/Edwardian) and his origins (Polish) act as impediments to his impartiality. Though I feel that it is a judgment based on today's standards to describe Marlow's narrative as misogynistic, it does at times make uncomfortable reading: `...Mrs Fyne did not want women to be women. Her theory was that they should turn themselves into unscrupulous sexless nuisances'. As such it acts as unwitting historical testimony to male attitudes of Conrad's background at that time.
Ostensibly a tale of doomed love Chance is an overlong and confusing nested narrative that nevertheless is a four-star work because it is a fine story written in a beautiful, dignified English that has long since been abandoned for a prose that is dull and functional or pompous and overblown. If you are a Conrad fan like me and you wish to `complete the set' then it is an interesting diversion for that great author, though, not surprisingly, the best passages are on board The Ferndale. If you are new to Conrad then I don't recommend this as a starter. Instead go for any of his well-known works which are all readily available.

5-0 out of 5 stars Conrad's Strangest Triumph
So well-crafted, so engaging, so powerfully written - it's hard believing "Chance" was written by Joseph Conrad. Not that Conrad didn't write great books, just that nothing in "Lord Jim," "Heart Of Darkness," or the rest of his tough, unsettling oeuvre prepares you for the wry warmth and hidden sunlight of "Chance."

Well, you do have Marlow again. The narrator of "Jim" and "Darkness" is back here telling another story about people he doesn't actually know first-hand. This time the central character is young Flora de Barral, set adrift in England by her father's scandal-plagued financiering. Haunted and helpless, her wide blue eyes giving her the look of "a forsaken elf," Flora takes what comes in life, seemingly unable to function for herself. Can she find her own way? Will she become ruthless if she tries?

All this may sound precious and twee, very much in the style of period romances more suited to Henry James than what you expect from the shamelessly macho Conrad, with his damned souls sailing heedless into typhoons. Yet Conrad makes this odd Merchant-Ivory production work by making you care for Flora in a way that draws you in more deeply than even the classic "Lord Jim" ever did. "Jim" was a philosophical novel; "Chance" is a uniquely intuitive one, more about feelings than ideas, yet quite brilliant in its concept all the same.

Published in 1913, one year before World War I would change forever the genteel world it so painstakingly describes, "Chance" was the one book by Conrad that clicked with readers in his own lifetime. It's been disregarded since, as modern readers embrace more dour Conrad fare like "The Secret Agent" and "Nostromo."

It's our generation's loss. Missing "Chance" is missing the other side of Conrad, the bleak nihilist discovering for once "the precise workmanship of chance, fate, providence, call it what you will." Other Conrad books feature broken-up narratives and odd framing devices, but the structural convolutions in "Chance" actually propel the story rather than hold it back.

Marlow's narration is a marvel of storytelling economy, carrying you across windswept moors and the high seas, not to mention a source of much dry wit as the rather mysterious misogynist fires many shots across the bow of womankind. "Mainly I resent that pretence of winding us around their dear little fingers, as of right," he snorts.

Is Flora exhibit A in this case against? Certainly she winds the helplessly infatuated Captain Anthony around her finger, despite her apparent total lack of reciprocal devotion. Flora does love, only it is in a flawed way, for her crabbed, corrupt father who believes the two of them too good for the rest of the world. Yet love can be a form of redemption despite itself.

Women, Conrad writes, can be fiendish and dumb, yet they are "never dense." "There is in woman always, somewhere, a spring." Realizing that spring here is at the heart of "Chance," and makes for Conrad's strangest triumph, the one book of his that not only makes you feel smarter for reading it, but happy to be alive.

4-0 out of 5 stars An obscure gem from one of history's greatest writers
My first Conrad read was Victory, and I have been hooked ever since.I chose Chance because it was Conrad's first commercial success, and I was curious to see what the public liked better than so many other great novels such as Lord Jim.As other reviewers have suggested, the ending must have been the difference.There is far more sweet than bitter, and it's usually the other way around in his books, especially the love stories.I suspect we may learn more from sad stories than from happy ones, but in any event, Chance is not without pain and suffering.As the capable narrator Marlowe repeatedly emphasizes, the novel's heroine, Flora, leads a difficult life. Her father is one of the great villans in literature.He really steals show from Marlowe--well, almost.
What I like most about Conrad's use of the narrator, particularly in Chance, is his role as an interpreter.In most novels, the reader must examine the story itself for the life lessons Conrad so uniquely presents.Marlowe enables Conrad to speak more directly to the reader, and I found him doing so more in Chance than in Lord Jim.There are a few arguably gratutious digressions--one about the differences between men and women comes to mind--but that's Marlowe.
The bottom line: if in reading Lord Jim, you really enjoyed Marlowe's character, you will love the extra depth and insight Chance provides.If you love Conrad, then I expect you will find this to be one his most enjoyable books.And, if you have never read Conrad, but are curious, this is an excellent novel to start with, for it cannot be sterotyped as a South Seas adventure novel full of Pacific atmosphere and nautical terms. ... Read more

7. Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 92 Pages (2010-10-25)
list price: US$5.49 -- used & new: US$5.49
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Asin: 1936041367
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The best selling classic Heart of Darkness tells ofCharles Marlow, an Englishman who worked for a Belgiantrading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa.Marlow is employed to transport ivory downriver.However, his more urgent job is to return Kurtz,another ivory trader, to civilization, in a cover-up. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (427)

3-0 out of 5 stars Diminishing rewards
This is the first book I have read of Joseph Conrad."The Heart of Darkness" has a beautiful start, and Conrad is a true master of words. But around the half way point the plot begins to fizzle.Conrad goes off on a tangent that differs from the main story.Then pursues a reverence for a character, Kurtz, that is unsupported.The ending is a eulogy for Kurtz, who was barely in the story.Perhaps there are historical references of the time that I am unaware of that would support the story, but standing alone it is only half a book.I am looking forward to reading more of Joseph Conrad however.His poetic pros are amazing, inspiring.

5-0 out of 5 stars Going Native ...
Joseph Conrad wrote this classic novella on the "clash of civilizations"; or, much more appropriately, a clash of non-civilizations more than 110 years ago. It was based on Conrad's brief experience working in the then Belgian Congo.There is at least partial validity to comparative studies on the respective merits and de-merits of the various colonial powers, and in most cases Belgian rule has ranked near the bottom, reflected by a brutal rule dedicated solely to enriching the ruling power, with virtually no benefit to the native people. This book could only help reinforce that assessment.

English was Conrad's third language, yet he mastered it better than virtually all native-English speakers. His prose is rich and dense. Along with Melville, his depictions of the sea in its varying conditions are evocative, and his novel Typhoon and Other Tales (Oxford World's Classics) is a classic to the awesome power of the ocean. In this novella, there are strong descriptive passages of the river when the boat is anchored in the Thames estuary, and Marlow tells the tale of his encounter with Kurtz, along with his brief stint in the Congo, in the style of a flashback.

The "heart" of the book, as it were, is the interactions between two extremely different cultures, and the exploitation of one by the other. It is the late 19th Century, London is the capital of the largest empire the world has ever known, yet Conrad makes the point that a mere 2,000 years or so earlier, if a Roman trireme had ventured up the Thames, it would have been going into "the heart of darkness," on the very outer edges of its empire, in similar circumstances to one venturing up the Congo River today.

In Marlow's flashback tale, there are passages which are deeply empathetic to the natives bearing the "burden of white men," and there are other passages that are certainly racist by today's standard, so one or the other could be cited to prove a thesis.There is a dramatic buildup to Marlow's meeting with Kurtz, with immense praise for the most effective agent of the company tempered with hints of certain irregularities, as though he might have been out in "the bush" too long, and "gone native." It turns out that he was a demi-god within the company, providing far more ivory through his unorthodox methods than other agents, but to the natives he had become a god, in part, because he adopted their ways. It is very much a tale of power, and its corrupting influences. This book was adapted as a metaphor for the Vietnam War, and starred Marlon Brando as Kurtz, in Apocalypse Now: Redux a movie I truly detested since I felt it had distorted the essence of the American involvement in Vietnam. Don't know if it has been adapted as a metaphor for the corporate world, but I could imagine it ringing truer there.

There is a poignant scene at the end, in which Marlow must try to convey the circumstances of Kurtz's demise to his fiancé.And reminiscent of Paul in Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations), when confronted with a similar task, the only proper solution is to lie.

Brilliant prose, rich in insights on the human condition, this novella, particularly on the second read, retains its appropriate designation as a 5-star classic.

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't dive in...
This is one of the greatest novels ever written. The problem is it is so layered that it is hard to just pick up and read. I strongly suggest purchasing "CliffsNotes on Conrad's Heart of Darkness & The Secret Sharer" by Daniel Moran to assist you in figuring out the depth of this great novel. Read them both together and I am sure you will come away with a better reading experience and appreciation for this masterpiece.

5-0 out of 5 stars Heart and Mind
I recently re-read the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness, a perennial classic and the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Having first read this powerful piece in high school, there was much I had forgotten. I am glad to have revisited it. This time it really hit home: just how relative its themes of greed, corruption, and redemption are in today's world. We may draw a comparison to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the world's hunger for oil and its consequences, or even to the megalomania we've seen recently that has been the ruin of US and other market economies.

Conrad's story takes place in 19th century colonial Africa; a virtual free-for-all for holding companies and the like scrambling to lay claims on precious minerals (gold, silver) and other natural resources (ivory, slaves) in its vast untapped interior. The problem for these greed machines was finding personnel willing or ignorant enough to brave the "darkness": wild animals, disease, uncivilized tribal societies (some cannibalistic). Kurtz was one such individual who travels downriver into the thicket to set up a station for his employers, but experiences a taste of totemic worship, he being the totem. His sad tale is told by Marlow, a "seaman" and a "wanderer" who was employed by the same administrative company as Kurtz.

"...their administration," says Marlow "was merely a squeeze and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors and for that you want only brute force -- nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others."

Marlow relates his experiences on the vast interior river (Congo?) which culminate in his search, along with the company manager and a native crew, for the elusive Kurtz who had terminated communication with the civilized world months before. After finally finding an ailing Kurtz downriver, Marlow's own obsession with just listening to this fellow comes to fruition in a haze of disenchantment. Delusion and dementia, along with his adoring natives, have claimed him, But Marlow, at the urging of the manager, must retrieve Kurtz (and his ivory) to the company's outpost. It is on the way back, after a reckless escape, that Kurtz will utter those infamous and harrowing last words: "The horror, the horror."

For me Kurtz represents the iconic Soldier led into the great Darkness of some war (Iraq) or material venture (oil) perpetrated by the "conquerors" (guess who). In this analogy, Kurtz's ultimate madness relates to the current epidemic of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) we see in our troops returning from the war zones.Unfortunately Kurtz's "horror" is being experienced, in some manner, by thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan vets today. These are just disillusioned kids returning home to their families without jobs, without limbs, without peace of mind; with nightmares. So who is Marlow, in this tale? Is he us?

