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The Nigger of the Narcissus

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,034 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Meantime the Narcissus, with square yards, ran out of the fair monsoon. She drifted slowly, swinging round and round the compass, through a few days of baffling light airs. Under the patter of short warm showers, grumbling men whirled the heavy yards from side to sine; they caught hold of the soaked ropes with groans and sighs, while their officers, sulky and dripping with ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1897)
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Obviously the title alone puts it somewhat beyond the pale for a high school curriculum - even the reader with a broader experience of the evolution of racial attitudes is going to approach in hopes of a more progressive stance than s/he's likely to get.
The title character is a West Indian (St. Kitts, I think) with an aristocratic demeanor and a resonant voice (one can imagine James Earl Jones in the part) who can mete out twice the disdain he receives, a sailor hired on in India for a trip back
This book was a tough slog. If I didn't like Conrad so much, I may never have finished it. The book really takes its sweet-ass time getting to the point! But Conrad wants us, like the characters, to question what the whole point of busting our asses doing whatever it is we do if we all just end up dying in the end. Eventually, Conrad gets around to providing an answer, but I think he wants the reader to fumble around in the dark for a bit.

Some might say this should've been a short story instead
Jim Leckband
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 23, 2012 Traveller marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This edition of Nigger Of The Nostromo offers an alternate, more PC title to that of the original, which makes sense to me, since the N-word in the other title actually only became the nasty word it is today, in the interim since Conrad had published this.

I'd never read this before, I suspect partly because of it's offensive original title. I'm curious about it though, since I've heard that Conrad did not wrote it as a racist work. Of course, I personally don't think he meant to write Heart of D
I confess that I read this as part of a "Typhoon and other Tales", but is was so awesome that I felt it deserved a rating all of it's own. It was so twisted and true how Conrad played out and expressed the actions, self interests, unspoken trusts, mistrusts, deceptions, and weaknesses of this crew of a sailing ship. Granted I wasn't initially interested in all the British Sailor talk and trying to figure out what they were saying with their thick accents and sea faring lingo, but ultimately that ...more
A beautifully written book (admittedly with possible the worst title imaginable, which is why I chose this ironically censored title to review), though admittedly very dense in its prose, slowing my reading to a crawl. I found the book to be a fascinating look at how a ship in this time as a law and an entity unto itself, a tiny society, representing both the noble and the reprehensible through Conrad's skillful use of layers of meaning and allegory on their journey to the "Mother of Ships," tha ...more
A thoroughly unpleasant reading experience--and I like Conrad!

While there are moments of spectacularly beautiful prose, high marks for style alone can't compensate for a rather disappointing plot and unlikeable characters. Yes, the description of the storm is striking, but eventually I found myself tired of the whole thing.

The best part of the book, and the part that is truly worth reading, is the brief preface which serves as a sort of manifesto for Modernist literature.

