"…Il senso di una integrazione nel mondo conquistata nella vita pratica, il senso dell'uomo che si realizza nelle cose che fa…" (Perchè leggere i classici)
His real name is Jozef Teodor Konrad and he was born in Polish Ukraine in 1857. He participated in the movement for Polish independence and he was exiled. His parents died early when he was a boy leaving him the hatred for tyranny. In 1878 he joined the English Merchant Navy and he became a master. In 1886 he became a British subject. He sailed for about twenty years and he left off because of illness. He died in 1924.
He was fascinated by the English language, the wealth of its vocabulary and the colour of the words. He started to write in the calm of the sea in complete isolation and where he could scrutinize the real nature of a man.
His best works:
– Lord Jim
– Heart of darkness
– The secret agent
Conrad's language is difficult because of his rhetorical style, the long sentences and the obscurity of some passages. It's important to underline that English is not the mother-tongue of the writer.
Features and themes
– Oblique narrator: the novels are told by narrators who live in the novels. None of these narrators express Conrad's point of view. Through the device of the narrator (Marlow) we can have more point of view and the writer is no longer the single omniscient commentator.
– Double character: unlike Stevenson in "Dr. Kelly and Mr Hyde" who splits one personality into two, Conrad puts two character alongside each other, "Double" is the unconscious part of the man: what he might be and what he might became in particular circumstances.
– A search for the real truth of man existence: a man far from European civilization, confronted with an alien environment reveals his real character.
– Love for exotic places: the sea and nature is seen as a character in itself and has the function of isolating.
– Symbolism: the sea, the jungle are even the symbol of the thought and emotions. Clouds and darkness represent the unconscious world.
Lord Jim (The Jump)
The narrator is Marlow. Jim is the first mate on a ship: the Patne which is taking about eight pilgrims to the port of Mecca. One night the ship collides with something awash. Jim discovers that the collision has made a big hole below the water line and the ship is destined to sink in a few minutes.
Without saying anything to the pilgrims for fear of creating a panic the captain and other officers leave the sinking ship. Jim in one blind act joins the other on the boat.
In the passage "The jump", Jim lives again in his mind the moment he jumped: the ship means much more for Jim than a simply vessel, it embodies the set of maritime laws, the code of honour.
The jump has a symbolic meaning: the loss of his honour without any possibility of "going back" and finally he redeems himself through death.
Heart of darkness
Marlow, the narrator, tells his moving story to some friends on a boat anchored on the River Thames. Marlow had been hired by a Belgian trading company to sail up the River Congo and fetch a man named Kurtz, an official of the Company who had been their best agent but who seemed to have gone insane. Marlow's trip on a steamboat up the River Congo brings him into close contact with both the brutal exploitation of the natives by the ivory merchants and the legend of Kurtz. When he finally reaches Kurtz he finds a dying man who has become an idol for the natives, performing strange savage rites. Marlow is fascinated by Kurtz: by the depths to which his soul has fallen and also by his courage. He is disgusted, on the other hand, by the other colonists' hypocrisy: the men who had worshipped Kurtz now only want to get rid of him. Kurtz's unforgivable sin, in their eyes, is to have exposed colonisation for what it really is: a brutal, material business. On the return trip down the river Kurtz dies. Back in Brussels, Marlow goes to see his fiancée. She believes in the rhetoric of the civilising mission of the white man, and regards Kurtz as a God-sent angel. Marlow lies to her, saying that Kurtz's last words were her name, while in fact they were, "The horror! The horror!", summing up the life Kurtz had lived and seen.
The title Heart of Darkness is suggestive in itself. Africa was often referred to as "the dark continent". However, Conrad's story is also about the "darkness", the impenetrable mystery that lies at the centre of the human personality. The geographical voyage of discovery into the unknown continent corresponds to a voyage of discovery into the self. When freed from the civilised conventions of European society, the white man reverts to his true self: savage and indistinctive rather than rational, as Freud had also suggested. In fact, he is more savage and cruel than the black man he claims he is trying to "civilise". This identification of colonisation and savagery is personified by the figure of Mr Kurtz, who has revert to savage rites and rituals not only to control the black population under his command, but also to satisfy his most basic physical appetites.