In Heart of Darkness Marlow finally must face Kurtz's grieving fiancee back in London. She entreats him to assure her of Kurtz's final moments, since he was, must have been, her loved one's friend.

"Your were with him -- to the last?" she asks.

"'To the very end,' I said, shakily. 'I heard his very last words...' I stopped in a fright.

"'Repeat them,' she murmured in a heart-broken tone. 'I want --I want -- something -- something -- to -- to live with.'

Marlow is suddenly faced with a dilemma. And so are we. Will we lie as Marlow does or will we face the ugly truth?

1-0 out of 5 stars Pseudointellectual myth
Before reading this book I had just read Conrad's Outcast of the Islands.Which was really quite good...this book was horrible and yet gets all the praise? This book confirms my belief that most authors should retire at a certain point. Even more so that the world is full of pseudo-intellectuals who see "depth" in anything abstruse that we dummies can't appreciate.Conrad must have have had too much praise go to his head or alcohol or something.The story is hard to readyou draw nothing deep from it, it has none of the beautiful nature descriptions his earlier books had. He must have needed rent money or tried some avant garde thing while drug addled.How utterly unbelievable that this book is famous.Thank God it was short. ... Read more

8. The Works of Joseph Conrad
by Joseph Conrad
Kindle Edition: Pages (2009-08-06)
list price: US$0.99
Asin: B002KMJHUA
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Heart of Darkness
Lord Jim
Under Western Eyes
The Secret Sharer
The Rescue ... Read more

9. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (Modern Library Classics)
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 352 Pages (2004-12-14)
list price: US$10.95 -- used & new: US$5.75
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Asin: 0812973054
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Edited and with Notes by Peter Lancelot Mallios
Introduction by Robert D. Kaplan

In reexamining The Secret Agent in a post-9/11 world, Robert D. Kaplan praises Joseph Conrad’s “surgical insight into the mechanics of terrorism,” calling the book “a fine example of how a savvy novelist may detect the future long before a social scientist does.”

This intense 1907 thriller–a precursor to works by Graham Greene and John le Carré–concerns a British double agent who infiltrates a cabal of anarchists. Conrad explores political and criminal intrigue in a modern society, building to a climax that the critic F. R. Leavis deemed “one of the most astonishing triumphs of genius in fiction.” ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, for many reasons
Written in the early years of the 20th century, when anarachy, socialism, revolution, and an undercurrent of violence surged through the veins of most developed countries, "The Secret Agent" not only reflects the fears and reactions of contemporary society as it responds to new challenges, but also tells a very human story that ultimately makes this book the classic that it is.
"The Secret Agent" himself is a married man who runs a shady store on a side street in London.Early on, he is called to task by a higher up and given a task that does not particularly sit well with what little conscience he has.He is not a cold or heartless man, but functioning as a covert operative in a world of anarchists and bomb-makers, he has come to rationalize violence and its necessity in a changing world.Before he acts in accordance with the wishes of his boss, Conrad introduces us to a number of his cohorts- revolutionaries, anarchists, felons- each with his own set of values and personal reasons for believing and acting the way they do.By the time the act of violence is committed, the reader is unsure whose side to take in the struggle that is occurring- that of the police and society, eager to accuse someone, even if it is the wrong person; or the revolutionaries, willing to commit acts of violence and murder in order to achieve their ends.
To further confuse matters, Conrad introduces two characters, innocents, who play a major role in the development of the plot- the Secret Agent's wife, who has unknowingly loved and supported a man of deceit for many long years, and the wife's brother, a simple man with mental deficiencies.It is these two characters who represent the heart and soul of this book and who provide an emotional force and importance behind the convoluted events that eventually occur.
While there are obvious parallels between this book and the modern day problems we face with terrorism today, the core of this story is a human drama that resonates well after the book is finished.Conrad is an excellent writer, and his ability to address complex and far-reaching issues- anarchy, terrorism, violence as a means towards an end- and place them in a compelling and engaging story of real people living life, results in one of the most noteworthy literary accomplishments of the 20th century.
This is a must read!

5-0 out of 5 stars Anything but simple
The rise of anarchism, socialism, and communism (often lumped together, but seldom representing a single philosophy or movement) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the first wave of stateless terrorism in Western capitalist societies.While fingers were pointed in many ethnic and nationalistic directions, the terror from which this political force takes its name was as real then as it is today.

Conrad's "simple tale" is a fiction in which the motives, mind, and material method of this first wave of terror are central to the story and the plot.But is "The Secret Agent" really about terrorism?Conrad is a much better writer with a much different agenda than just telling a fictionalized account of a contemporary news story.As the assistant police commissioner recounts to the political authority to whom he is reporting (p. 182 of the Modern Library edition):"From a certain point of view we are here in the presence of a domestic drama."And in that aspect, The Secret Agent" is anything but simple.

But "Secret Agent" is most read and mentioned today for its almost prophetic foresight about the wave of terrorism lose in the world after September 11, 2001.Indeed this Modern Library edition was published in 2004, with an introduction and an afterward which directly reference the novel's position in relation to the events of that day.Without 9/11, it is unlikely that this edition would have appeared when it did, if at all, and many readers, myself included, would likely have bypassed earlier editions in ignorance.

How prophetic is Conrad's vision?The afterward provides a dense assessment of the post 9/11 response to Conrad's vision, which I will leave to you to decipher and decide.Here, I have included some pointed quotes from Conrad that I found strongly resonant in their enlightenment--and, in the last quote, their warning about the applicability of prophecy to terror:

The target(p. 25):"a series of outrages executed here in this country . . . Must be sufficiently startling--effective.Let them be directed against buildings, for instance."

The terrorist (p. 38):"A band of men absolute in their resolve to discard all scruples in the choice of means, strong enough to give themselves frankly the name of destroyers, and free from the taint of that resigned pessimism which rots the world.No pity for anything on earth, including themselves, and death enlisted for good and all in the service of humanity."

The futility of policing (p. 55):"I shall never be arrested.The game isn't good enough for any policeman of them all.To deal with a man like me you require sheer, naked, inglorious heroism."

The susceptibility of the United States to terrorism (p. 60-61):"They have more character over there, and their character is essentially anarchistic.Fertile ground for us, the States--very good ground.The great Republic has the root of the destructive matter in her.The collective temperament is lawless.Excellent."

The ultimate goal of terrorism (p. 61):"Nothing would please me more than to see [the police] take to shooting us down in broad daylight with the approval of the public.Half our battle would be won then; the disintegration of the old morality would have set in in its very temple.That is what you ought to aim at."

The ultimate philosophy of terrorism (p. 249):" 'My device is:No God!No master.'. . . .'Prophecy!What's the good of thinking of what will be!' He raised his glass.'To the destruction of what is,' he said calmly."

With that final warning from Conrad, then, I will leave off reviewing this book as a handbook of terrorism, and go back to the real meat of this story, which is, as I quoted at the beginning a domestic drama with all of Conrad's atmospheric and detailed description.The plot itself is very simple and could be summarized in a paragraph, but to do so would be at best beside the point and at worst misleading as Conrad's writing flows in and around the plot, picking up characters and settings and thoughts and examining them closely before nudging the reader on with his cinematic shift of camera angle, focus, and depth of vision.

The cinematic reference is not accidental.The Modern Library edition also includes contemporary reviews and responses to "The Secret Agent", not all of which were positive, and the criticisms seem to break down along the lines of the realism vs romanticism in the story. In that pre-cinematic era, when the concepts of camera angle and point of view were of relevance only to a small cadre of professional artists, there was an expectation of realism in a narrative thread.In our post-cinematic and post-modern world we know it is impossible for a narrative to tell the full truth of a set of events even (or especially) when such a narrative attempted.Here, indeed, Conrad was way ahead of his time in utilizing this understanding in the medium available to him, the written page.

So watch the master as he pauses to show the fine details in the picture, then shifts the camera slightly to introduce new and disorienting objects, using the visual medium of the mind to paint his story.This is a true literary classic.

4-0 out of 5 stars Powerful and despairing
I must admit to having a love-hate relationship with Conrad. His novels possess an undeniable power, and I have read each of his novels with the utmost fascination. Yet, I can't say that actually reading a Conrad novel is an enjoyable experience. His vision of the world is a tad too bleak, his confidence in human nature way too despairing, and the overall atmosphere way too gloomy for me to derive pleasure from reading Conrad.
Although not set in one of the exotic locales which we associate with Conrad, THE SECRET AGENT is both one of his finest and one of his most typical novel, with one exception. In most of his books, the plot revolves around situations which inevitably lead to tragedy and disaster, but in which a central character is often able to somewhat redeem his life by an act or acts of personal heroism. The feel is usually quite similar to that of Norse mythology, in which Gods and men will struggle at the end of the world against the forces of evil, but will lose. The challenge is to oppose the evil heroically. But in THE SECRET AGENT, the central character is anything but heroic, and is in no truly important way opposed to the powers of evil.

I have to admit to being perplexed by claims that Conrad was a great prose stylist. I will confess that I find that with his prose, the sum is greater than its parts. If you examine his sentences, he is without question, along with Theodore Dreiser, perhaps the worst constructor of sentences in the English language. Perhaps having learned English only after reaching adulthood is to blame. Many of his sentences are grammatically opaque. Frequently his sentences are incomplete or badly constructed. Almost never does Conrad seem to sense the rhythm of the language. Perhaps this lack of rhythm is what many mistake for a great prose style. I have spent a fair amount of time in the secondary literature on Conrad, and so far I have yet to find a single Conrad scholar who felt that he possessed a command of the English language. The consensus seems to be that he is a great writer despite his struggle with the English language, not because of any mastery he possesses over it.

Overall, I hold this to be one of Conrad's most important novels, on a par with UNDER WESTERN EYES, HEART OF DARKNESS, VICTORY, and NOSTROMO.

Ironically, Alfred Hitchcock filmed a version of THE SECRET AGENT, but it was not the movie with the same name. Hitchcock's THE SECRET AGENT was actually based on Maugham's Ashenden stories (which Maugham says were based upon his own experiences as a secret agent; he claims to have been one of the more inept agents in history). Hitchcock's version of the Conrad novel was SABOTAGE. Hitchcock changed many of the details, and his religious beliefs never allowed him to engage in the despair one finds in Conrad (Hitchcock was a devout Catholic). Although his version resembles Conrad, it isn't a very faithful adaptation either in plot or in spirit.

3-0 out of 5 stars It's OK
The hazards of following a reviewer's suggestions are compounded if you and the reviewer don't share similar tastes.So it was with my purchase of this book based upon an article about classic spy novels I read in the WSJ.It is true that Conrad's book is a classic and it is about a "secret agent", and I wasn't expecting a LeCarre or Fleming sort of read, but I found it plodding and somewhat dull.I was intrigued by the fact that English was not Conrad's first language and by how well he had assimilated the language and culture.I finished the book but it felt like an assignment for school.