As he says in his prefa
Above all, this novel is Conrad's love note to the sea and sailing ships and the men who live and die by both. Yet, Conrad is ambivalent about those lives and deaths - at times, the living is intense and soulful, while at others it is dull and empty; sometimes, death is romantic and meaningful, and often it is pitiful and meaningless. So much hard-work and suffering just to die alone and wasted. Still, we may live on through story and in the hearts of our fellow men. It's this ambivalence and am ...more
Controversial - and not only because of its most unfortunate, and wildly racist, title. Jim, the titular character in question, boards a ship with a sickness that will kill him. Through this sickness, his crew at first sneers at him, sees him as a burden. Slowly they come to appreciate his being, his offerings to the crew, and what he teaches them - indirectly - about themselves (and how they can stand up to authority). That is the nice version of this novel. The bad version is that this is Conr ...more
Highly poetic, I can't tell if I enjoyed this book or not. There is some beautiful language in here, but at times it gets in the way and you begin to feel like you're reading someone's attempt to extrapolate on the mundane to cash in on a word count. Not too bad otherwise.
Another seafaring novel from Joseph Conrad, written circa 1897, having to do mainly with the psychology of a small group, as the ship is basically "... a fragment detached from the earth... like a small planet." Dense and sometimes disturbing.
The poetic prose mimics the rhythm of the restless sea in a manner so gripping that the reader doesn't notice the long paragraphs and the dragging narrative. The beautiful descriptions of the ship and sea-life are equal to the best I have ever read. The use of the word "nigger" is disturbing to our modern sensibility, however, we must recognize that Conrad wrote in a different time immersed in a vastly different culture. I believe that one of Conrad's main goals was to emphasize how precious lif ...more
Mike Sanders
A baffling narrative in which Conrad seems to shift between the third person and the point-of-view of a crew member (indeed, I didn't even catch on until several pages into the work when Conrad casually throws in "our," implying a first-person perspective.) On the downside, the more I read of Conrad, the more I find his writing to be stodgy and stilted, as if I'm reading a Victorian translation of non-English prose. Of course, for these very reasons he's the great link between Romanticism and Mo ...more
Paul Holzman
A great descriptive novel. Although, it was a chore to finish. The narrative in and of itself did not capture me. This might be due to reading it subsequently after Moby Dick and Rudyard Kipling´s Captain´s Courageous. Out of these three maritime novels I would cling to Kipling given its story line. A young bourgeois, privileged, young boy; son of a train tycoon is saved at sea by a tough lover captain and his crew off the coast of New England. A great coming of age story with extensive maritime ...more
Considering the racist title and the racist and reactionary content of this novel at first made me think well of our modern times. After all, these days publishing a novel by a caucasian author with the N-word in its title (and used many times thoughout the text) would only be acceptable in the circles of white-hood-wearers and their ilk. How far we have come. And then you read in the introductory note that the original US edition was published under another title because it was deemed unsuitabl ...more
Kerri Thomas
If you think you have a hard life, reading this book will make you feel better.

I first read Joseph Conrad’s book, ‘Nigger of the Narcissus’ many years ago and never forgot his description of a tremendous gale at sea that lasted for a day and a night, and that put the sailors on board a sailing ship through unbelievable terror and hardship. The fact that it is an autobiographical tale (Conrad was a seaman for twenty years) adds great excitement to the telling. I always wanted to pick the book up
Michael K
Far from Conrad's best, but there are glimpses of his later brilliance. They were enough for me to get through the book, but not enough to make me like it. I tried to mentally substitute 'moor' when necessary, to excise the negative connotation I would otherwise read into the lines, one that I don't think Conrad intended, at least not with the same virulence it has today.

Other reviews I have read online are positive, and they come from sources far more well-qualified than I, but none that I've
Jose Vera
Joseph Conrad hace en este libro un despliegue magistral tanto de sus conocimientos de navegación como de la conducta humana.

Este pequeño universo que es el Narcissus nos entrega un sinnúmero de personajes que nos parecen reales y por los cuales sentimos tanto piedad como odio.

El Narcissus es un barco que va regresar de Bombay a Inglaterra, ha reunido a una tripulación y está pronto a partir. Es en ese momento cuando aparece James Wait, el último tripulante de la nave, y a su vez el único negro
This edition benefits from the artwork of Millard Sheets, not only in the body, but on the cover. I admit to being a Conrad fan. The Narcissus becomes the microcosm of humanity for a short while as her twenty crew, two officers and captain sail from Bombay to England. Two new hands are on board, one is a rascal named Donkin and the other is a tall black man named James Wait. Wait has a cough when we first meet him, and we soon learn that he is dying, or is he? Each of these two confounds the shi ...more
Conrad's descriptive ability is so good that it's like reading poetry. We make the voyage on a sailing ship from Bombay to England. The book is a psychological study of how the crew reacts to James Wait, the lone black crew member who from the very beginning appears to be quite ill. There is a symbolism in his name as we "Wait" for him to die.

This story is based on Conrad's own experience which for me makes it all the more compelling. In the introduction Conrad tells us "For the book written ar
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book was published in 1897 as far as I can see. Conrad was 39 and only recently retired from His Majesty’s Service at the rank of captain. He had been writing for a few years, with two now-unpopular novels already published, but this was his first novel of the sea. It has the feel of a kind of personal valedictory to his life at sea. In the final paragraph he says, “Goodbye brothers! You were a good crowd.”