2-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed me
Like reviewer Michael White before me, I found little insight into modern terrorism here and, although Conrad's writing style is always enjoyable, I found the story unsatisfying.The "terrorists" in this story are somewhat humorously portrayed as vain, self-absorbed toothless tigers and it's more a story about one man's personal crisis.I didn't much care for the ending and although I read somewhere about this novel having an amazingly suspenseful climax, I must have missed it because I found it predictable and even slightly boring.I've loved the other Conrads I've read, but cannot really recommend this one. ... Read more

10. The Secret Agent
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 154 Pages (2009-01-16)
list price: US$6.95 -- used & new: US$6.95
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Asin: 1438279426
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale is a novel by Joseph Conrad. The novel deals broadly with the notions of anarchism, espionage, and terrorism. Because of its terrorist theme, The Secret Agent has been noted as "one of the three works of literature most cited in the American media" since September 11, 2001.

The Secret Agent is considered to be one of Conrad's finest novels. The Independent calls it "one of Conrad's great city novels" and The New York Times insists that it is "the most brilliant novelistic study of terrorism". ... Read more

Customer Reviews (74)

5-0 out of 5 stars Dark Masterpiece
The Secret Agent was a major risk for Joseph Conrad, a London tale of international political intrigue far removed from the symbolic sea adventures he had previously written. That it is not only one of his greatest triumphs but also one of the best novels of its kind testifies to his greatness. The diversity it introduced to his canon is truly remarkable; very few writers have works so different in nearly every respect. It is thus essential not only for those who like his other work but also for those who do not.

The immediate subjects are terrorism and anarchism, and I know of no work that uses them with more brilliance or verisimilitude. Conrad's Preface says that he thought it a high compliment when terrorists and anarchists praised its realism, and he indeed deserved it. He brings this truly underground world vividly to life, depicting everything from speech to customs to dress in believable detail. The vast majority of course want nothing to do with such a world, but the peek is undeniably fascinating. Conrad's psychological insight is particularly intriguing and valuable. All this brings up the important - some would say central - point of how Conrad views these characters. That terrorists and other unsavory personages have been sympathetic to it - particularly the Unabomber's obsession with it - seems to strongly suggest that Conrad leans toward them, but a close reading of the text or mere glance at his Preface shows otherwise. He clearly has nothing but contempt for them; this comes across forcefully in the narrator's ironic mockery and Conrad's noting that Winnie Verloc is the only true anarchist - a terrorist jab if ever one existed. In his view, they were pretentious, portentous, and above all, simply ineffectual with greatly exaggerated self-importance. Thus, though the book does a great service in peering into their dark world, it also arguably gives false comfort in showing them as ambiguously inept. The ominous last paragraph undercuts this somewhat, perhaps reflecting Conrad's uneasiness about the future. From an American perspective, the book of course has added interest in a post-9/11 world, but we must not let knee-jerk reactions blind us to its true worth and value.

This brings up another important point - the novel has long had great relevance elsewhere. Though written in the early twentieth century and set in the late nineteenth, it in many ways encapsulates the uneasy political atmosphere that dominated much of Europe, Russia, Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere throughout the last century. Their citizens have become unwillingly familiar with people like the book's characters and especially their deeds, giving the novel near-prophetic prescience. Its strongly implied portrait of Russian political machinations - taken up directly a few years later in Under Western Eyes - is particularly notable in coming but a decade before the Bolshevik Revolution. Conrad clearly had his finger on the world's political pulse as few artists have. It is also easy to forget that his vision is not limited to extremes like terrorism and anarchism; he vividly dramatizes the political unrest and unjust social conditions that make such extremes possible as well as official responses. In short, he zeroes in on much of what is wrong with the Western world in the last century plus. Almost no one noticed initially, but it became ever clearer that the book darkly anticipated much of the twentieth century's direst events, making it in many ways even more valuable than when new.

Yet it is also a historical novel in the best sense. The portrayal of late Victorian London is one of the most notable of any city in literature. We get a good idea of what it was like to live there, especially in its dark underbelly - and Conrad leaves no doubt that it was far from pretty. His descriptions are very visceral, emphasizing dirt, grime, and overall dreariness. There is widespread sentimental longing for many Victorian aspects, but Conrad does not let us forget the darker side. Again, this is not restricted to those outside the law; Conrad always had great sympathy for the poor and downtrodden and shows their plight here with stunning bluntness. This imparts more emotion than is usual in Conrad, chiefly pathos, and is also very thought-provoking. Conrad always excelled at this last, and The Secret is a preeminent example despite its shortness, giving food for thought on everything from sociopolitical issues to domesticity.

Despite all this, the novel can also be enjoyed on a very basic level as a sort of detective story/spy adventure hybrid. Conrad after all belongs to the golden era of detective fiction and was skilled enough to work in elements without compromising his art. There is not much mystery in the usual sense, but he manipulates the narrative to provide a great deal of dramatic irony and suspense. The spy aspect was more original - indeed one of the first instances of its kind and enormously influential. All this means that those who dislike Conrad's usual settings and plots may well be pleasantly surprised.

As ever with Conrad, there is no conventional hero or anything like one; nearly all characters are indeed thoroughly loathsome. Verloc, the protagonist, is somewhat ambiguous; though ostensibly dislikable as a petty traitor, some have seen him as at least slightly admirable or high-minded in trying to carry out his deed without loss of life and in his strong family support. Like many Conrad characters, he is notable above all for sheer incompetence. He is so hapless that condemning him seems not only superfluous but near-cruel; aside from whether or not we think his end deserved, he can easily arouse either pity or contempt depending on one's charitableness.

His wife is one of the more nuanced depictions; some even see her as the hidden key or the real story beneath all the political trappings. Conrad's Preface indeed refers to the book as "the story of Winnie Verloc." And so it is in some ways. Though Conrad is legitimately called essentially conservative, some have found feminist threads in his work, and this may be the best example. Winnie is a truly tragic figure, a perhaps extreme but in many ways representative example of what a woman can be reduced to in an overtly sexist society. She married for money rather than love and often wonders if she made the right decision; it is easy to say no in today's liberalized world, but such sweeping generalizations are unfair for the time. It was after all virtually impossible for women to get by without a husband's income. More importantly, Winnie is kind and caring, full of sympathy and empathy as almost no Conrad characters are and not without intelligence. How we should view her drastic act is a very open question, as she is arguably more sinned against than sinning and certainly pitiable, whatever her faults. Conrad is not one to lionize characters, but she is one of the few he does not outright condemn, which says much.

With characteristic irony, Conrad makes the mentally enfeebled Stevie the most sympathetic and possibly the most likable character. However conventionally limited, his depth of feeling and empathy nears a human ideal, as may his unquestioning love and loyalty. His revelation on the coach is one of literature's greatest, most powerful, and most thought-provoking scenes, and his conclusions here and elsewhere are very possibly at least as legitimate as the most storied philosophers'. The contrasts between him and other characters, especially criminal ones, is the source of much irony.

As all this suggests, the book is very much in line with Conrad's dark vision, however otherwise different from prior works. Aside from focusing on the criminal and lowly, its overall picture is near-misanthropic; the novel condemns terrorists and their ilk but also seems to say there is not much worth protecting from them. Human interaction is painted very bleakly; love, domesticity, family relations, and nearly every other interpersonal area seems doomed to fail. Communication itself is almost hopelessly futile. There is also a strong fatalistic streak; characters are drawn into terrible situations against their will and seem unable to escape or even comprehend them. The Secret shows humanity on the verge of great distress with little or no hope of avoiding it.

Much of this comes from the unique narrative style and distinctive prose. Conrad is of course a noted stylist, and this is one of his most notable works in that way. His vocabulary is incredible, his descriptions are breathtaking, and he is eminently quotable, which is truly amazing considering that he was not a native English user. There are so many times when he expresses an idea so perfectly and articulately that many will think with a start that they have had such feelings but could never express them, much less so well. The Secret stands out from some prior works, especially the epic Nostromo, in being remarkably concise; Conrad says only what must be said, sculpting precisely. This is clearest in the dialogue, which is almost non-existent and very brief, not to mention distinctly clipped, when present; the characters are so hapless that they can apparently not even articulate their thoughts. The narration is a distinct contrast, teeming with Conrad's ever-brilliant and eccentric language. This implicitly mocks the characters even more, as does the ostensibly neutral narrator's frequent sniping sarcasm. Many have said that the narrator - and thus presumably Conrad - has an almost malevolent attitude. This makes the book simply too dark for some but also leads to significant black humor, almost the only humor Conrad allowed himself; for what it is worth, The Secret is thus his most humorous book, however far from humorous it generally seems.

The story is also notable for being told in an essentially straight-forward way. As always with Conrad, the prose is somewhat dense, but it is substantially less so than elsewhere, and we do not have to work through multiple narrators as so often with him. The story is not linear but is far easier to follow than usual; the feeling of being lost and disoriented that turns off so many casuals is never present. Conrad subtitled the novel "A Simple Tale," and it is indeed simple in this way, at least compared to his other stories, making this his most accessible major work and giving appeal beyond his usual base. However, it is far from simple in the ways that really matter - characterization, themes, philosophical and sociopolitical depth, etc. - and may in many ways be said to have the best of both proverbial worlds.

All told, this is essential for anyone who likes Conrad and a good place for neophytes to start, while even those who think they dislike him may be in for (an admittedly dark) treat.

As for this edition, it is ideal for most; it is not only inexpensive but has an excellent introduction and substantial notes. However, anyone who hates spoilers should perhaps avoid the latter, as they give away something not revealed until far later in the story.

4-0 out of 5 stars Politics is besides the point
You know this isn't a political piece right on page one when Conrad nicely suggests (with tongue-in-cheek Victorian-era delicacy) that the key business of his seedy little "double agent" is really just selling diry postcards to pervy men in raincoats. Verloc is sucked into this bombing plot solely because it has been so long since he has gathered any useful information for the foreign embassy paying him off. Although Nabokov would have sneered at being compared to another writer, this novel (by another master prose stylist who came to English as a second language) surely anticipates Nabokov's ouevre with its mounting pattern of bitter ironies. The Secret Agent is a very funny book, and really Conrad's only work I admire unhesitatingly.

1-0 out of 5 stars Buy another edition!
Wanting to re-read this modern classic after some decades, in the course of a second visit to Conrad's writing, I made the mistake to buy this Signet edition.
Don't do that! It sucks. The print is compact and the letters too small. It has no explanatory notes, which would be important for this kind of book. It is a punishment to read this.
Stay away from this edition and buy the Oxford World Classics pocket book instead.
I will review that shortly.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Good Spy Story, But Not Prophecy
As fan of both Joseph Conrad and the spy novel, my biggest complaint about The Secret Agent is that it was oversold as containing insights into 9/11 and the mechanics of terrorism. The Secret Agent is a good spy story (not great) and the writing is perhaps not quite as dense as vintage Conrad can be. This reader did not, however, perceive any particular insights into 9/11 (unless one thinks it really was an inside job).

The story is set in London in 1907. The spy Verloc is double-agent for an unspecified country, presumably Russia, and a member of a small anarchist group. As might be guessed, the characters comprising the anarchists are idiosyncratic to the point of eccentricity. Some members are merely playing, others enjoy the sound of their own voice a bit too much, and one enjoys mixing chemicals to create explosives. At bottom, these anarchists are ineffectual - much talk and little action. Verloc's only income besides his pay as an agent provocateur comes from a sleazy little shop where he sells odds-and-ends - and pornography. Vladimir, who runs Verloc out of the unnamed embassy, threatens to cut Verloc off unless he carries out a magnificent operation.

The story alternatively centers around Verloc's rather odd home life as much as his career as a spy. His wife has married him so that she and especially her developmentally disabled brother Stevie will have some security. When Verloc involves Stevie in the terrorist operation the tale begins its hectic and exhilarating run to the finish.

Conrad weaves an interesting tale of political intrigue and psychological insight. To my eye, the book offers only some insight into the way governments deal with terrorist threats and very little of use in understanding the nature of current threats. Reviewers who rediscovered the book after 9/11 larded the book down with rather grandiose claims of prophetic visions. In the Secret Agent, Conrad gave us a good read (probably a very good read at the time of its writing) and one that belongs on the bookshelf with other notable spy literature (like Smiley's People, Kim (Penguin Classics), Red Gold: A Novel and The Human Factor by Graham Greene to name only a few). That should be enough for anyone.

5-0 out of 5 stars Stevie
In this novel the bombing of the Greenwich Observatory is the event around which story and characters revolve with the exactitude of circles scribed on paper. The Observatory bombers are not anarchists. The culprits are an agent provocateur who has infiltrated the anarchists' ranks and his half-witted brother-in-law. The mastermind of the plot isn't an anarchist either he's a Russian diplomat frustrated with the refusal of the London police to arrest the anarchists. In short, a goverment sponsors an act of terrorism in order to provoke a crackdown on terrorists.
The idea Conrad sets out to blow up in the novel is modernism's sin of thinking abstractly about moral and human affairs--abstractly, scientifically,impersonally, and instrumentally. The anarchists think this way; the police do, too; and so do the government officials. Conrad dismisses them all. One person who does not think this way is the secret agent's brother in law Stevie who seems to be the pauper version of Dostoevsky's Idiot Prince Myshkin.
"Mr. Verloc, getting off the sofa with ponderous reluctance, opened the door leading into the kitchen to get more air, and thus disclosed the innocent Stevie, seated very good and quiet at a deal table, drawing circles, circles; innumerable circles, concentric, eccentric; a coruscating whirl of circles that by their tangled multitude of repeated curves, uniformity of form and confusion of intersecting lines suggested a rendering of cosmic chaos"
In a scene straight out of Nietzscheand Dostoevsky Stevie refuses to ride in a cab because of the horse being whipped to pull them. When the Cabman explains that he is trying to feed his poor children the empathetic compassion in Stevie's heart explodes like a bomb within him engendering feeling for the horse, cabman, and his children. He verbalizes his feelings telling us "Bad world for poor people". Verloc, the secret agent, manipulates Stevie's compassion to involve him in his terror scheme which results in disaster. The prose in this novel is some of the finest I have had the pleasure to read. In the future whenever I am about to be less than compassionate I hope to remember Stevie. ... Read more

11. Selected Short Stories - Conrad (Wordsworth Collection)
by Joseph Conrad, Keith Carabine
Paperback: 272 Pages (1998-01-05)
list price: US$4.99 -- used & new: US$1.06
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1853261904
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Chosen and Introduced by Dr Keith Carabine, University of Kent at Canterbury and Chairperson of the Joseph Conrad Society This specially commissioned selection of Conrad's short stories includes favourites such as Youth, a modern epic of the sea; The Secret Sharer, a thrilling psychological drama; An Outpost of Progress, a blackly comic prelude to Heart of Darkness; Amy Foster, a moving story of a shipwrecked, alienated Pole; and The Lagoon and Karain, two exotic, exciting Malay tales. Il Conde and The Tale are subtle portrayals of bewildered outrage; An Anarchist and The Informer are sardonic depictions of revolutionaries; and Prince Roman is a tale of magnificent, doomed heroism set in Conrad's native Poland during the Uprising of 1831. ... Read more

12. Youth; Heart of Darkness; The End of the Tether (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 384 Pages (1995-11-01)
list price: US$10.00 -- used & new: US$4.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140185135
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Conrad's aim was 'by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel ...before all, to make you see'. "Heart of Darkness", his exploration of European colonialism in Africa and of elusive human values, embodies more profoundly than almost any other modern fiction the difficulty of 'seeing', its relativity and shifting compromise. Portraying a young man's first sea-voyage to the "East in Youth", an unenlightened maturity in "Heart of Darkness", and the blind old age of Captain Whalley in "The End of the Tether", the stories in this volume are united in their theme - the 'Ages of Man' - and in their scepticism. Conrad's vision has influenced twentieth-century writers and artists from T. S. Eliot to Jorge Luis Borges and Werner Herzog, and continues to draw critical fire. In his stimulating introduction, John Lyon discusses the links between these three stories, the critiques of Chinua Achebe and Edward Said, and the ebb and flow of Conrad's magnificent narrative art. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars If you like the Aubreyiad, you'll love this trilogy.
The stories in this tidy collection have stuck with me like toasted cheese on a plate. My love for the movie Apocalypse Now lead me to look into this and I couldn't let it go. I won't bother recounting any of the story, my wish is simply that a few more readers infuse this literature into their lives.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the most romantic stories ever written
Youth is the story of a young marine officer, taking his first big trip, from England to the Far East. His ship is the Judea, an old ship, continously beset by calamities. The ships motto 'Do or Die' also fans the romantic flames of the young first mate.
The captain, the first mate and the ship reach, despite all misadventures, the Gulf of Bengal, where final misfortune befalls them, their cargo, coal, catches fire and the ship is doomed.
The story is set in the twilight days of the old sailboats. It is romance against the future, but it is also the romance of youth against the wisdom of age. Everyone who once has felt the pulse of adventure in his blood, everyone who once longed for the beckoning adventures of the magical East and of the Sea, will find himself in this book.
And pitty on whoever cannot relate to this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Three Stages of Man... Seaman, at Any Rate
The three long stories in this volume include two of Joseph Conrad's most familiar - Youth & Heart of Darkness - which have been detached anthologized and assigned to high school lit classes ad nauseam, but in fact the three were published together in 1902 under the title "Youth: a Narrative, and Two Other Stories." Conrad scholars maintain that the author originally intended "Lord Jim" to be the third of three tales told in the voice of Captain Marlow, but that Lord Jim got too massive on its own account, necessitating the substitution of "The End of the Tether," a classic third person narration. "Youth" marked Marlow's debut as a narrator within a narration, relating his own first great adventure to a small circle of friends, one of whom is the nameless author, presumably Conrad himself; thus we get a first-person framework around an extended quotation of a first-person yarn. One has to wonder if readers in 1902 were daunted. If so, they had NO idea how involuted Conrad's narrative structures would become, beginning with Heart of Darkness, and reaching an apogee in the later novel "Chance." The barest explanation for Conrad's increasingly indirect style of narration is that he couldn't accept his own authorial omniscience, that he needed a kind of vivid uncertainty and contingency in order to portray the reality of human existence as he felt it. Even the straightforward narrative of The End of the Tether requires the artful withholding of a key piece of information until the story is three-quarters told. (Warning: Do NOT read the intro, or any other reviews, or even the blurb on the back cover before reading The End of the Tether!)

Despite the absence of Marlow from the third and longest story, nonetheless, this collection has important qualities of structural unity. 1. All three stories are set on steam ships. 2. The first and the last report horrendous accidents in which the ships sink. 3. Most important, the three stories represent the three stages of an adult man's life: youth, midlife, and old age. You can translate those three stages into the language of psychologist Erik Erikson, as "confidence vs avoidance", "certainty vs confusion", and "serenity vs despair." More or less, anyway; Conrad is anything but reductionist.

"Youth" is a gripping tale of the testing of a young man's mettle, a headlong rush of a story that shouldn't need any analysis, but critics have tormented every line of it for hidden meanings and fracture lines. Marlow's occasional interruptions of his narration, to say "Pass the bottle," have been teased into post-modernist assaults on Conrad's latent discomfort with his surrogate's sentimentality. Huh? "Pass the bottle" is Conrad's translation of the old Viking toast: SKULL! Any son of the baltic Sea would take it as such. And believe you me, "Youth" is Conrad's purest Viking saga!

"Heart of Darkness" could just as easily be titled "Heart of Obscurity." It is obscure as well as dark, a tale of insanity and brutality with no heroic redemptive margins. It begins with Marlow once again yarning to his friends, aboard a ship on the Thames, about an ordeal -- to call it an adventure would be misleading -- as the captain of a river steamer in the Belgian Congo. Marlow's reminiscences are stimulated by his thoughts of the impression the Thames would have made on the first Romans who invaded Britain as civilizers. That brief revery sets ups Conrad's agonizing descriptions of the corruption of modern colonialism, specifically in Africa. "Mr. Kurtz" is only one of the civilizing monsters in this story, though his figure has received the most critical scrutiny. There are also the odious company agent and his nephew, the ragamuffin Russian 'explorer' who idolizes Kurtz, and Marlow himself. And there's a cast of "African masks" - semi-naked savages so incomprehensible that they seem more like carved idols than actual humans. Last, least, but urgently significant, there are two women ostensibly attached to Kurtz, one white and one black. Teachers! Please! Don't assign this story to your classes! Let the students find it for themselves! I know it's a powerhouse, a veritable treasure cairn of ambiguity, but it's too intimidating. The reader should need a special chauffeur's license before driving in that darkness.

It must have come as a relief to the readers of 1902 to confront the reassuring virtues and dignity of Captain Whalley, the intrepid but superannuated hero -- yes, Hero! -- of The End of the Tether. A famous seaman in the days of sailing ships, Whalley has come upon poverty and irrelevance in his later years. His single remaining purpose is to provide for his only child, a daughter married to a fool and cripple in Australia, whom he hasn't seen in years. To do so, he enters a bizarre partnership with a despicable half-crazy engineer who happens to own a rust-bucket steamer. But Captain Whalley has a secret.... (and that's why you shouldn't read any spoilers; this is surely the only Conrad story that depends on the reader's surprise for its effect.)

I have just a few more Conrad novels to read or re-read and review now, after a year or so of exchanging thoughts about this Titan of literature with other readers, particularly H. Schneider,via amazon. I'll be sorry to finish. Conrad is unique.