Much of the prose lingers lovingly on descriptions of the ship and the sea, which ca
It's awkward picking up and reading a book with such a word in the title, but context, context, context.

The title character is James Wait, a West Indian black sailor on the Narcissus sailing from Bombay to London. While aboard the ship Wait becomes ill and is at the mercy of the other sailors on the ship. There is a division between the men - those who risk their own lives and limbs to help Wait and those who do not.

Apparently American publishers even at the time would not publish the book with
Jan 07, 2012 Ken rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ken by:
A new crew signs on to a sailing ship heading from Bombay to London but one member is just trying to get home before he dies. The dying man becomes the focus of the crew's attention and a wide range of feelings -- hate, jealousy, love, compassion, doubt, and treachery. The ship endures tremendous this the fault of the dying man? Joseph Conrad tells a good story but his Edwardian prose is a little too much at times. Apparently this novel was serialized in a magazine under a differe ...more

Come ne "La linea d'ombra", Konrad mi dà l'impressione di fare di un problema relativamente gestibile una Enorme Tragedia Pregna Di Significati Esistenziali. Jimmy che si lagna, né più né meno, diventa un Dramma per un intero equipaggio di lupi di mare che si fanno menare scemi e probabilmente lo sanno anche... mah? Sarà una Metafora troppo profonda per il mio limitato intelletto.
Scritto in media in modo decente, un po' prolisso nelle descrizione. La lunga descrizione-polpettone di Donkin (
Eric Ruark
You should really read this book in conjunction with Mark Twain's THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Both books call on the reader to reassess their views on who the real 'nigger' is in their stories. Brilliant writing. Brilliant storytelling. The kind of book that should make you think about the right and wrong of various issues.
Conrad has provided an interesting insight into humanitarian values and racial segregation in detailing the isolation of a negro seaman amongst the crew aboard the sailing vessel 'Narcissus', bound for London from Bombay. The unsettling presence of Jim Wait is not down merely to the colour of his skin but also his apparent illness. The crew face the sternest of challenges to survive a storm which breaks and Conrad provides a true seafraing yarn awash with tension. The constant switch of narrator ...more
Mark Stephenson
This famous story, despite several instances of religious and ethnic stereotyping in its characterizations, is really about the fellowship of hardship, danger and skill shared by sailors on a voyage from Bombay to England on a sailing ship. The title character, James Wait, (or Jimmy as his shipmates call him) claims deathly illness to avoid the hard labor and almost causes a mutiny as the captain deals with the situation in a way most of the men disapprove. Donkin, the bad guy, is very well and ...more
Pedro Varanda
Um grande pequeno livro. Um livro sobre o Mar e a paixão dos homens pela sua imensidão e solidão. E com uma frase para mais tarde recordar; O Comandante pergunta ao Negro do navio porque mesmo tão doente embarcou ao que ele responde: "Tenho de viver até morrer, ou não será assim?". A ler.
Pastor Ben
Conrad isn't sentimental. There isn't much in the way of redemption here, but it isn't cruel for the sake of it. Of course there's the nastiness of the title, but if one can set that aside for the sake of the story itself, it has its attractions.
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Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ) was a Polish-born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa.

Conrad left his native Poland in his middle teens to avoid conscription into the Russian Army. He joined the French Merchant Marine and briefly employed himself as a wartime gunrunner. He then began to work aboard Bri
More about Joseph Conrad...
Heart of Darkness Lord Jim Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Fiction Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer Nostromo

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“The man who can't do most things and won't do the rest” 4 likes
“the artist descends within himself, and in that lonely region of stress and strife, if he be deserving and fortunate, he finds the terms of his appeal. His appeal is made to our less obvious capacities: to that part of our nature which, because of the warlike conditions of existence, is necessarily kept out of sight within the more resisting and hard qualities … His appeal is less loud, more profound, less distinct, more stirring—and sooner forgotten. Yet its effect endures forever ... the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom: to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition—and, therefore, more permanently enduring.” 3 likes
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