5-0 out of 5 stars Heart of Darkness is the Celebrity; Youth is the Masterpiece
Placing these three novellas together was indeed a touch of brilliance. They form a natural trilogy, and happily, 'Youth' is the first in the series as it is to my mind the most profound, hauntingly, and beautifully written.It is a coming of age story of sorts, a brilliant one that operates on many levels: thematically, linguistically, symbolically, and logically to form a mediation on the changes of the peception towards life one goes through as one ages--the trope is brilliant, a man of 45 looking back on a time when he was 20, and realizing that the adventure he THOUGHT he had, was really a comedy of errors populated by bad luck and incompetent sailors. The writing is a bit elegaic, but the narrator is extremely clever--providing a 'meta-analysis' of his own jaded life now in relationship to his 'gee whiz' youth.It also raises a very interesting question.Is it better to maintain those 'positive illusions' of youth--living life with fond memories when everything was new and exciting (deluded by one's inexperience) or better to be 'wise' to the ways of the world, so you can function more efficiently albeit in a machine-like fashion? Perhaps in Conrad's day, this occurred faster, but nonetheless, it is an eternally relevant story and brilliantly and beautifully written. About HOD, enough has been said. Of The End of the Tether, the title says it all: What is the natural progression here?We start off with 'Youth' go to the 'Heart' (of the matter), and finish up with being at 'The end of 'our' Tether.'It doesn't get much better than this as far as literature is concerned.

5-0 out of 5 stars Oh, for the passion of life!
Make sure you read the short story "Youth," as well as the "Heart of Darkness." Both are super, and youth is worth it for the following lines alone:

"And there was somewhere in me that thought: By jove! This is the deuce of an adventure--something you read about; and it is my first voyage as second mate--and I am only twenty--and here I am lasting it out as well as any of these men, and keeping my chaps up to the mark. I was pleased. I would not have given up the experience for worlds. I had moments of exultation. Whenever the old dismantled craft pitched heavily with her counter high in the air, she seemed to me to throw up, like an appeal, like a defiance, like a cry to the clouds without mercy, the words written on her stern: "Judea, London. Do or Die."

O youth! The strength of it, the faith of it, the imagination of it! To me she was not an old rattle-trap caring about eh world a lot of coal for a freight--to me she was the endeavour, the test, the trail of life. I think of her with pleasures, with affection, with great--as you would think of someone dead you have loved. I shall never forget her...pass the bottle." ... Read more

13. The Secret Sharer and Other Stories (Dover Thrift Editions)
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 128 Pages (1993-04-19)
list price: US$2.00 -- used & new: US$0.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0486275469
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Great adventures of the sea and of the soul, related by a novelist considered one of the greatest writers in the language. Contains three of Conrad's most powerful stories —"Youth: A Narrative" (1898), "Typhoon" (1902) and "The Secret Sharer" (1910) — each probing deeply, suspensefully into the mysteries of human character.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

4-0 out of 5 stars Strong Collection, Incredible Value
Contrary to what other reviewers imply, this excellent collection has three of Joseph Conrad's most acclaimed shorter works:The Secret Sharer, Youth, and Typhoon. Anyone who does not have them would do well to get this; it is convenient, and the price is near-unbelievable.

"The Secret Sharer" is one of Conrad's final works of major short fiction and one of his best. It finds him returning to the sea after a long absence and has much of the suspense and adventurous spirit of his early works. Indeed, it may well be his most suspenseful and conventionally entertaining work of all; its influence on later writers is easy to see. This is so much so that it can be enjoyed by nearly anyone on this surface level, but as always with Conrad, there is deep symbolic value. "The Secret" again dramatizes outsider status, though more subtly and ambiguously than prior works. It also deals with other important themes, including the clash of rules and personal morality, authority vs. individualism, etc.

"Youth" is one of Conrad's most famous and acclaimed stories but is in my view the weak link. Like the better-known "Heart of Darkness," it is told by the character Marlow through another first-person narrator, but the plot is more akin to the symbolic, adventure-esque seafaring stories of prior Conrad. There is more traditional excitement and suspense than in most Conrad, especially later work, which may attract those who usually dislike his fiction. However, as nearly always with him, symbolism is the real point. As the title suggests, this is a tale about youth and all it stands for and arguably one of its best literary representations. Marlow recalls the excitement and elation he felt when he first captained a ship, fondly recalling exuberance and naïveté long since lost. However, as so often in such situations, nearly everything goes wrong, and youthful ideals are put to experience's harshly dramatic test. "Youth" is thus a sort of mini-bildungsroman, though Marlow's mad rush for the symbolic finish at the end of his story proper shows he learned very little at the time. However, he is now wiser and older, and retelling the old story brings several ambivalent feelings. He sees how much he has conventionally grown and learned but cannot help lamenting the loss of idealism that is possible only in youth and that steadily dissipates with age to the extent that it becomes hardly recognizable. Many will unfortunately relate strongly to this, and there is a good dose of Conrad's always beautiful prose and, very unusually for him, even a little humor. "Youth" would easily be most writers' masterpiece but lacks the scope, ambition, and style of Conrad's best works.

Though not Joseph Conrad's most ambitious or important work, Typhoon is a strong short novel that fans will like. Like nearly all Conrad, it can be enjoyed on a very basic level as an exciting adventure. As the title suggests, the majority of the action describes a typhoon's monumental effects, specifically how it impacts a ship. The extended scene portraying it is one of the best of its kind, recalling a similarly strong depiction in The...Narcissus (Amazon won't allow the full title.) We get a powerful impression of nature's astounding force and just how insignificant humanity and its creations can be in the face of it.

Engrossing as this is, it is of course really just fodder for Conrad's larger themes, the most immediate being the vast amount of things beyond humanity's control; for all our arrogance, there are many situations where we can do little or no more than sit back - or, in this case, hold on - and hope for the best. Typhoon is also in part a bildungsroman, though a somewhat unconventional one. The middle-aged Captain Macwhirr is ostensibly the protagonist, but the young Chief Mate Jukes takes center stage here. He enters the voyage with a considerable ego and pokes much fun at the literal-minded Macwhirr but comes to see that, for all his eccentricities, the latter's simple practicality, level-headedness, and strict determination are not without worth. Hapless as Macwhirr may be in numerous ways, he succeeds where many - perhaps most - ostensibly more intelligent people would fail. Jukes comes to see his value even if he cannot bring himself to give all deserved credit. The same is true of other characters to a lesser degree. Macwhirr himself also learns something in the course of the tale; though experienced and in many ways competent, he had never sailed through harsh weather and is tested in a way he never thought he would be. His near-surreal stubbornness means he perhaps did not learn nearly as much as he should have, but he made it through after all. Conrad leaves it open whether this is due to subtle strength or pure luck; it is certainly debatable whether Macwhirr is capable and even heroic in his own way or simply a fool. In any case, he and other characters find that, as he repeatedly says, you can't learn everything from books; Conrad leaves no doubt that there is often no substitute for experience.

The setting and some of the action are very similar to several other Conrad works, but Typhoon also has its own strengths and is in some ways unusual. For example, characterization is very strong - not in the sense of being rounded, Macwhirr in particular being almost a Dickensian caricature, but in being simply memorable. The characters may be archetypes but are very entertaining - and many readers will see people they know in them. Typhoon is also quite humorous, which is surprising in an author whose humor is nearly always black in the rare cases where it exists at all. Macwhirr is of course the butt of much comic fodder, but there is a light-heartedness to many descriptions outside the central scene. Some, such as those in the sailors' households, have satirical bite, which will please those who miss Conrad's cynicism, but those who normally find him too dark may well be pleasantly surprised overall.

This is certainly not Conrad's strongest story; the frustratingly abrupt way in which the storm's second half is passed over even seems to suggest he grew bored with the work and rushed toward the end. I personally think further storm descriptions would have simply been too much, and he perhaps thought so too, but there certainly should have been a less jerky transition. Some will also dislike the indirect narration toward the end, but I found it a successful, if not overly ambitious, experiment from an author renowned for constantly pushing narrative's proverbial envelope. More fundamentally, Typhoon lacks the astonishing psychological depth and dense philosophical dramatization that were always Conrad's top strengths. The latter is here to a certain extent but far less so than elsewhere, automatically putting the book below his best, though some of the other elements partly atone.

Anyone at all interested in Conrad should certainly read these works, whether here or elsewhere.

4-0 out of 5 stars Psychological Corpses and Ghosts
I've been on a recent binge, reading authors from the late 1800s--Wells, Conrad, Stevenson, Crane, and so on. "The Secret Sharer," like the stories of these others, is surprisingly readable. It is also full of internal searching and psychological exploration.

The story, in a linear sense, tells of a new captain on a ship in the Far East. He is not yet familiar with his vessel or crew. Instead of establishing rigid routine and discipline, as one would expect, he starts his leadership off with some bending of the rules and norms. This allows him to then discover what he believes to be a headless corpse floating alongside his boat. The corpse is, in fact, a living man, who comes on board, and under the captain's protection finds some reprieve from his sin.

On the surface, one would think this story an adventure yarn with some vague psychological elements. In reading about Conrad's life and demeanor, though, it is clearly about much more. Conrad, himself, was born in Poland, lived on the high seas, and took up residence in England. He was a man caught between different worlds, different standards. He seems to deal with some of this as he compares the loose-cannon captain with the questionable stowaway. They are ghosts of each other, he implies, doubles in many ways. Is Conrad questioning his own moral nature? The darkness within? Is he pondering leadership and manhood and how it is defined by capricious decisions? Why is the captain willing to risk the lives of his entire crew for the sake of one somewhat guilty man?

There are many questions amidst this fun read. I enjoyed the writing, the story--even if it has the late 1800s tendency to tell such tales secondhand, through a removed storyteller.

5-0 out of 5 stars Leggat = The Captain:True or False?
In THE SECRET SHARER, Joseph Conrad posits an interesting choice for the Captain protagonist: should he follow maritime law and return a self-confessed murderer to his ship to face justice or should he allow his personal feelings to intrude and harbor a fugitive and let him escape? On the surface, this seems like a fairly routine choice, but in the world of Joseph Conrad no choices are ever easy.Readers who come to this novella from HEART OF DARKNESS are well aware that Conrad likes to place hesitancies in the minds of readers, most of which are couched in symbolic language which suggest a tapping into their psyches.In the case of the Captain, his choice is confounded by his perception of the man Leggatt who climbs aboard his ship.As the Captain sees Leggatt, he sees a man who is described in terms of one who is physically incomplete.Leggatt appears to be headless and as he ascends the rope from water to deck, Conrad's imagery suggests a watery re-birth.The Captain sees Leggatt and in the pages that follow calls him terms that circle back to himself: my double, my secret sharer, and my other self.It is clear that in Leggatt the Captain sees more than just a little bit of himself.They went to the same school with the Captain graduating only a few years prior. At this point, Conrad suggests that the Captain's decision not to hand Leggatt over to justice may not be simply a matter of identifying with Leggatt on a superficial level in that they merely share some common traits. With the Captain's heavily symbolic language, Conrad probes more deeply in the Captain's psyche and by extension in the reader's psyche by suggesting that the Captain's willingness to protect Leggatt even at the cost of his own career and the safety of his ship and crew lies in his subconscious linking of himself to Leggatt.For the Captain to hand over Leggatt to the law and to possible execution would be tantamount to being complicit in his own doom.To further complicate matters, on an even more subconscious level, Conrad raises the possibility that there is no Leggatt at all and that their entire relationship, replete with conversation, mutual interaction, and hiding Leggatt in his bathroom may have existed only within the Captain's mind.If this latter interpretation holds water, then in order for the Captain to maintain the illusion of Leggatt's existence, he had to act as if Leggatt truly existed, even to the point of endangering his ship by approaching too close to shore to allow Leggatt to jump off and swim to safety to a nearby isle.Conrad leaves the reader to ponder the state of mind of the Captain. When the Captain sees a floating hat at the end when Leggatt has jumped ship, that hat serves to remind the Captain and possibly the reader as well that the difference between reality and illusion may be no more significant than whether an abandoned hat floats or sinks in a stormy sea.

5-0 out of 5 stars Actually...
Just to clarify: English was Conrad's third language.Polish and French preceded it.

2-0 out of 5 stars Should Have Been Kept a Secret
I am being a bit too harsh with the title to my review, but I really did not enjoy this short (but it seems so, so long) story.Just as Conrad's other novel, Heart of Darkness, has symbolism and deeper meanings- so follows the Secret Sharer.Simply, I did not like this book.I would have been completely lost if it were not for the helpful introduction written by Albert Guerard.I read the introduction after reading the story, and it shed a lot of light on the book.Though I did not enjoy the book, I am impressed with the man behind the book- I cannot believe that English is his second language.He also has an impressive personal life history- it seems as if he has experienced everything he writes about, this adds value to his works. ... Read more

14. Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography
by Edward W. Said
Hardcover: 248 Pages (2007-12-14)
list price: US$80.00 -- used & new: US$34.73
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Asin: 0231140045
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Edward W. Said locates Joseph Conrad's fear of personal disintegration in his constant re-narration of the past. Using the author's personal letters as a guide to understanding his fiction, Said draws an important parallel between Conrad's view of his own life and the manner and form of his stories. The critic also argues that the author, who set his fiction in exotic locations like East Asia and Africa, projects political dimensions in his work that mirror a colonialist preoccupation with "civilizing" native peoples. Said then suggests that this dimension should be considered when reading all of Western literature. First published in 1966, Said's critique of the Western self's struggle with modernity signaled the beginnings of his groundbreaking work,Orientalism, and remains a cornerstone of postcolonial studies today.

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5-0 out of 5 stars a self that is intimately non-self
Edward Said locatres Joseph Conrad's fear of personal disintegration in his constant re-narration of the past. Using the author's personal letters as a guide to understanding his fiction, Said draws an important and telling parellel between Conrad's view of his own life and the manner and form of his stories. The critic also argues that the author, who set his fiction in exotic locations like East Asia and Africa, projects political dimensions in his work that mirror a colonialist preoccupation with "civilizing" native peoples. Said then suggests that this dimension should be considered when reading all of Western literature . This study of Conrad was published in 1966 - a critique of the Western self's struggle with modernity - and a precursor, a beginning and a preface, as it were, to his groundbreaking work "Orientalism" - although in addition to being a conrnerstone of postcolonial criticism and a valuable reading of Conrad and his fiction, it also contextualizes the faults and rifts that autobiographical narratives must navigate and explore so as to offer a self that is intimately non-self. A pleasure to read and think through. ... Read more

15. Lord Jim: A Tale (Penguin Classics)
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 400 Pages (2007-11-27)
list price: US$7.00 -- used & new: US$3.60
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Asin: 0141441615
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Penguin inaugurates a series of revised editions of Conrad's finest works, with new introductions

Conrad's great novel of guilt and redemption follows the first mate on board the Patna, a raw youth with dreams of heroism who, in an act of cowardice, abandons his ship. His unbearable guilt and its consequences are shaped by Conrad into a narrative of immeasurable richness.Amazon.com Review
When Lord Jim first appeared in 1900, many took Joseph Conrad totask for couching an entire novel in the form of an extendedconversation--a ripping good yarn, if you like. (One critic in TheAcademy complained that the narrator "was telling that after-dinnerstory to his companions for eleven solid hours.") Conrad defended hismethod, insisting that people really do talk for that long, and listen aswell. In fact his chatty masterwork requires no defense--it offers up notonly linguistic pleasures but a timeless exploration of morality.

The eponymous Jim is a young, good-looking, genial, and naive water-clerkon the Patna, a cargo ship plying Asian waters. He is, we are told,"the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave incharge of the deck." He also harbors romantic fantasies of adventure andheroism--which are promptly scuttled one night when the ship collides withan obstacle and begins to sink. Acting on impulse, Jim jumps overboard andlands in a lifeboat, which happens to be bearing the unscrupulous captainand his cohorts away from the disaster. The Patna, however, managesto stay afloat. The foundering vessel is towed into port--and since theofficers have strategically vanished, Jim is left to stand trialfor abandoning the ship and its 800 passengers.

Stripped of his seaman's license, convinced of his own cowardice, Jim setsout on a tragic and transcendent search for redemption. This may sound likethe bleakest of narratives. But Lord Jim is also touching,elevating, and often funny. Here, for example, the narrator describes theship's captain (proving that clothes do indeed make the man):

He made me think of a trained baby elephant walking on hind-legs. He wasextravagantly gorgeous too--got up in a soiled sleeping suit, bright greenand deep orange vertical stripes, with a pair of ragged straw slippers onhis bare feet, and somebody's cast-off pith hat, very dirty and two sizestoo small for him, tied up with a manilla rope-yarn on the top of his big head. You understand a man like that hasn't a ghost of a chance when itcomes to borrowing clothes.
This is formidable prose by any standard. But when you consider that Conradwas working in his third language, the sublime after-dinner story that isLord Jim seems even more astonishing an accomplishment. --TeriKieffer ... Read more

Customer Reviews (80)

5-0 out of 5 stars Lord Jim is Joseph Conrad's greatest tragic work in which hubris and nemesis bring down a Hamlet-like seaman
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was of Polish noble heritage though he was born in the Ukraine. He spent many years in the British navy and was a naturalized English citizen. Conrad wrote brilliant English novels and short stories; often thought in French and dreamed in Russian! Conrad is one of the greatest novelists in all of world literature.
Lord Jim was published to great success in 1900. The story concerns Jim the scion of an English country parson
who has taken to the salt water world. Jim is a romantic who dreams of doing great deeds of adventure and heroism.
The main narrator of the story is Captain Charles Marlow an old sea dog who first meets Jim when the later is earning a meagre living as a water clerk. Marlow relates the tragic story of Jim to a group of listeners. Jim is serving on an old wreck of a ship "The Patna" captained by a drunk. One surreal night of placidity is destroyed when the boat hits a submerged obstacle. On board are five crew members and 800 Muslim pilgrims from Malaya. In a moment of cowardice, Jim jumps overboard leaving the passengers to their fate. The Naval Board revokes Jim's license as well as that of the other four members of the crew. The events of the trial are told by a French sea captain who converses with Marlowe. Ironically the Patna and her passengers survive the night being brought to port in safety.
Marlowe seeks to help the complex Jim find a job despite his disgrace. The young man leaves one job after another as he travels from one remote and filthy seaport after another in Asis and the Dutch East Indies. Marlowe is most successful placing Jim in a job when Stein the respected owner of a trading post on the remote island of Patusan gives Jim a chance for employment. Stein is a brilliant collector of rare butterflies and an intellectual man of means.
When Jim arrives on Patusan he is protected from harm by the use he makes of a ring given him by Stein. Doramin the old island chieftan is a friend of Stein; gradually Jim is accepted into Patusan society winning the love of
Jewel the daughter of the evil old trader named Cornelius. Jim also becomes the best friend of Dormain's son
Dain Warus. The natives admire Jim and dub him "Tuan" or "Lord" Jim. He becomes the white leader of the native community. Jim leads the natives in their conquering of a hated rajah; prosperity is returned to the island paradise Jim calls home. He has respect, a good woman's love and the admiration of his fellows. Jim has no desire to return to white society.
Big trouble intrudes into paradise with the appearance of the odious pirate Gentleman Brown. Years later a moribund Brown will tell Marlowe the story of Jim's final days. Jim allows Brown to escape and Dain Warus is slain by the pirates. Old Cornelius proves to be a Judas collaborating with Brown in plotting mayhem and murder in the island community. Jim knows he has for the second time in his short life let down his friends! Jim bares his breast to old Doramin who shots and kills the young Englishman. This tragic death was Jim's form of repentance for his misdeeds. Lord Jim may be viewed as a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ who dies so that others might live.
Conrad takes the late Victorian adventure tale and turns it on its head! He uses multiple narrators to tell the story though the chief narrator is Marlowe (who stands in for Conrad). The novel is rich in metaphor (particularly using insect and bird imagery in referring to characters) and the pitiless apathy of nature to the fate of humanity. The godless Conradian cosmos reminds this reader of similar beliefs posited by Thomas Hardy in his many novels. Many of the passages deal with Conrad's thoughts on such topics as: honor; the human community linked in this story by the fellowship of seamen and their craft; death, love and man's place in the scheme of things.
Conrad greatly influenced twentieth century ways of telling a story through innovative storytelling methods. Conrad is not an easy writer to read but he was a poet of the pen in exploring the depths of the heart of darkness pumping in the breasts of human beings. Conrad is best enjoyed by mature readers. If you have not read him since your high school English teacher forced you to do so pick up this excellent new edition by Penguin and explore Jim who is one of us!

3-0 out of 5 stars A Martyr's Tale
Jim is a youthful, handsome, water clerk aboard the Patna, a vessel escorting 800 Islamic individuals to Mecca.He supposedly has his entire career ahead of him.With no warning, the Patna collides with something on the Asian waters and it appears that the Patna is about to founder.Jim jumps off the vessel, along with a number of ship officers in order to save their own skins.

Jim, along with his fellow mates survive.The abandoned "unfortunate" 800 others face a certain death.It does not seem to matter that the whole lot of them are eventually rescued.It is solely Jim who readily accepts the onus of "coward,"which Jim is labeled after an official naval inquest into the incident.Besides losing his seaman's license, Jim must suffer the rest of his days seaching for a way to rehabilitate his sullied reputation.

Jim escapes to an obscure East Indies island, called Patusan, where the natives come to view Jim as a god.They call Jim "Tuan,"which means lord...in other words he becomes "Lord Jim."During his escape to Patusan, our new lord gets involved in a war to ovethrow the evil Rajah.A rehabilitated character is sure to follow the newly anointed "hero."

While the book has interesting characterizations and is holding to a certain extent, I found Conrad's emphasis on Jim's Christ-like martyrdom a little much.Jim seems to revel in his suffering which I, for one, do not find particularly heroic.

5-0 out of 5 stars It remains a masterpiece, even after the fourth reading
Lord Jim is a masterpiece, encompassing almost all that Conrad has ever written. Jim is a young seaman with an exagerated feeling for his own romantic courage. Yet this courage abandons him in the moment he can prove himself, when he and his fellow officer abandon a passanger ship on the sly, believing that it will sink. Yet the ship is rescued and Jim put to trial. His fellow officers all slink away rather than stand trial, while he is stripped of his rank.
He tries to flee his own notority, but in vain. Wherever he goes, soon somebody will arrive who knows him and that unfortunate incident. Until finally he escapes to a small Malayan kingdom, where no-one knows him. He becomes the benevolent de-facto ruler of the place. Until one day he commits an error of judgement. This time he faces the consequences of his error. Thus he dies.
Conrad leaves no doubt that Jim dies in vain, yet in peace with himself. Conrad does not deliver a final judgement on whether Jims romantic ideals are misguided or not. The book all in all is a great lamento for the lost age of romanticism. Thus the narrator Marlow does not hide his liking of the young man and his romantic desires, yet he does not shy away from also showing the loss and desolation Jim inflicts on others by his decision for sacrifice his life for his honour.
The reader is left with these conflicting emotions, there is no clean resolution to the book. And this is what makes it great.
Unlike others, I did not find this book to long or to dense. Rather the long descriptive passages give the book this slow pace which is so essential to the unfolding of this narrative.
Read this book and you will see the world with other eyes.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Tale of the White European's Greatness -- "one of us-ness".
There should be a Joseph Conrad revival. How this man could write! No less than H. L. Menken, the great critic, essayist, and scholar (of "The American Language"), of the first quarter of the twentieth Century,said of him: "He was the greatest artist who ever wrote a novel".

Most know of Conrad's Polish origin -- upper middle-class -- Polish being his first language; and that he learned and wrote exquisitely in English.

The first part of his life, he spent at sea, working up from seaman to mates, to skipper, in both steam and sail; and the latter part in writing fiction about it all. He was so good, Ford Maddox Ford wanted to collaborate with him, and did.

His "Lord Jim" was emblematic of the White man's superiority -- although Conrad doesn't hammer at it.

Jim, presented by Conrad as being in his mid-twenties, was white in everything, including white garb and blond of hair color. And more than once Conrad uses the expression in referring to him that, "He was one of us". The context here being that he was a white, educated, upper middle-class, Christian, heterosexual, and central European -- in this case English. That is we, who more than any other, ventured out in commercial enterprise and curiosity and hooked the world together.

This high adventure tale, "Lord Jim", is woven by Conrad in a non-linear way, with many back cuts and forward cuts, andjarring story surprises that the author has masterfully teased us with. In the first half Jim gets into some quite serious life difficulty and the second half deals with his redemption.

This is one of Conrad's "up river" stories, and in this case Jim becomes "Yuan Jim" or Lord Jim to the river people for his bravery, great character and great competence. It shows that this white man from Europe has what it takes to straighten things out among the native Javanese. But Conrad is not Eurocentric here as some of his admirable characters are Indonesians; and of his most despicable, one is a Portuguese. Conrad weighs fairly all races and ethnicities that he has come across and writes about. There is also an interestingly and originally developed "love angle" in this story.

In his other yarns as well, such as Heart of Darkness, The Secret Sharer, Youth, Nostromo, etc., Conrad is not only superb at plot architecture and structure, but at character development as well as conveying the mood of the ambience; and in doing all this with the most striking and sublime -- not necessarily economical -- language.

But the most important element in his writing is elusive, is often just beneath the situational surface, and is a profound one. It sometimes seems the action of his high adventure tales may be, in part, a vehicle for conveying in a symbolic way the conflicts of the broader human condition with fate and the resolution of those.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good value
This book came as promised in a very timely fashion.It was in good condition. ... Read more

16. The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' and Other Stories
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 206 Pages (2009-01-01)
list price: US$10.99 -- used & new: US$9.77
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Asin: 1420934066
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' and Other Stories" is a collection of seven shorter works by Joseph Conrad. The titular story is the tale of James Wait, a West Indian black sailor on board the merchant ship 'Narcissus' who falls ill during a voyage from Bombay to London. In "Youth" we have a semi-autobiographical short story which tells the story of the first voyage of Charles Marlow, the narrator of Conrad's most famous novel "Heart of Darkness". In "An Outpost of Progress" we find Kayerts and Carlier, two European agents who have been assigned to a remote trading post in the African jungle. In "The Secret Sharer" we have the story of a nameless captain who discovers a stow-away clinging to the side of his ship and secretly brings him aboard and harbors him in his cabin. Also contained in this edition are the following other short stories: "Il Conde", "The Duel", and "The Lagoon". Fans of Conrad will delight in this classic collection of his shorter works. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars An influence
This was one of Faulkner's favorite stories--one he would re-read every year, according to his biographers. In my opinion, Narcissus is one the key texts that Faulkner's own style is derived from (Proust seems like another inspiration). There are passages in Sanctuary and Light and August, for example, that read as if they have been lifted from Conrad's lost drafts of Narcissus.

Just my two cents. This is a great, lyrical work worth reading.

2-0 out of 5 stars Fine writing, disappointing print quality
Conrad's fine prose is marred by countless printing errors in this Digiread version. Frequent missing characters and even whole words interfere with the pleasure of reading and demonstrate Digiread's lack of concern for quality.

5-0 out of 5 stars Conrad sampler
Both previous reviewers of this edtion have focused on the title story, the 'Narcissus', which could be called a short novel or a long story. Fair enough, it is a brillant one with some issues that need discussion.
But don't overlook that this Penguin edition also contains other texts: the equally brillant sea tales 'Youth' and 'The Secret Sharer', and then some more.

'The Lagoon' is possibly the weakest story here. A white man travels in Borneo, stays over night in the house of a Malay friend, on the title lagoon, and finds that the woman of the house is dying of fever. The husband tells his guest the story how he eloped with the woman with the help of his brother, who died in the escape, killed by the pursuers. The death of the woman is seen as heavenly retribution for the desertion of the brother, and now the man will go and take revenge. Not very impressive.

'An Outpost of Progress' is a sarcastic story on the pretensions of colonialism. Two Belgian imbeciles (minor Almayers, one could say) try to run a trading station in the Congo colony and fail in cluelessness.

'The Idiots' is set in the Bretagne, where Conrad picked up the story during his honeymoon. A wealthy and anticlerical farmer gets married, so as to have sons who can inherit. Tragically, the couple is hit with misfortune and the first 3 sons turn out to have some kind of unspecified mental handicap, hence the title. The man gets talked into going to church to confess and pray for healthy offspring, but, as the Doors told us: you can't petition the Lord with prayer. The next child is not only a girl, bad enough, but again not mentally right. The parents are devastated. The man holds it against the woman, he becomes violent and abusive, she kills him in defense, gets rejected by her mother, and commits suicide.

'The Informer'is a brillant prelude to the 'Secret Agent'. We have one of the anarchists, an aristocratic traitor of his class,tell the narrator, a collector of porcelain, the story how he rooted out a police informer in a London terrorist group by faking a police raid. This is by far the strongest among the 'not sea'-stories in this volume.

'Il Conde' is about an aging count living alone in the Naples area, who gets mugged by a young Camorra (ie local mafia) member. A lot of the tension in this story comes from the fact that Conrad steps very carefully around a central aspect: the count probably solicited sexual services from the mugger. We don't know that for sure from the text, though. Conrad picked up this story from a fellow Pole when vacationing in Capri.

'The Duel' is a lengthy semi-farce about two swashbuckling cavalry officers in Napoleon's grande armee. It makes great fun of military codes of honour. The story was filmed with Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine under the name 'The Duellists'. Amusing, but not much depth here. But you can learn some about the Napoleonic times. (The Poles loved him because he promised them statehood. He couldn't quite deliver on the promise due to the winter campaign disaster, but true love withstands reality.)

If you thought of Conrad only as a seaman, here you have him in a broader spectrum. Not all of it is brillant, but none of it is uninteresting.

5-0 out of 5 stars It's Hard Even to Type the N-word...
... for a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement like me, and the issue of Joseph Conrad's racism will have to be addressed later in this review, but not until I've sung the praises of his heroic prose. Not prose, actually! Poetry, since this 100-page novella is the most vivid evocation of life at sea, of the sea in its fury and its placidity, in all of literature -- more vivid even than Patrick O'Brian or Captain Marryat or even Herman Melville. The crew of the Narcissus endure both raging storm and starving calm in their disastrous home-bound cruise from the Orient to England, with only one loss, one man wrapped in sailcloth and fed to the sea.

The "Narcissus" is as dense as poetry also, both allusive and elusive. You can read it as a grittily realistic adventure tale, or as a metaphysical poem of unfathomable depth. I chose to read it both ways. The adventure is a tale of misery and terror, while the little sailing vessel is half capsized in a sea of monstrous waves; like most adventures, it's something to laugh and brag about...after it's over. The metaphysical poem centers on the identity of James Wait, the man of color (if I typed the alternate word here, amazon would squeamishly suppress this review) who boards the ship at the last minute and who declares that he is ill unto death as soon as the ship leaves port. His presence, and that of the sour malcontent Donkin, nudge the crew toward mutiny as well as heroism. That crew is a colorful bunch, a diverse and well-individuated sampling of humanity; depth of character is Conrad's epic theme.

And now the delayed question: why is James Wait a black man? I'm not gonna answer, amigos, just tease you with speculations. Is his race just incidental, in that Conrad was drawing on personal or anecdotal experience in which the 'original' happened to be black? That wouldn't be a terribly satisfying answer, would it? So then, what might James's blackness have meant to Conrad?

He was certainly a 'man of his times' in believing in the superior destiny of the white race, or more specifically the Anglo-Saxon race. His hymn of ecstasy upon beholding the cliffs of England reveals much: "She towered up immense and strong, guarding priceless traditions and untold suffering, sheltering glorious memories and base forgetfulness, ignoble virtues and splendid transgressions. A great ship! ... A ship mother of fleets and nations! The great flagship of the race; stronger than the storms, and anchored in the open sea."

Or was Conrad merely using Wait's race casually, on the assumption that suspicions of sloth and deceit would be more believable attached to a black man? The racism of Conrad's era was erected on such assumptions of racial inferiority, such heedless stereotyping prejudice.

Or was blackness as much a poetic synecdoche for Conrad as whiteness was for Melville and his whale? And did they represent the same thing, the vast indifferent force of nature, of everything outside oneself waging constant warfare against one's survival?

The identity of the narrator is always a critical issue with Joseph Conrad. This tale churns along as a simple on-the-scene narrative; there is so littlepresence of an explicit "first-person" narrator that one tends to forget his anonymity. In fact, the point-of-view is more often "we" than "I". Yet at the end, the narrator reveals himself as a member of the crew, a curiously bland and inactive member. Was he there all along? Did he ever speak out? Take nothing for granted, friends. Conrad is a wily devil of a writer.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Insight
Originally published in 1897this book is considered to be the turning point in Conrad's career. The book has also been published under the title The Children of the Sea: A Tale of the Forecastle.

This is a very good short novel. It has strong characters, great navel insight and is a study of the character of men. It also has to do with the lives of men in general - the good, the bad, and the indifferent.

In an interesting way it weaves a tale of deceit that becomes a reality. James "Jimmy" Waits, a west Indian black sailor waits for illness and is waiting for death.

It explores not only the deceits of men, but how man deals with illness and death in confined space. It was an excellent read.
... Read more

17. Falk : A Reminiscence
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 52 Pages (2010-07-06)
list price: US$9.99 -- used & new: US$9.99
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Asin: B003XVZZ62
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Falk : A Reminiscence is presented here in a high quality paperback edition. This popular classic work by Joseph Conrad is in the English language. If you enjoy the works of Joseph Conrad then we highly recommend this publication for your book collection. ... Read more

18. The Shadow-Line
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 100 Pages (2009-01-01)
list price: US$6.49 -- used & new: US$5.72
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Asin: 1420932985
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A shining example of Conrad's later literary ability, "The Shadow-Line" is his 1915 autobiographical novella of a young man in his first command as a sea captain. A series of crises prove incredibly difficult for his new authority, for the sea is curiously becalmed and the crew is weakened by feverish malaria. When the first mate's fear convinces many that the ship is haunted and cursed by the malevolent spirit of the previous captain, the young man must cope with their superstition as well as the conspicuous absence of much-needed medicine. A suspenseful sea story of a young man in a defining moment of his life, when the indistinct line separating an inexperienced boy from a mature man becomes perfectly clear, "The Shadow-Line" brims with intense existence, straining responsibility, and threatened principles in a probing study of masculinity. ... Read more

19. The Complete Short Fiction of Joseph Conrad: The Tales, Volume IV
by Joseph Conrad
 Hardcover: Pages (1993-04)
list price: US$24.95
Isbn: 0880012889
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20. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (Oxford World's Classics)
by Joseph Conrad
Paperback: 304 Pages (2008-08-01)
list price: US$10.95 -- used & new: US$5.92
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Asin: 019953635X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Mr Verloc, the secret agent, keeps a shop in London's Soho where he lives with his wife Winnie, her infirm mother, and her idiot brother, Stevie.When Verloc is reluctantly involved in an anarchist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory things go disastrously wrong, and what appears to be "a simple tale" proves to involve politicians, policemen, foreign diplomats and London's fashionable society in the darkest and most surprising interrelations.

Based on the text which Conrad's first English readers enjoyed, this new edition includes a full and up-to-date bibliography, a comprehensive chronology and a critical introduction which describes Conrad's great London novel as the realization of a "monstrous town," a place of idiocy, madness, criminality, and butchery. It also discusses contemporary anarchist activity in the UK, imperialism, and Conrad's narrative techniques. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars A very uninteresting book
This book makes me sick because it contains few actions but many, even too, too many descriptions on these too few actions although the author was able to use so many uncommon words to show his ability in describing something.

Such endless descriptions are tortures for anyone who reads this 5-page action novel. I really wonder if I need to read other books by this author.

5-0 out of 5 stars Powerful and despairing
I must admit to having a love-hate relationship with Conrad. His novels possess an undeniable power, and I have read each of his novels with the utmost fascination. Yet, I can't say that actually reading a Conrad novel is an enjoyable experience. His vision of the world is a tad too bleak, his confidence in human nature way too despairing, and the overall atmosphere way too gloomy for me to derive pleasure from reading Conrad.
Although not set in one of the exotic locales which we associate with Conrad, THE SECRET AGENT is both one of his finest and one of his most typical novel, with one exception. In most of his books, the plot revolves around situations which inevitably lead to tragedy and disaster, but in which a central character is often able to somewhat redeem his life by an act or acts of personal heroism. The feel is usually quite similar to that of Norse mythology, in which Gods and men will struggle at the end of the world against the forces of evil, but will lose. The challenge is to oppose the evil heroically. But in THE SECRET AGENT, the central character is anything but heroic, and is in no truly important way opposed to the powers of evil.

I have to admit to being perplexed by claims that Conrad was a great prose stylist. I will confess that I find that with his prose, the sum is greater than its parts. If you examine his sentences, he is without question, along with Theodore Dreiser, perhaps the worst constructor of sentences in the English language. Perhaps having learned English only after reaching adulthood is to blame. Many of his sentences are grammatically opaque. Frequently his sentences are incomplete or badly constructed. Almost never does Conrad seem to sense the rhythm of the language. Perhaps this lack of rhythm is what many mistake for a great prose style. I have spent a fair amount of time in the secondary literature on Conrad, and so far I have yet to find a single Conrad scholar who felt that he possessed a command of the English language. The consensus seems to be that he is a great writer despite his struggle with the English language, not because of any mastery he possesses over it.

Overall, I hold this to be one of Conrad's most important novels, on a par with UNDER WESTERN EYES, HEART OF DARKNESS, VICTORY, and NOSTROMO.

Ironically, Alfred Hitchcock filmed a version of THE SECRET AGENT, but it was not the movie with the same name. Hitchcock's THE SECRET AGENT was actually based on Maugham's Ashenden stories (which Maugham says were based upon his own experiences as a secret agent; he claims to have been one of the more inept agents in history). Hitchcock's version of the Conrad novel was SABOTAGE. Hitchcock changed many of the details, and his religious beliefs never allowed him to engage in the despair one finds in Conrad (Hitchcock was a devout Catholic). Although his version resembles Conrad, it isn't a very faithful adaptation either in plot or in spirit.

5-0 out of 5 stars Idiots and convicts
The secret agent of the title is an agent provocateur, paid by a foreign power, who is supposed to animate anarchist terrorists in the London of the late 19th century towards violence. It seems that the story itself and its personnel are realistic depictions of a certain milieu.

Conrad's sympathy for that milieu was perfectly non-existent. He wastes no time with serious discussions of their politics. All members of the anarcho-scene are described as utter idiots, unless they are promoted a little to the status of criminals. Of course the action that ensues in the course of the plot is utterly idiotic. And apparently based on a real case.

The novel owes much to Dickens and his vision of London, but it transcends Dickens towards a more modern narrative concept. Conrad is the truest anarchist of this mini-universe, his approach to time is pure anarchy, leaping and jumping and leaving us with holes and gaps.
And it is irony pure and simple -- to the extent of being called a simple story in its title subline as well as in its dedication to H.G.Wells. One wonders if that dedication was not itself a piece of irony, considering that Wells was an active socialist.

The world view of the novel is pessimistic, but there are few funnier pessimists than Conrad. I used to think the man had no sense of humour. How wrong! He is hilarious, but he is never joking.
Not only the bad guys are idiots, the 'good' guys are not much better, ie the cops and politicians get a lot of bad vibes here. Prime target of scorn is the wealthy mentor of political revolution, frequently female.

Don't compare it to modern espionage novels, as the title may suggest. These are different worlds. This is something else.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dastardly Deed of Double Dealing Dooms Dull Duo
Perhaps "Verloc" wasn't even his name, perhaps he wasn't English or French either.He didn't stand out, he didn't attract attention.In Conrad's day, the phrase, "banality of evil" had not been invented, but the novel he wrote illustrates it brilliantly.A vague man of no strong personality or convictions, but of lazy temperament, winds up as a German agent in London, dealing with all the anarchist/radical leftist groups that existed there in the 1880s.This man works as an informer for the British police as well.He runs a pornography shop as a cover and lives with a pretty, but unexceptional woman of lumpen background who finds him a secure, reliable partner.She has a weak, mentally-retarded brother.Verloc's German `handler' demands a particular outrage to force the British government, by dint of subsequent public opinion, to crack down on terrorist/anarchist groups and individuals that found Britain a convenient refuge from severe repression on the Continent.After great strain, Verloc manages an effort at the required "outrage", but with dire consequences for the family.Nobody gets out of this alive.The British police, in the persons of two officers of very differing backgrounds and mentalities, soon piece together what has happened.

As in other of Conrad's novels like "The Heart of Darkness", "The Secret Sharer", and "Almayer's Folly", the main beauty of THE SECRET AGENT is its psychological sophistication.Each character, even minor ones, is drawn in brilliantly accurate strokes, so that the reader understands the inevitability of the actions of each.....the plodding, scheming Verloc, the unquestioning wife, the lost, pathetic brother-in-law, the sharp man of action (Chief Inspector), and the more thoughtful, careful Assistant Commissioner, not to mention a society lady, and an assortment of crazy, lecherous terrorists who can't organize their way out of a paper bag.Conrad is no doubt one of the greatest writers in English.This novel of the seedy side of Victorian London---not by dint of fast moving action...is one of his best.This is not a beach read.It is a classic of world literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bleak, Mordant, Beautifully Written, Funny...
... and wildly under-appreciated, judging by the other reviews here on amazon! This is so archetypical a spy novel that frankly no other spy novel needed ever to be written. Conrad has said it all. It's tightly plotted, completely plausible except perhaps for a few too-convenient chance meetings on the street, and profoundly insightful into the "politics" of terror. And it's freshly pertinent, even to the point of including an inadvertent suicide bomber. There are no "good guys," it's true, and nobody of any alignment with impressive physical or mental abilities. Every single personage is physically, picturesquely grotesque, and every character considers himself cleverly invulnerable yet reveals himself to be irremediably foolish. The descriptions of these moral clowns and the deplorable world of mucky squalor and gilded corruption in which they move are the best writing, sentence by sentence, that Conrad ever did -- worthy of Dickens or Dostoyevsky. There's a sardonic, scornful humor in every scene, however grizzly. This is the darkest picture of human nature I've ever read. Even love and loyalty are degenerative psychoses. One expects a certain fatalistic pessimism from Conrad, sprawling across an ungainly plot, with complicated narrative overlays and ambiguous judgments. The Secret Agent is utterly different; it's as terse and unified as its subtitle claims; it's "a Simple Tale."

"Mr. Verloc, going out in the morning, left his shop nominally in charge of his brother-in-law. It could be done, because there was very little business at any time, and practically none at all before the evening. Mr. Verloc cared but little about his ostensible business. And, moreover, his wife was in charge of his brother-in-law."

That's the first paragraph; if you don't already feel in the presence of a master of subtle indirection just from that much, perhaps you'll be as unresponsive to this great novel as the hapless fools would be who populate its pages.

Hitchcock made a film of it in the 1930s. I've never seen the film, but I can imagine that Hitchcock would have read the novel with sardonic glee and captured its humor. It's Hitchcock in prosody. Yo! Peeps, if I tell it's totally NOIR, will you give it a ride? ... Read more

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